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Tomorrow I start my sixteen hundred word-per-day quota. I initially thought I was going to write a brand-new novel like I should be doing, but instead, I’ll be using National Novel Writing Month to finish my collection of short stories. Tomorrow the work begins, but tonight it’s Halloween and I’ve been flooded with amazing memories throughout the day, so, let’s talk about that.
The year is 1994 and the world is glowing from the victory of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. The loss of Kurt Cobain tears through the music world and the American people are one month from hearing the bittersweet news of Jeffrey Dahmer’s death at the hands of another inmate. One boy stands in front of his mirror, admiring his tail. Still feeling the sheer astonishment that was The Lion King, he can hardly believe he’s been afforded the opportunity to live, for just one night, as the prepubescent future king—as voiced by Johnathan Taylor Thomas. His face was painted, his ears were on and the little jumpsuit fit absolutely perfectly, until mom presented him with his fate. Simba has to wear a winter jacket. All night I had to convince people that I was Simba—imagine a five-year-old boy with a rosy red face and teary big blue eyes, pleading with a grown up that he’s the future king. That was probably the first Halloween I remember.
I have this a parallel memory, it might be from the same year, something tells me it’s earlier—it doesn’t matter too much. What matters is that my parents started in on us young. If I can barely remember this, I doubt my little sister can remember it at all. We were in our old house, playing in the basement as our parents did whatever they did upstairs. They called to us, and we all stopped what we were doing and came. As we climbed the stairs, we ascended into darkness. There was no light upstairs, just the dim glow of a Jack-O-Lantern and a few candles on the counter beside the stove. It wasn’t Halloween yet, so none of us expected this, and we all freaked out. Our parents had hidden, in costume, and waited until we reached the middle of the kitchen before appearing. I remember a black mass emerging, like a growing shadow that approached us three kids like a terror in the night. It was mom, dressed like a witch, with our seemingly enormous father towering over us all at her back. Some of us started to cry, I can’t remember exactly who (it was totally me), and the kitchen lights came on in a flash.
I was scared of absolutely everything when I was a kid. I’ve written about how Donald Duck has terrorized me in the past, and that fear extended to plenty of inanimate objects. My father had a lot of things from his bachelor life that came with him when he and my mother bought a house. One of them was a California Raisins statue, this one to be specific.
Well, I think. To be honest I’m not sure if that’s the actual statue. That little bastard scared the living daylights out of me and I couldn’t bare to look at it long enough to register it’s exact form, all I knew was that a small, shrivelled raisin-man was not what was conducive to my best life at the time. My dad tried to break my fear, like any good father would, but it didn’t happen. The weird, other-worldly feel to that raisin-man set a deep seed in me that would flare up every Halloween. I remember, in hindsight, my first dealings with anxiety were based around Halloween.
My father, one year, brought home a truly terrifying werewolf mask to give out candy in. To debut his purchase, he snuck in the house and put it on, creeping into the basement and snarling while just poking his head around the corner to the play room. I screamed and blacked out. I remember that moment in perfect clarity, until I screamed. Every Halloween after that, when the decorations hit the stores, I knew they were coming. Soon, rubber masks would line the walls and make some parts of sto re inaccessible to me. I had no way of explaining it other than that I was scared, and I got a lot of shit for that, not just from my family, but friends too. I had a hard time keeping my cool around any sort of mask, even as my friends wore them. It took years to get over the fear, with stupid things like small glimpses of Gene Simmons sending me down a regressive rabbit hole, but eventually I grew up.
Flash forward from 1994 to 1999. We were in the midst of stocking up on Y2K supplies and partying like Prince had told us to, seventeen years prior; unaware that we were going to face the new millennium saying stupid shit like “wazzzzzzzuuuuuppppp” to each other in just one month’s time. My parents decided to throw an absolute banger of a Halloween party on the weekend before the day. My dad rented a shop on what used to be the edge of Grande Prairie, across from superstore. It’s funny that I actually live across from this shop at the moment, and spent my childhood burning across the field that would become my temporary home at twenty-nine. He emptied all his gear out and put away any tools that he had, and we, as a family, spent a week decking out this shop in all the spookiest things—cobwebs, jack-o-lanterns and spiders. My parents invited each of our classes and prepared for forty kids—even more showed up and their parents hung around, some even helped supervise. We bobbed for apples, danced the night away, but most importantly, my friends and I—we went to war.
You see, Star Wars Episode One had come out that summer, so naturally, there was a smattering of Jedi and Sith at the party. At a certain point in the night, all jacked up on soda-pop and Oh Henry, six or seven of us Obi-Wans, Qui-Gons and Darth Mauls went out onto the dirt in front of the bay door and drew our blades. We all beat the shit out of each other until we learned who amongst us couldn’t take what they had dished, and then we kept fighting. Halloween 1999 shines like a beacon in my childhood; from the trip to Canadian Tire through to falling into my bed, completely exhausted that night, to the nasty wind burn I got from my mask when we went trick or treating a few days later, that year plays like a movie in my head. My parents were great, they only scarred us in a few ways through the years.
Like I said, my dad destroyed a piece of my innocence with his masks and California Raisins, but mom on the other hand, liked to cut to the bone, leaving a wound that’d get picked at for the rest of my school career. I was in the second grade, and my little sister Amorette was in the morning Kindergarten class. When my mom came to pick her up, she was in a full Batwoman outfit with a basket of candy on her arm. She collected the little one and strutted to each of her older children’s classrooms, mortifying them both. The way mom tells the story—she was looked at as if she was actually Batwoman by our class mates, as both Cassandra and I died a thousand deaths in our child-sized chairs. My friends actually did get a kick out of it though, they would bring it up almost every Halloween while we were in school. I never got to live that one down, and it happened in grade two.
As I got older and older, Halloween’s anxiety would get worse and worse. Once sex and alcohol were on the table, I’d check out from the festivities all together. My friends and I pushed the age barrier on trick or treating in Grade Nine and really had a blast. There were four of us, my two best friends and the girl that would be my first girlfriend and I, in lazy teenager costumes, getting asked, “aren’t you guys a bit old for this?” at every house. One guy was playing the part of cool-dad, though. We stopped in and he razzed us a bit but gave a sweet haul on the candy and said, “come back after nine and I’ll give you guys some beer,” in a tone that we just could not hear through a promise like that. We circled around Wedgewood for an hour more and went back to the guys house, who came to the door all sleepy-like. He had a look on his face, like what the hell is happening, until he remembered, and he laughed out loud. He chuckled and said that he couldn’t give us any beer, and we should go steal it from our dads. That was a really great way to end a tradition.
It wasn’t until this year that I dressed up again. I wish the costume was a little better, but I felt surprisingly confident in it, and I was at work, so I don’t think I really could have done much more. There was an initial embarrassment, but within about a half an hour, I was able to work with the same ethic that Snow White herself had. Being a part of something fun and light like Halloween and spending my night with a pickle, a cactus and a bear really rounded out a shitty month in the best way possible.
See you tomorrow.
Writer, performer, producer and musician from Alberta.