This is my first attempt at a post in the “Thoughts” category. I’m a little nervous about posting it but I have to start sometime!
I wanted to write about Halloween, in the hopes of figuring out where it went wrong. Last year I gave up on Halloween for the first time ever. I did go to my usual party, but only because it was less distressing than sitting at home in the dark, dreading the ring of the doorbell should any trick-or-treaters suspect I was home. I didn’t even try to come up with a costume. Maybe I’m just too busy, or maybe it was the failure of my 2016 costume, which I spent hours on and no one seemed to appreciate: Abraspam Lincoln.
I wore duct tape on my face, and no one cared! Maybe Abraspam Lincoln was just too bizarre.
Friends with kids seem to have a focus, but I’m adrift. Halloween was always the one day of the year I could wear whatever I wanted, I could make myself conspicuous and force myself to leave the house, knowing the self-consciousness would quickly fade. But now it seems like just another party to avoid.
Sure Halloween was great when I was a kid, even if we weren’t allowed to eat all the candy,* but it peaked when I reached graduate school in Chapel Hill. The town closes off Franklin Street and it becomes a giant Halloween party. In the old days, it was a parade of costumes. My best year, I dyed my hair red and dressed as the title character from the movie Run Lola Run, and I ran up and down the street all night. (I actually trained for a month, since I’d never been good at running.) I didn’t think anyone would know who I was, but people were calling, “Run Lola, run!” after me all night.
But Franklin Street Halloween degenerated into a drunken crowd (or maybe I outgrew it). The last year I attended, I dressed as an oven (there was a plan to go as appliances, and everyone backed out but me); I had a tray of cookies inside that I’d use to push open my door, offering them to people.
For some reason, everyone on the street wanted to take the lid off the little pot and ask, “You got Oodles of Noodles in there?” By the end of the night I was over it.
So I started attending a neighborhood party. It was fun, and over the years we had some good group costumes. There was the year we went as a s’more:
(We’d stand apart, and when people would ask what we were, our marshmallow would say, “I’m starting to feel warm,” and we’d squish ourselves together into a s’more.)
There was the Monopoly game: I was the Chance cards.
(The cards were Velcro-ed onto me in a stack, and you could peel one off.)
And there was the creepy historical portrait gallery:
(This blog post might just be an excuse to share Halloween pictures.)
So now, I keep going to the party, but then I wish I were home, and wonder how late I should stay out. And should I be out if I want to get up and write at 5 AM?
One of the main themes of my bicycling memoir (and of life since writing it) is staying present, and the idea that one can become “stuck” in life by trying to hang on to a moment. I wondered if this were happening: should I stop going to the Halloween party? Had its time passed? I considered alternatives:
- I could visit my parents and pass out candy to the 800+ kids who trick-or-treat in their high density neighborhood.
- I could find a friend with kids and tag along trick-or-treating as a chaperone.
- I could find a new event, like Bynum’s annual jack o’lantern celebration on the old bridge.
Then I wrote this blog post, and looking at all the old photos made me remember how fun it is to dress up. And I still have an adult party to go to! How lucky is that? Another theme of life lately is turning things around instead of accepting it when I get down. Maybe that’s what I need to do here. Maybe I don’t want to give up on Halloween or to be so busy that I can’t participate.
I’ve got three weeks left to come up with a costume.
* We were allowed to collect candy, but then were required to play a trading game with Mom, who would swap our candy for non-sugary treats and other gifts, like crayons and trinkets. This was actually a lot of fun, and all of the chocolate candy became chocolate pudding, which we did get to eat. Where the plan fell apart was that the confiscated candy would go into a grocery bag for Dad to take to work, and the bag would sit on the counter until Dad remembered, so we’d have to see our former candy, just sitting there, day after day.