The thing about Halloween is that it’s all fine and dandy until bedtime. Before then, it’s dressing up and walking around outside at night and “Trick or treat!” and candy. After, once the candy has been sorted and costumes have been exchanged for pajamas, there is only the darkness and whatever may live in it.
I’ve learned this firsthand.
Like me, my children enjoy a good ghost story. They enjoy tales of eerie things, impossible things, things that make you wonder. I think that even more than the candy is why they enjoy this day. But of course it’s easier to hear of those things that go bump in the night while the light of day is still burning. When you’re alone in bed through the window is only the waxing moon and tree branches that look like reaching arms, you don’t do much wondering. You just think it’s real.
Say what you want about the innocence of Halloween—of the fantasy and fun—but at it’s core, this is a day of fear. It is a day in which the young and the young in spirit no longer avoid their dreads and anxieties, they face them. It is the only day of the year when it’s socially acceptable to both be afraid and believe in the supernatural.
It’s the former rather than the latter that will keep me up tonight long after the porch light is off and I’ve managed to convince the kids there is nothing lurking beneath their beds. It’s why I’ll be watching everything from zombies to ghosts to vampires. Because sometimes I need that certain something to blow off a little steam. To get it all out. To tell myself that it’s okay I’m afraid.
Not supposed to feel that sort of thing. I’ve never been the type of guy to get all gushy with my feelings. I’m old school—John Wayne rather than…well, most any male movie star today. That means I swallow my frustrations, I bury my pain, and I hide my doubts. Whatever ulcers or chest pains result I chalk up to that great excuse of That’s Just The Way Life Is.
But of course sometimes I can’t swallow every bit of frustration. Some of that pain pokes through. Some of my doubts are found. Nobody’s perfect. But rare is the occasion when I will show fear. Ask anyone who knows me. They’ll vouch for that statement.
Want to know something that’s sad and funny at the same time? If you’d up my doubts, my pains, and my frustrations, they wouldn’t even come close to my fears.
I’m afraid a lot.
I know how the world is. I know there are ghosts out there. I see them every day, people who have been mislaid in the nether regions of the past and present, so haunted by what they’ve done that what they do seems meaningless.
And I know there are zombies, people who have traded dreams for convenience and have taken adversity as God’s refusal, who have surrendered purpose for pleasure.
And I know there are monsters. Many monsters. Evil, soulless monsters devoid of honor and love and compassion, and who would gladly harm me or my family simply because of the color of our skin or the country of our birth or the God to whom we pray.
Ours is a haunted world, one in which the ghouls and beasts are not hemmed in by night or silver bullets, but have free reign.
Tell me it’s wrong to be afraid. I dare you.
So for tonight at least, for better or worse, I will sit and watch stories of the unreal that I may deal with very real feelings. And tomorrow, also for better or worse, I will put on my brave face and greet the world again.