Thursday, October 30, 2014

TBT -- A Halloween Party Pooper

The following post first appeared in October 2010.

As we were singing our closing song at church on Sunday, a certain line jumped out at me and has been haunting me ever since. The song was "Now Thank We All Our God" and then particular line I am referring to is "...and guide us when perplexed..." 

You see, I am perplexed. I just do not get this whole Halloween thing. For me, celebrating this so-called "holiday" involves a total lack of common sense.

Okay, I know I have just lost a whole lot of fans right now, but please bear with me and at least hear me out. Let me explain the reasons why we never celebrated Halloween as my kids were growing up.

  • Putting the origins of the day aside, what is modern-day Halloween centered on? Death. Evil. Monsters. Blood. Gore. Slasher movies. Okay, sure, it is very cute to see a toddler dressed up like a bunny, or a kindergartener prancing around in her princess garb. There is nothing wrong with dressing up and make-believe. May I suggest reserving it for another time, such as a birthday party, when the atmosphere is not surrounded by evil? I personally hate driving around seeing coffins, bodies hanging from trees, skeletons, tombstones, bloody corpses, etc. To think that people actually spend money to make their homes look so darned ugly is beyond me. Let me tell you something. Anyone who has experienced the traumatic death of a loved one most likely finds these images disturbing at the very least. I should know. October is such a magnificently beautiful time of year, but it is marred by the images of death (not to mention the political litter everywhere!).
  • Trick or treat is such a bizarre practice. Again, where is the common sense here? All year long, your kids hear the message, "Don't take candy from strangers!" Then on October 31st, that message is thrown out the window when parents send their little ones door-to-door collecting treats...treats that then have to be x-rayed at the local fire station to make sure there are no razors or pins inserted in them. What?!? Are you kidding me?!? And the explanation that the kids are only going trick-or-treating in their neighborhood holds no water with me. How many of you really know all of your neighbors? I know I don't. My parents trusted all of our neighbors...and let me tell you -- they shouldn't have.
  • Mischief is encouraged on Halloween. Toilet papering someone's yard seems harmless enough, but it creates a lot of clean up work for the victim. What other time of year is this even remotely okay? Then there is the egging of cars and homes. But aren't kids given the message somehow that mischievous activity is acceptable on Halloween? After all, the phrase they're taught from the time they first knock on a door is "Trick or treat." The implication here is, "Give me a treat or I am going to do something nasty." Nice. This was illustrated so perfectly last night on the show, GLEE, when one of the characters said to a teacher, "Give me chocolate or I'm going to cut you." Enough said.
  • Candy. Lots and lots of candy. Who lets their kids eat that much crap?! Seriously?
  • Occult activity. If you think it doesn't happen, get your head out of the sand! There is no other time of the year when occult activity is so prevalent. None. Every year, police stations across the country receive calls about discoveries of the remains of animals that have been sacrificed. Most times these burnt remains are that of beloved family pets.
Will the occult activity cease if you don't let your kids dress up and go door-to-door collecting candy? Of course not. But in the case of my family, I could never see the sense of participating in an activity that goes against so much of what I stand for.

Let me give you a scenario to think about.

On Halloween, you take your little girl around the neighborhood trick-or-treating. The neighbor man at the corner asks her what her name is. She looks up at you, questioning whether or not it is proper to answer him. You nod and say it is okay. She tells him her name and he throws some candy in her bucket.

The next day, your daughter is walking home from the bus stop. The kind neighbor sees her walking by and calls out to her.

"Suzy, I have some candy left from last night," he tells her. "Why don't you come in and I'll give you some."

"I can't," she says, hesitantly. "I'm not allowed to take candy from strangers."

"Strangers?!" the neighbor feigns hurt. "I'm not a stranger. Your mom let you take candy from me last night, remember?" He coaxes her further. "I saved some candy just for you! You're my favorite little neighbor."

"Well, okay," Suzy says. "I guess it's okay."

Bam. The neighborhood pedophile just lured in his prey. And you gave him the bait he needed.

Think it doesn't happen that way? Let me tell you that it does. Please, please, be very careful.

I didn't share this story in the original post, but in 2011, decided it was time to go public with it. In reference to the above scenario -- while parents want to think they are safe in their cozy little neighborhoods and trick or treating with neighbors is a safe thing to do, that wasn't the case for me as a child.

When I was 8-years-old, I was raped by a "friendly old neighbor man who just loved kids but didn't have any of his own." The lure of candy and someone who would spend time with me after school while my mother was working, was too much for me to resist. Keep in mind, back in the '60s in small-town America, it was not at all uncommon for kids my age to be out running around the neighborhood until suppertime. I don't have a lot of memories about what happened to me, but I do remember burying my bloody underwear (white with yellow stitching) underneath all the food scraps in the olive green garbage can in the corner of the garage. It's odd which memories stick and which ones are just too brutal to recall. The sexual abuse was not a one-time occurrence, and it didn't just happen to me.

Why didn't I tell my parents? Quite simply because the perpetrator told me that if I ever told anyone, I wouldn't go to heaven. Thus, my struggle with conditional grace began. As a 9-year-old, that thought terrified me. So I kept my mouth shut and endured the abuse until the man died. I remember my parents being concerned about how upset I would be about his death. Little did they know that all I felt was relief.

The memories were buried deep inside of me, under my own personal garbage, until I was 31. Gradually they started to surface, but to my horror and liberation. Liberation? Yes, I felt liberated from baggage I carried for years, yet could never identify. The revelation changed my life and freed me from the burden, although I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I see a wrapped Mary Jane candy, or I drive by the house on my visits to my mother. The wounds have healed, but the scars will always be there.

Do not assume that your child will tell you if they are being abused. Sometimes secrets are carefully guarded ... even by young children.

And now, I'll return you to my previous post:

So, looks like my kids missed out on all of the fun 'cause Momma's a Halloween party pooper, huh? I wish you could ask them yourselves how they felt about it. They would answer and tell you that some of their favorite childhood memories were from our time together on October 31st each year, because it was a really special day.

I often took them out of school early on Halloween, so they didn't have to be exposed to the evil costumes some parents think it are okay for their children to don. I also did not want them participating in the seemingly innocent occult activities that were often planned for the day.

Late in the day, we would head out to Chuck E. Cheese's where other like-minded parents would gather to have a fun time with their kids while the neighborhood streets filled up with the little ghosts, goblins, and a Freddy Kreugger or two. We had a ball. Occasionally, one of their friends would tag along, asking their parents if they could skip trick-or-treating and join us instead. As the years passed, my daughters wanted to continue our tradition, so we did...all the way until the youngest was 19, I believe. Eventually, we added a movie to the night.

[this paragraph has been updated from the original post] There was a lull in years between our last trip to Chuck E. Cheese on Halloween and the dawning of a new era. Five years ago, our tradition resumed with one-year-old Laura's first visit. Tomorrow, she will spend her fifth Halloween with Chuck E. and her four-year-old cousin, Lincoln. The tradition continues. I love Halloween. 

Sticking to common sense,

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