Halloween Revisited

This is my second Halloween to be back on my old haunting ground.

I can remember my first, as well as my last Halloween as a trick or treater (thanks mostly to Kodak moments).

Halloween was anticipated with slightly lower energy than Christmas and much higher than Easter on the HMS (Holiday Magnitude Scale which is similar to the earthquake MMS and the RMS).

Christmas was about gifts and candy. Dressing up was optional unless one was (un)fortunate enough to be drafted for a Christmas program at school or church.

Halloween and Easter were about candy. And, both required dressing up.

Easter required new, itchy, stiff clothes that pinched and bunched in all the wrong places. And, before having ANY fun, or eating ANY candy, a change of clothing was required.

While Easter and Halloween both began with strong religious overtones and spiritual significance, Halloween, compared to Easter, was laid back and made for fun.

Yes, dressing up was required.  And, yes, sometimes the apparel pinched, poked, sweated, itched and would have made life miserable had it not been for the payout:

  1. no one knew who we were
  2. and everyone gave us a treat!

On Easter, everyone could tell who we were even though we were dressed up.  We looked…normal, just better. We looked more polished – and acted that way, too.

On Halloween, NO ONE knew who we were unless they lived with us. We prowled the dark streets incognito. Masked behind sweaty faux faces we approached the world (and strange doors) with spunk – fearing only the older boys who stole candy from younger children because they were too embarrassed to ask it for themselves.

Halloween meant we could be whatever we wanted. Angels were out. NO ONE wanted to be angelic on Halloween – that was required 364 days of the year, especially just before Christmas and on Easter.

Halloween was a night of witches, zombies, ghosts, ax murderers, supermen and wonderwomen, cartoon characters, and hobos. The only limits were our imagination and our parent’s resources.

It was an opportunity to dance on the edge of the dark side as we let loose our inhibitions and ran from house to house demanding in a singsong voice “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!”

We explored our inner selves and I let that bad girl surface in a night of revelry…of gluttony…of forbidden pleasures.

Hidden.  Our identity hidden meant we were free to act out and act on whatever our hearts desired.

And, we did.

  • We visited the houses that gave out “good candy” more than once.
  • We compared our haul with what others had and coveted a little more.
  • We ate candy from our stash before we got home – yes, before our parents had checked it.
  • We devoured homemade popcorn balls while standing under streetlights and wiped sticky hands on our clothes.
  • We lived for the moment and in the moment.
  • We rushed from one pleasure to the next with little regard for personal safety.
  • Our only thought was obtaining more.
  • And, we lied to neighbors and friends when they offered us candy in exchange for our identity.
  • And, lied again when asked “haven’t you already been to my door?”

Yes, Halloween was an opportunity to embrace self in a way every other day of the year prohibited.

Halloween allowed me to dance on the edge of disobedience and see who I really was.

Yes, I pushed boundaries and I found that some boundaries pushed back. But, I rarely crossed them.

Perhaps it was because for many years my dad stood at the edge of the road and watched over us.  Perhaps it was because there was a still, small voice residing within that governed me.

Whatever the reason, Halloween taught me several things.  The most important was this.

I am who I am and must be true to that identity – even when no one knows or recognizes me. I must follow what I know to be true and right.

The first time I went out incognito, I was shocked to discover that underneath my disguise I was still…ME.

And, each time I dressed up as a child for Halloween – or do so as an adult (for whatever reasons adults “disguise” themselves with makeup and fashionable attire) – I felt a mingling of disappointment and relief.

You see, as great as it is to dress up and “be someone else” for a while, when the costume is removed and I look in the mirror – I see “me.”  And, “me” is all I am.

Halloween.  It was a time of imagination and invention, of tasting the forbidden, of sugar rushes and extended bedtimes, of dancing in the identity of someone/something else, of broadening horizons and pushing boundaries…a time of facing fear and laughing in its face.

Halloween. It was a time of self discovery – of trying on a different identity and finding your own fit you best…of finding contentment in what you are…how you are…who you are and why.

Halloween. My neighborhood rocks it!  It’s a fun time – a family time – a safe time. And, it’s an opportunity to revisit the past and enjoy life once again through the eyes of a child.

Now…where did Daughter hide those huge bags of candy she bought for the trick or treaters??

The Price of Love

The Sunday before each holiday, my Sunday school teacher would bring a small paper bag to class with her.

The contents were dependent upon the season.

One thing was certain – each student received one of the delicious, individually wrapped Russell Stover Candy treats hidden within the bag.

I was a child, and like most children, accepted a gift willingly without considering the cost to the giver.  It cost me nothing and that was all that mattered, I suppose.

At some point I realized these treats cost her – she had to forgo something for herself to purchase the treats for us.

Wow!  It was free to me – but it cost her.

I thought of refusing the gift…of thanking her and saying “no thank you.”  But, that wouldn’t resolve my problem because I would have to do so BEFORE she purchased the treats.  That would have been presumptive on my part – showing I expected the gift.  And, somehow my childish mind knew it wasn’t truly a gift freely given if I expected it.

As much as any child present, I wanted the gift.  But, I wanted it without the price…without the cost to her.

And, as much as my mind wrestled with this, I was unable to figure out a way to obtain the gift without her paying the price.

And, then I realized…no one was making her purchase the treats. This wasn’t a condition placed upon her when she agreed to serve as teacher. She was paying the cost willingly. And, whether we had behaved in class that day or not, or were thankful or ungrateful, we received one.  The gift wasn’t dependent on anything we were or did.  She had done everything.

My childish mind, at first, thought the gift was to buy our affection.  After all, that’s how children do things at times (If I give you this gift, you will like me.)  And, then I realized she didn’t care if we liked her or not.  She was our teacher. She disciplined us, taught us, corrected us, prayed over us, and loved us.

She loved us.

That’s why she bought those treats.  That’s why she gave them as gifts.  That’s why the “good kids” as well as the “bad” received equally. That’s why she paid the price.

She taught me things she had no idea I was learning.  They weren’t taught in her lessons, or from our book. They were taught through her living example of love.

From the writings of Paul via The Message by Eugene H. Peterson

…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Yes, the best is love!

Thank you, Juanita Nicholson, for loving us, for gifting us with such a wonderful life lesson on love.  Every time I see a small, individual pack of Russell Stover Candy, I think of you and of your sacrificial and unconditional gift. And, I think of Another, of whom you taught, who gave all so that I may have all.

I love you!