“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys.”
–Something Wicked This Way Comes
I have always loved autumn. It’s my favorite season. The leaves turn wonderful colors, the heat of summer is tempered, if we’re lucky, and, of course, there’s Halloween. What’s not to love about Halloween, am I right?
As a kid, the start of the school year was the best time. I loved it for the smells. I savored the piquant aroma of freshly sharpened pencils, textbooks, and hot off the mimeograph worksheet copies (if the ink wasn’t completely dried, you could stamp your fingerprints on the page). These were things lost and forgotten during the summer after being surrounded by honeysuckle, cut grass, and my uncle’s cattle next door. They were warm feelings, and they are now warm memories.
October itself conjures memories and images. For me, in elementary school, the month brings to the surface coloring pictures of pumpkins and ghosts (my crayons were still mostly new at that point), watching a slideshow of Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (with cassette tape accompaniment), and my friends and I excitedly talking about our Halloween costumes.
I was a kid born for October, Jack-O-Lanterns, and Trick ‘r Treating. I drew pictures of graveyards and bats that my second grade teacher frowned upon. It was all in my wheelhouse, baby.
Some of my fondest memories, as a somewhat older devil, were of my Uncle Wayne’s farm, just around the curve from my family’s home. He and my Aunt Edith owned and operated a boarding home for the mentally handicapped. I spent a lot of time there, especially during the summer months, running wild with my cousins. They pulled out all the stops for the residents during the holidays. As my Aunt Edith loved the spooky season, it was Halloween that trumped them all: All Hallow’s Eve was when they built the haunted house.
It was one of the older barns or sheds to be honored with a makeover into a chamber of horrors. Remodeling began, usually in late August. Existing rooms were expanded, new rooms were added, and hallways constructed until, gradually, mazes emerged and secret panels were revealed.
My brother and I joined our cousins, and the residents, to work in the haunted house. We made our own costumes most years: the gorier, the more frightening, the better. Aunt Edith was a witch every year, and some said a very convincing one.
People came from not just our neighborhood, but from the surrounding counties. Church groups, friends, families, neighbors, strangers, hundreds of people. They came to get a good natured scare, have fun, and eat a hot dog and drink a soda.
For two weekends every October, we had the time of our lives. Even though I developed pneumonia nearly every year, I still had a blast. As much as I miss those times, I have a little monster of my own now to make new Halloween memories with.
My son didn’t get a chance to meet our Uncle Wayne and Aunt Edith. They would have spoiled him, but that’s beside the point. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve embraced the aspect of Halloween as a time of remembering our ancestors, for honoring our loved ones no longer with us. I include stories of Halloweens past as a part of our seasonal traditions. I’m hopeful he will continue the stories and share his fond memories as he grows. I hope he has that same love and respect for the holiday as I do.
Maybe, someday in the future, my son will fondly confess, “Halloween–that’s in my wheelhouse, baby.”