A low, thick fog hugs the coast this Friday morning. But it is disturbingly warm. In weather like this, my haunted imagination fills in the spaces between the simplicity of suburban life and the possibility of macabre and sinister happenings. I can't help it, it is in my blood.
I immediately recognize that Halloween is around the corner. I pass pretty little houses sporting lovely little grave yards on their manicured front lawns. RIP is scribbled on tomb stones amongst the lillies and roses bushes. Jack o'lanterns are beginning to make their appearances. Ghoulish memorabilia adorns million dollar homes. Halloween! The one occasion that suits my sensibility, that mimics my personality. Kids everywhere are trying to figure out what to be for this deliciously macabre day. On this day, they can be anything they want.
My friends turn to me for guidance on All Hallows Eve. They ask me to choose scary movies or help them decorate their homes. They come to me because they think I understand the twisted world of horror.
It shocks them when I tell them that Halloween is my most hated day of the year!
No one believes me. They think it is just another one of my twisted tales to lure them into complacency and then surprise them with the shock of their lives. My friends wait to see what I will do. They are disturbed when they find me home with a good book and a nice cup of green tea. It's so not Terry! What's wrong with Terry? Is she sick? Has she finally gone mad?
What they don't understand is that I hate bedlam, the mad rush for cheap candy, the pressure to fill your empty bag with the more hideous treats than anyone else. I hate the pressure to be cool, the unwritten rule for a kid to celebrate the best night of the year. To me, it is worse than New Years Eve!
The concept is divine. I love seeing the little princesses and pirates dressed up. I laugh at the originality of some of the costumes I see. I adore hearing the little voices scream 'trick or treat!' as they eagerly wait for a tootsie roll or two.
What fills me with dread is the pre-pubescent kids who try so hard to have fun. Clad with shaving cream, whipped cream, raw eggs, and silly string they go out into the night to have the best time of their lives. They feast on icky candies and wait for their sugar rush to kick in. They blindly go into a rabid state, a state of zombiehood. And when they arrive home, sweaty and exhausted and they dump their broken down bag of treats onto the dinning room table you ask them if they had fun.
"No," they always say. "Not so much!"
This once perfect occasion has been ruined by too much hype, too much expectation, too much pressure to be cool.
Last year I made my then 15 and 12-year-old come with me to a pumpkin patch. I felt like I needed to savor the sweet moments I had left of their childhood. We drove to the country in hopes of a wonderful day filled with haunted houses and warm apple cider. We found a lovely spot. When we entered the Fall Fair clad with pumpkin patch, both my boys quickly discovered that they were three feet taller than any other kids there. They gave me the stink eye. I gave it right back to them. They knew they needed to try to be good sports about the whole affair but were feeling left out, standing on the side lines in a world filled with joyful little kids who were actually having fun.
They walked through the giant maze of hay. Once upon a time, this excited them. They couldn't see where they were going. They had to figure out how to find their way back to Mom and Dad. Now they could easily see exactly where they were headed. They looked at me with a 'you've gotta be kidding' kind of look. The haunted house was lame even for the two year old we followed in.
We tried to select our pumpkins. They were misshapen and lopsided.
Had my boys grown too old for Halloween? I began to wonder if this is the real reason I have come to despise this day so much?
Don't get me wrong, in the next few days I will pick up a couple of pumpkins. I will make the kids draw faces on the thick skin. Then we will carve them. I will stick candles in their empty bodies and watch the eerie light glow into the night sky. And I will dread Halloween.
I am sorry to be such a curmudgeon, but this is how I feel. So, my dear friends, if you are looking for me on Halloween, beware, I might be snug on my couch reading a good book and I might just have to chop you up into little pieces if you interrupt me.