Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Saints Day

Funny thing, Hallowe'en. Like Mardi Gras, something in humans craves excess prior to sobriety and, for the life of me, I don't understand our infatuation with the macabre. My Chinese mother-in-law noticed the "dead zone" decorations erupting from manicured lawns a few weeks back as we drove the girls to school each morning. Frankenstein hands reached from the grass; spider webs hung like mosses from the lagustrum; a guillotine hung gleaming over a straw-stuffed old man.

"It's like the Day of the Dead," my husband told her. She doesn't speak English and my limited Chinese could never explain what Hallowe'en is to Americans. I'm not sure I can explain it in English.

"But we don't worship our ancestors," I said to him.

"It's all she understands," he said.

There was a time I eschewed all forms of observing Hallowe'en. A day when we pretend to be demons and ghosts? And laugh when our children dress up like our worst nightmares? For years I ignored it or took my daughters to "Fall Festivals" where they dressed like zoo animals and bible characters.

But then I moved to Dallas and the girls grew older. First they were SMU cheerleaders, then Hannah Montana rock stars. Last night Hannah was the Olympic Medalist, Shawn Johnson, and Bethany was a veterinarian. They were oh, so cute and innocent. The costumes are always their ideas. For the first time, though, we actually trolled the neighborhood "dead zones." My mother-in-law came with us. House hopping from pumpkin bedecked walkways to spider-webbed porches, they filled their pastel colored Easter baskets with Hallowe'en candy.

The last glow of the sunset faded into dusk and up ahead the girls could see smoke and shadows. For the first time, they were scared. We all approached cautiously, gingerly stepping around a maimed Alice-in-Wonderland doll to where a fortune-teller beckoned the girls to get candy - if only they would walk through the archway nailed with bloody baby heads and doll parts.

Bethany got a little teary and backed into the street, but Hannah and another young girl boldly went for the candy. "Alice" quietly got up and did a macabre dance into the yard. A figure silently moved toward the curb and in the darkness, other figures began to rise and walk slowly forward: a court jester, a disemboweled King Kong, a tall corpse. The girls screamed and I laughed at the creativity and passion this family had generated to pay homage to the dead, secretly hoping that nightmares wouldn't torment this night's sleep. There are things about death I still cannot understand.

Last year's pumpkins have mildewed away; this year's leaves still fall.

1 comment:

harold said...

its not macarbe, its not a party, its pagan, darkness is light, its not evil, it is the origination of ghod until the 3rd century christians turned it into evil, politically. there is life in life, and death, we should celebrate all, for ghod gave (all) to us, he gives us darkeness and he gives us light so we can better love this brief (cursed) gift, as dutiful beautiful stewards, what are they telling them village chux anyway?

ah, mizz, yah, pix

she, has made her declaration, sort of, but is afraid to state it out loud, maybe it is for the best...