My favorite part of Halloween when I was a kid was staying in and watching Halloween programming. My favorite movie of all time is 1984’s Ghostbusters. I love Beetlejuice. I love Scooby Doo. I loved the Garfield Halloween Special (which I wish they still played, even though it was kinda scary). I loved seeing Michael Jackson’s Thriller on MTV (I’m going to go watch Thriller on YouTube…be right back…) even though it also kind of scared me.
I liked those things because they were mostly funny and only mildly scary if scary at all. And I liked Halloween programming because I didn’t really like dressing up and going out. The masks on store bought costumes in the 1980s were plastic and rigid and uncomfortable and made your face sweaty (unlike cloth or paper masks that keep your community and maybe yourself safer, which are barely noticeable after a while). Plus, I was never into being someone else as a kid. My mom was definitely not the ‘come up with a cool, original, creative homemade costume with you’ or even a ‘what do you want to be for Halloween this year’ mom. I didn’t have a group of neighborhood friends I wanted to trick or treat with. I never got close enough to other kids for that, and I really was never actually IN my own neighborhood to make friends. I was at school and in the neighborhood where my grandparents lived, which wasn’t the same place by 10 miles or so as the neighborhood I went trick or treating in. It was weird. I did go. Some. But not much. And I wasn’t really candy crazy then (What was I thinking?! I would probably gleefully sign up for free chocolate now…)
But I was a quiet, shy, lonely kid with not much of a sweet tooth and no interest in most prescribed gendered behavior (I didn’t like dressing up in general ever…not for church or special occasions…not for pretend on other days…not wearing my older relatives’ too-big-for-me shoes or clothes…and I definitely didn’t want to be an angel or a princess or a witch or something for Halloween). So my favorite part of Halloween was escaping into fiction. That was actually probably my favorite part of life in general as a kid. I felt more of a sense of belonging and fellowship with fictional characters than I did with my family or my peers.
And the Halloween special I liked the most every year was It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Because I REALLY related to Linus.
The sweetness in his undying, optimistic, innocent belief in The Great Pumpkin.
His loneliness, but willingness to be lonely for what he believes in and for being himself.
His ache for sincerity and connection. Yeah.
Linus skipped trick or treating to go live in his designed fantasy landscape. I get that kid.
Like I do with virtually everything, this post is going to turn into a ‘my life changed for the better and everything got better when I met J; when J loved me back.’ I know. I’m gross. This sounds like a Valentine on Halloween. Oh well.
I felt like I belonged with J when we met. And our first Halloween together was right after we got engaged. We got invited as a couple to a Halloween party (I did not get invited to Halloween parties as a kid…I guess I was kinda also like Charlie Brown that way). We went to that party as Shaggy and Velma from Scooby Doo. I didn’t hate being at the party, even though I only knew the hosts and J. As the years went on, we began getting invited to some Halloween party every year for a while, it seemed. And I started actually liking getting dressed up, because I got to dress up with J. As a couple…as a team…as two people who belonged together. At several of these Halloween parties, we dressed up as…
- 21 (like in Blackjack…J was the Jack of Hearts; I was the Ace…together we made 21)
- Dr. Gregory House (because J really DOES look a LOT like Hugh Laurie. I mean…all he needed was the cane, really. And I was a bottle of Vicodin because that’s Dr. House’s true love)
- Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood
- Han Solo and Leia (J kinda does have that 1980s era Harrison Ford essence about him too…and I can fairly easily pass as the Short Girl Who Loves Him)
- Hank and Peggy Hill (this one was hilarious…J is in much better shape than Hank Hill, but…it was fun)
- Carl and Ellie from Up! (I made the iconic mailbox with mine and J’s name and handprints instead of Carl and Ellie…this was probably my favorite costume)
We don’t get invited to Halloween parties anymore now. I’m not sure if that’s because no one wants to invite us any longer or if the friends we had who were super into Halloween just aren’t into it that much anymore. Parties aren’t safe this year anyway. And for the first year since J and I owned our own home, we aren’t participating in trick-or-treating, because the risks just outweigh the rewards.
That’s ok though. Because I like watching Halloween programming with our son (now we like Bob’s Burgers episodes and Halloween Wars and Halloween Baking Championship on Food Network in addition to those classics) who has also never really seemed into dressing up and going out for candy, even when he was a Very Small Boy. He dressed up (he was a pumpkin and a monkey and a dragon and Skipper the Penguin from Madagascar and Sherlock Holmes and a Minion from the Despicable Me movies and a Ravenclaw student (NOT Harry Potter-he made that very clear)…all costumes that didn’t require his face to be covered with a plastic mask) and didn’t hate it, but didn’t really like it either. He prefers handing out candy. And he’s fine with not even doing that this year. We’ll stay in and watch streaming services and play with Little G.
I’m grateful for J for giving me that sense of belonging on Halloween (and every other day) that I never really felt before. And I’m grateful that even though my son isn’t candy crazy either, or particularly into dressing up and going out, even when that’s safe, he DOES have friends he feels like he belongs with. And I’m grateful for my best friend A, who loves Halloween, and her love for it makes me love it. More than just the seasonal programming.