Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What we've lost by becoming fearful

What can be said about October and its ‘infamous’ (according to some) holiday? Halloween and all the good and bad connotations that come along with it – do you talk about it and if you enjoy it? Or do you zipper your mouth in certain company and hope they don’t find out it’s a guilty pleasure? Ah Missy, your mouth – if anything – can never be zippered. All shall know that Halloween and all that goes with it is one of your favorite times of the year. For this, I shall never feel guilty.

There’s something to be relished in this wind-whipped season, with leaves the color of burnished gold and a chill wind that doesn’t yet hold the sting of winter. There was an innocent time that I remember, before alleged back-masking and all the fears of the day tried to take away what was a time of fun and creepy pleasure. Before everyone made you feel guilty for enjoying several weeks of pranks and wild, dark rides through Panther Hollow. It was a time when we Trick or Treated on the streets of Berlin, yes Berlin, and stuffed our plastic pumpkins full of miniature candies and caramel apples. Back before there were rumors of razor blades tucked inside apples and the hysteria would reach a fever pitch. I hurtle myself back through layers of years that have turned this time of year into Trunk or Treat and ‘Harvest’ Festivals that don’t allow a single wisp of a witch’s hat or devilish grin to be found. The innocence has been repealed and replaced with sterile times that never hold a hint of anything that makes your skin shiver, just for a bit. We don’t want our kids exposed to anything that might contain anything other than light and life. Why? Is life so perfect and pleasant that they should never see anything outside the bubble?

I’m not going to go into the histrionics and babble of why things changed. What I can do is reminisce about what I miss. I lament the fact that most kids don’t get the joy of donning a plastic mask, knowing your breath will come hot and heavy under its hollow shell, and running merrily door to door and ringing the doorbell. “Trick or Treat!” we would cry with our loot gradually making our bags heavier and heavier. The night would be crisp and the wind would whip our costumes because yes, we always Trick or Treated at night – why in the world should it be done during the day? Before you tell me that it’s because of safety, let me remind you that we oft times cling to the fears that are set before us. If a seed is planted that something is evil, then it grows and grows along with the fears that are put into us.

“Halloween is evil!” they cry.

I’ll never be in the majority, especially in the area I live in. But, I must tell you that I embrace letting the outside in. My kids grew up watching scary movies and dressing for Halloween. I took them to neighboring towns so they could Trick or Treat and be part of a spine-tingling childhood experience. Why must we hide it from them? When our children go out into the world, with nary an experience to draw from, they will be inundated with things that have been kept from them. As for us, my kids were ready. Nothing surprised them. There is evil in this world and we must face it, see it, and deal with it. I believe in none of this sterile ‘fall party’ theme that is pushed to the limit – all in the name of keeping our kids hidden. We used to bob for apples in the old Berlin gym after we marched down Main Street in full Halloween regalia. There were prizes for best costume and medals handed out. We mingled and mixed in full costume in a school that embraced this time of year.

My little hippie, witch, and valiant warrior circa 2000. 

When did we become so fearful? When did we begin to hide and shelter our children so much? My children were not sheltered. We fostered embracing our beliefs along with knowing what is in the world. Ignoring that Halloween exists doesn’t make it disappear. My husband, being from Mexico, celebrates Dia de los Muertos which coincides with Halloween night into November 1st. It is a time where they believe the spirits of our loved ones return, for one night, and a small altar is decorated and food is put out. The gravestones are cleaned up, flowers placed around and most of the night is spent in the cemetery laughing and enjoying the evening – all while embracing death and the journey to the afterlife. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an evil belief. This is a time of remembering those who have passed and honoring them. It’s a highly-held tradition in Mexico and to put evil into it is to miss the point.

My 'Dia de los Muertos' picture. This is how sugar skulls are painted in Mexico. 

Every year I struggle with what I say and do around this time. I long to don a mask and skip merrily house to house as I did so long ago, to feel the dark evening wind and have it caress my face. I’ve long ago realized that I don’t much care what others think. In the past several years we’ve been so busy in October with soccer and work that I didn’t decorate as much as I wanted to. This year, however, I’m in the midst of relishing it. My house is empty and I decided I would enjoy each season to the fullest. Grinning pumpkin cutouts hang on my door, and sparkly skulls hold reign in what soon will be my Dia de los Muertos vignette. Jack O’ Lanterns will soon be carved and smiling brightly from my porch, and if you drive by on a dark evening, wave at our friend we put together to greet you as you go by. Topping off the décor is a trio of vintage masks I found at local thrift store. When I saw them my heart swelled – they were the masks of my youth. Heavy and thick with an elastic band in the back, they now smile at me from my bookshelves where I can see them every day …. and be reminded of lost times, that in all their innocence, might never be repeated again.

The masks of my youth.