Okay, right off the bat here let me say that this is not another conservative Christian rant about All Saints Day. Nor is it yet another attack upon right-wingers. It is one man’s truth, more confession than dogma.
The day after Halloween has long been a day of dark sin in my heart. It started in early childhood.
We lived on a farm six miles from town. The Hampton’s lived just less than a half-mile from our front door. The Simmons’ lived about a mile-and-a-half away. Those were our nearest neighbors. I don’t remember any explanation in my childhood as to why we never went trick-or-treating. I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with religious belief; I think it had to do with my parents’ views of consideration. They thought the idea of bothering your neighbors or strangers by asking for free candy was completely and inexcusably improper. Even when we visited church folks who had dishes of candy sitting on the counter or the table, we weren’t allowed to ask for any. “If they offer it to you, you may have some but if you ask you’ll get a spanking when you get home.”
It was like telling a fish he had to get permission to swim or a hummingbird that she had to get official approval before taking the first sip of nectar. I loved candy!! Loved it, craved it, ached for it, wanted it, desired it in the most powerful ways imaginable. And rarely got it, except at Christmas. And here, on the one night of the year when households across our entire candy-rich nation were giving it out for free in unimaginable quantities, I was confined to the coal oil darkness of a hundred-year-old farmhouse. (Okay, I made that part up about the coal oil; we had electric darkness.)
Every Halloween night, I would imagine my friends in their little costumes joyously circuiting through Trenton, filling their buckets or tubs or sacks or whatever they carried with all kinds of candy. That was only affliction; the real torture was the next day when they brought their bounty to school.
Most of them shared a little but we all knew they’d kept back or had already eaten the big candy bars. We knew because they told us. “I had this huge Payday! Oh, man, I got so sick last night.”
My soul grew darker as each kid recounted the generosity of people in a particular neighborhood or at a special house, “They always have the best stuff!” With each rattle and rustle of candy in their sack, my envy and jealousy grew greater. With each, “Here, you can have a Sweet Tart or a gumball,” my heart blackened. I wanted to eat Three Musketeers and Butterfingers until my belly ached. By afternoon, I was on the verge of rage. I doubt that they ever noticed, but if they did, my parents certainly never asked why I always came home in such a foul frame of mind on November 1st of nearly every school year.
I carried that pain and bitterness into my adulthood. Even when my kids were out trick-or-treating, I resented the strangers who brought their little strangers to my house. Finally, when the winds of change brought about the ultra-conservatism of the Silent Majority, I had my excuse: I could refuse to participate on religious grounds. No, I most certainly did not want to encourage the continuation of the Celtic Druids and their foul myths of monsters and demons!! Hooray! I can be selfish and grumpy and blame it on my faith. Heck, I could even feel morally superior about being so blasted unfriendly!
And then, yesterday, driving home in the chilling rain of the last day of October, epiphany. Standing near the threshold of my sixtieth birthday, I finally admitted to myself the only real reason why I kept the lights off and the doors locked on Halloween: I am a Stingy Ole Badger.
I still resented the kids who did get to go trick-or-treating, I still resented my parents’ unexplained refusal to take me trick-or-treating. I resented the multitudes who obviously enjoyed a simple cultural ritual in which I was never allowed to participate. I decided that I was going to quit being a Stingy Ole Badger and start enjoying Halloween.
Randa was a bit surprised when I came home with six bags of candy to hand out last night. But it only took two injections of adrenalin and a few shots of smelling salts for the paramedics to bring her back around. I think it helped that I was grilling burgers while we were waiting for the happy little strangers to come to our brightly lit porch.
The brightest light, though, is the one that is finally freed within our souls when we quit making excuses for our self-selected misery.