Last year on Halloween, I came home from work, kept all of the lights off, shut the blinds, and went downstairs to the basement.
It had been a hard day. Nothing specifically bad happened, but I was not even half-way through fall term, and I already felt deeply exhausted. I wrote this in my journal: “Feeling un-smart. Wishing to be sharp-minded and clear-spoken with the right words and insight.” (I suppose every teacher wishes this most every day, or am I alone here?)
I dragged the laptop, a blanket, and dinner I’d purchased at the grocery store down to the basement with me.
Sounds of trick-or-treaters came and went from outside, but their festivity made me hunker down even more.
For dinner: veggie burger with flake-salted fries and two desserts. Yes, two: vegan mousse and a vegan brownie. And yes, I ate it all while watching Looney Tunes Halloween specials on hulu.com then searching for anything else to absorb my angst.
My journal continues with me wishing to be something other than “muddled and comforted by salty potatoes and chocolate” and what turned out to be at least four hours of a really, really bad show. (It’s still popular for some reason, so I’d better not tell you the title.)
I concluded: “It’s nearly midnight, and I do feel a lot better … I mean, if someone can produce FIVE seasons of such bad writing and acting as X, I am not as far down on the smart scale as I feel.”
I immediately apologized in my journal for being snarky, but today I see the comment as a tiny glimmer of self-defense, me standing up for me.
The next day, one of my students asked me what I did for Halloween. After I told her the story, feeling comforted in reliving it, she said, “How sad!” and lingered in my office doorway as if wondering if she ought to stage an intervention.
Yesterday, when I told a friend the same story, she said, “How cute!” in the same tone someone might say, “That’s lovely!” And, I realized twelve months later, it was lovely, not sad.
This year, I feel better. No basement bunker. I bought candy and opened the door to whomever knocked, whether it was a three-foot Power Ranger afraid of dogs or two adults in very freaky nun masks.
Buying candy sends me on an ethical roller coaster: cheap candy is bad but kids love it; the big candy companies are bad, but kids don’t want fair-trade dark chocolate (Trust me on this, an entire room of college students groaned when they learned the candy I’d brought to class was dark chocolate. I had leftovers stashed in my office for weeks. Yea for me!); I could give out stickers or pencils, but that’s what I see littering the streets the day after Halloween … and so on.
So, we got KitKats, Crunch bars, and Tootsie Rolls. “I won’t be tempted to eat any,” I told my friend, “I stopped liking milk chocolate a long time ago.”
Oh what a poseur snob am I. I ate two KitKats last night and four today. I think the moral of the story here is: I’m human.
I’ll leave you with a scene from my one of my best Halloweens ever. I’m in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s early night, desert-dark but with a full moon.
After taking myself out for a burrito and a beer, I wander the town. Outside of a gothic-looking church is a sign, “Come inside for spooky halloween music.” Seriously. That’s what the sign said outside this very serious-looking Catholic church.
I pulled open the enormous doors with one of the thick iron handles (probably smelted when this land belonged to Mexico, or Spain, or buffalo) and there he was: a balding man, hunched over a keyboard many yards away from me at the front of the church pounding out spooky music on an organ at least three stories tall.
I sat in a back pew, one of maybe ten people inside this enormous, imposing church, feeling equally spooked (the church was drafty, dark, and filled with movement even though virtually empty) and elated. For a good few minutes, I managed to resist the pull of the moon tugging me up out of my seat and back into the crisp, cold desert air.