Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah

082_Sarah_Pekkanen_4X6Years ago, I was working as a feature writer for The Baltimore Sun newspaper when an editor told me to go find a Halloween story. I think my editor had a vague idea of me interviewing a father who was trying to convince his kids to not get a violent, bloody costume — or maybe a modern Mom who wanted her daughter to dress up like a brain surgeon instead of Cinderella.

Armed with a pen and the trusty spiral notebook that fit so well into my back pocket, I hit a Halloween costume store and did what I loved: Wandered around and watched people. Within an hour, I had my story. But instead of the interview I expected, I stumbled across something very different.

The woman who caught my attention was a mother of five, and her two oldest kids had suddenly decided dressing up wasn’t cool in junior high school. My article became a story about a woman who was mourning the loss of childhood. She talked longingly about how she’d helped transform her older boys into anything their imagination desired in years past – once, one of her kids had morphed into a box of popcorn, with real popcorn sewn onto his hat. But the decision to leave Halloween behind was theirs alone; that was part of growing up. So she hid her sadness from them.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of the chocolate. Like the Mom I interviewed, I love the fact that Halloween celebrates imagination. And the reason why I’m incredulous, ecstatic, and beyond grateful that I now write fiction is because it means I never have to leave that piece of my childhood behind.

As a little girl, I spent hours daydreaming, happily inhabiting the colorful stories that played out in my head. Most of the time adults didn’t understand this; to them I probably appeared spacey and unfocused. But on Halloween – on that one magical day – adults joined in the celebration with me, understanding that I really was a fairy princess, or an Olympic gymnast, or a fat orange pumpkin with skinny little legs.

This year I bought a giant, hot-pink, fuzzy hat to wear while my husband and I take our kids trick-or-treating. I’ll put away the hat for another year on November 1, but my imagination gets to stay. Because there are characters to create – people who do and say things that completely surprise me – and scenes to craft, and moods to conjure, and it all comes from the strange, shimmering place I remember so well from my childhood. The place we all get to visit, on Halloween.

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Sarah Pekkanen

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16 thoughts on “Halloween is the most magical time, for Deb Sarah

  1. I love this post, and I couldn’t agree more. Halloween really does celebrate the imagination, and youthful fun.

  2. Oh, I got a little teary-eyed. I was considering cancelling our Halloween production this year…and by production, I don’t mean theatrical delights. 😛 But, you are right. I’d forgotten how important it can be to let the kids loose. Sometimes, the inconvenience of ONE MORE HOLIDAY dampens our joy. Thanks for reminding me what Halloween is all about.

    For the kids!
    With Love,
    Bethanne

  3. I couldn’t agree more! I still dress up (maybe on non-holidays too)! Am looking forward to my first Midwest trick or treating. Certainly not used to the crisp air and orange and yellow leave covered trees. But it does bring more of a magical feeling to the holiday!

    xoxo

  4. Lisa, as a veteran of Midwest Halloweens…bundle up, ok?

    I love this, Sarah. I dressed up for costume parties every year pretty much until I had my own kids and grown-up parties Halloween parties were replaced by trick or treating. I still have costumes I want to try. My favorite grown-up era costume was the year my husband and I dressed as the Blues Brothers. (I was Jake because I’m shorter.) There’s a picture I love of the two of us posed just like the movie poster. I’ve also been Princess Leia more than once, complete with side-buns wig (and no, not in the Return of the Jedi gold bikini.)

  5. I had dressed up every year of my life for Halloween but the first one after college, I was living in England. I had a live-in job at Outward Bound and I was so surprised (and disappointed) to find out that no one intended to dress up for the day! So sad! Nice post!

  6. Thanks so much, everyone! And Bethanne – good for you! Go crazy with those decorations…. we’re heading out soon to buy more candy and fake spider webs.

    That Blues Brothers costume sounds priceless, Kristina. My husband would heartily approve – it is one of his favorite all-time movies.

    Larramie, thank you, and I’m trying to find that article right now! I have a hard copy but may be on line, too. Will post if I do…

  7. Sarah, one of my many nerdy habits is to quote chunks of that movie. Love it to bits. One of my favorite lines: “I hate Illinois nazis.”

  8. So glad my boys still dress up…except that I have no idea where I’m going to magic pirate attire from by Saturday. The day they decide to let it go will be tough indeed!

  9. This is great Sarah! I very much enjoyed reading this! My Daughter is a senior in High School, and every year when Halloween rolls around, she tells me how this is her absolute favorite ‘Holiday’. She’s very creative and has a great imagination. Not sure what she will decide for a costume, but I’m sure it will be great. What’s funny is… I don’t remember going trick-or-treating in H.S., but so many of the older kids today look forward to this. We had more teanagers trick-or-treating, last year, than the younger kids. Kind of scary, if you ask me! Anyway, after reading your article, it helped me realize that there’s nothing wrong with revisiting your childhood every now and then. Even if it means trick-or-treating at 17. Ugh! “17”!

    I will have to share your article with my Daughter. 🙂

    P.S. I very much look forward to reading your new Novel. Congratulations, Sarah!!! How exciting!

    Mary

  10. So true! All my kids still trick-or-treat (there is chocolate involved, after all!), but my 13 yr old is definitely into minimal costuming (devil horn headband with a red-tank this year!).

    Will you post a pic of your giant hot-pink fuzzy hat? You could be starting a trend for moms who won’t let go of childhood!

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