As you may or may not have noticed, I rarely blog on here about my personal life. This blog exists to keep you up-to-date on all things The Coming Evil, while also speaking about my creative influences, new project announcements, and—most recently—a place to hang out with fellow artists to discuss the craft.
But tonight, on Halloween Night, I’d like to take you behind the curtain and give a glimpse into my life, for those who might care.
Halloween is a big deal in my house. The most obvious reason is that I’m a horror writer, but, even beyond that, some of my fondest memories of childhood occurred on Halloween. I can’t recall to you the play-by-play of a special year, but rather snippets that have stayed with me. I remember the Halloween party I went to when I was 10 or 11 and how my friend Matt Yount dressed up like the Wolf-Man and I kicked him in the nards. I remember everyone piling into the car and being escorted to the next neighborhood and hearing Nightmare on My Street for the first time on the radio (it terrified me and excited me all at once). I remember trick-or-treating and catching brief glimpses of whatever horror movie that household was watching. I caught my first sight of Halloween III that way. I remember a friend’s dad jumping out of the bushes and scaring us as we were trick-or-treating. I remember costumes and laughter and candy.
Now, I don’t know if my wife Meghan has such memories of Halloween, but when we got married, we decided that Halloween would be an event in our house. A time to celebrate childhood and fun and serve as a shelter against the very real horrors that plague our lives daily. After we had kids, Halloween became an even more important holiday. Thanksgiving and Christmas are hugely important seasons, yes. And, they provide an opportunity for us to reflect on God’s blessings, of course. But after we had Jo Beth, our firstborn, those holidays became a mad rush to dress up the child in her appropriate holiday garb and race back and forth to every family member’s house for pictures and cheek-pinching. Christmas is packed with schedules and obligations and presents. There’s plays and suppers and get-togethers and, oh yeah, more presents. Who do we buy for? What should we get? Will so-and-so feel left out? On and on and on it goes.
But, on Halloween, it’s just us. No dinners to make. No presents we feel we have to buy. It’s just me, my wife, and my girls. We stay at home. We have fun. We turn up the Monster Mash and have a little dance party, just the four of us. This year for Halloween supper, Meghan made “Mummy Dogs” (giant pigs-in-a-blanket). Ketchup was vampire blood. French Fries were spider’s legs. Vegetables were from the witch’s garden. We plugged up our lights. I popped in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, just in case some young trick-or-treater peeked in. We put our favorite Halloween tunes in the CD player and played it loud and proud to offer a soundtrack for the night. Yes, Nightmare on My Street is on there, too. Meghan stayed home with our five-month-old Dani and handed out candy, which consisted of sour straws and gummi eyeballs. Then, Jo put on her witch’s costume—a last second switch from her original decision to go as Tinkerbell. Fortunately, Meghan was able to put together a great witch’s outfit for her. I took my trusty flashlight and, together, my oldest daughter and I went trick-or-treating.
It was an amazing night.
My daughter, Jo, is a willful child—as I guess (re: hope) every four-year-old is. Lately it seems that I spend most of my time with her telling her to “stop this” or “stop that”. “Put your baby sister down.” “Brush your teeth. No, don’t just chew on the toothbrush. Really brush your teeth.” I get on to her. She gets an attitude. Round and round we go. But tonight, that was all gone. Tonight, we weren’t just daddy and daughter, we were friends. We were daring each other to go up to the spookiest houses. We’d take turns holding the candy and the flashlight. We told spooky stories, tried to goose each other by reporting on “strange noises” we heard in the nearby trees. We laughed and dug around in the candy, deciding who would get what, and which pieces we’d save for Mom. We played flashlight tag and laughed and my daughter danced under the stars, declaring how this was the best Halloween “she’d ever heard of in the whole world.” I gave her a thumbs-up when she was polite to our hosts and she gave me a thumbs-up for being a good dad.
We walked the entire neighborhood until our feet were sore, then we made the long trek back home under darkness and spent the next thirty minutes handing out the last of our candy to our neighbors. As we sat there on the front step, awaiting the arrival of a pint-sized Optimus Prime and a little Dracula, I thought to tell her to savor these memories. That, when she’s older, and the world becomes confusing and oftentimes grim, that she’ll want to look back on this night—the best Halloween—and remember. But, I realized then—as it hits me hard now—that those words are better saved for me. Jo won’t always want to go to trick-or-treating. At least, not with me. There won’t always be nights of flashlight tag and holding hands and telling scary stories and giggling about who’s going to get the Twizzlers. Savor those memories, Greg. And I will.
Happy Halloween, everybody. Make the most of it.