Saturday, October 29, 2011

I Think I'll Go As a Dysfunctional Childhood ...

Hallowe'en is nearly upon us. For me it's perfectly fitting that the holiday season begins with a fright-based event, because as near as I can tell, from now till New Year's Day western civilization takes collective leave of its senses and I get more and more bewildered/annoyed by it every year.

Lest you think I'm just some ordinary run-of-the-mill Grinch, I should explain that I grew up without holidays (my parents' religion forbade them). And I'm an oldest child. And we were poor. So there I am in the weird three-way overlap of this particular Venn diagram where the collective effect has been to put me out-of-step with the forces behind every holiday from here till Christmas.

I *try* to like them. I mean, who can't get on board with a little cutting loose (Hallowe'en), a little giving and receiving (Christmas) and whatever it is we're supposed to feel on Remembrance Day (every person I ask has a different answer to this one). I suppose I'll continue to struggle with how to fit into these events as life goes on, but over the years I've pretty much come to terms with being baseline out-of-sorts till January 1st.

Each holiday affects me slightly differently, depending on what's expected of the participants.

Hallowe'en, for example, encourages people to misbehave, to let their inner goblins out, and (depending on your age), also to a) take candy from strangers, b) scare the crap out of your friends, c) get drunk while you think you're *actually* superman (or the devil, or giant dice, or whatever you've decided to be for the night). The thing is, I'm all for creativity and intellectually I understand the need for ritual, rule-breaking and not being yourself from time to time. But the oldest child in me just wants to look deeply into everyone's eyes as they go out the door, hold them firmly by the shoulders and say something like: "You be careful out there." In my head I'm also adding: " ... and I'll just stay home with the lights off till the night is over."

What I actually *do* at Hallowe'en is volunteer at the little railway, where for 3 hours we give miniature train rides to over 1000 (mostly little) people in (hopefully) warm, waterproof costumes. My job consists of hanging out in the clubhouse with all the other *ladies* handing out free cookies and desperately needed hot chocolate as the trains unload their very cold and/or waterlogged passengers. So it's not like I'm hiding at home - I am out there! Confronting my fears! But also, like the good sensible oldest child I am, I am staying warm and dry and looking deeply into their eyes while I hand them their hot chocolate and thinking: See? That wasn't so bad, was it?.

So, in the spirit of Hallowe'en and dyfunctional childhoods everywhere, the lovely cartoon above is by
Lynda Barry AKA the Near-Sighted Monkey, who has taught me in the most wonderful way, that it's possible to have your heart broken and healed at the same time.


Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

It's also the only day out of the entire year where you would happily open your door at night to strangers in masks, especially if they were weilding a knife or sword or some other implement that could do you bodily harm and not think twice about doing so. I always think if someone wanted to harm someone, Hallowe'en would be the night to get away with it easily. Who is going to see someone in a mask, with a knife, dripping blood and not think that was perfectly normal on October 31st?

Yes, I know I am warped.

Anonymous said...

I loved this bit..."who has taught me in the most wonderful way, that it's possible to have your heart broken and healed at the same time." It made me sigh out loud and just the teeniest bit teary.