October ranks as one of the most beloved months of the year for millions of Americans. This year, however, many are filled with that sweaty, uncomfortable feeling, like the one that creeps up on you after drinking a 20 ounce pumpkin spice latte with no available bathroom in sight.
The arrival of those decorative mini gourds at the grocery store mark our journey inward that will last until spring. We usually hunker down with homemade chili and beer, pairing it with house pants and Sunday football. These days, however, do-it-yourself projects and sourdough starters are all the rage.
We’re also accustomed to sitting on the sidelines wrapped in fleece watching someone else exercise our kids into exhaustion. Fall sports season equates to adolescent fatigue at the hands of someone else’s efforts. I miss autumn evenings of agreeableness, where tired children let parents choose the night’s activity without dissent. From experience, that’s worth every expensive dollar for youth sports — well, except for this year. Penny-pinching is the national sport instead.
October is a Hallmark holiday in itself, ushering in the excitement for the more popular holidays to come, like the tryptophan buffet we call Thanksgiving, or the red and green holiday that somehow begins in early November and ends mid-January.
But if you’re like me, October first is when to dust off the large tub of frights stored in the back of the garage and get to work on the decorations and displays for the hippest holiday of the year: Halloween. Freaking out family and neighbors with ghostly excess is a seasonal essential, or what my husband likes to say is, “Another way you desperately try to hang onto your youth.” Whatever. He’s just annoyed that I can terrorize him with wanton abandon all month long with things like a motion sensor bathroom ghost that gets him every time.
Some nights I serve a silly bowl of appetizers, à la fake body parts, just for laughs. Other years tombstones grace the front yard. And, generally, the entire month has a cornucopia of options to warm the senses and feed the soul, like watching The Shining and then planning a family trip to The Stanley Hotel.
This year I’m torn with what to do with my plastic skeletons, skulls, and bloody eyeballs. At best, Halloween feels like a desperate measure to hold onto a semblance of normal. I know a decorative display could signal a lack of sensitivity to the weight our world now holds. At worst, Halloween feels like an excessive use of the little energy still in my possession. Because these days, I use my precious steam trying to explain elaborate math equations or I spend my time analyzing the ever-changing family flowchart for Zoom classes, tutoring, and dental appointments.
Since Halloween has evolved into fistfuls of candy bars and whimsical costumes, there’s a part of me that still wants to dress up and play along anyway. There’s much to be gained from creativity and laughter, especially now, I remind myself.
Therefore, with white knuckles and a heap of trepidation, I’m holding onto the entrails of 2020 hoping to wake one morning no longer living in The Twilight Zone. Until then, I have no choice but to build a PVC pipe “candy-chute” and hand out treats dressed as a bottle of bleach.
Adding a bit of levity can cut mounds of steamy news and break the partisan yoke, if only for a few weeks. We’re going to stay up all night binging on scary movies eating candy like it’s 1999. Now that’s a socially distanced, safe Halloween we can all celebrate.