I’ve neglected a neighborly duty.
It’s the end of October, and only a couple of days ago I realized I haven’t put out any fall decorations:
- no bright autumn leaves (Not even fabric maples found only in air-conditioned craft stores, the way Florida nature intends them this time of year.)
- no straw-stuffed, face-painted scarecrows (Who needs fake frights, with real scary clowns popping up everywhere?)
- no black cats (Our neighborhood’s ghost-white strays wouldn’t like them — or might like them too well.)
- no pumpkins (carved, colored, or untouched)
- no, no, NO morbid parodies of death (Skeletons, zombies, and R.I.P. signs make me want to R-I-P them from sight. And forget about house-high Grim Reapers looming as if to strike down all who approach.)
I have no moral objections to children dressing up in costumes, going door-to-door (with adult supervision), and gleefully shouting, “Trick or treat!” in demand of candy or, where teal pumpkins promise allergy-free treats, in anticipation of another small surprise.
As proof, I could pull out pictures from years gone by, when I stayed up until all hours assembling my kids’ costumes. Or I could show that I already have (most of) the decorations I mentioned on hand, ready and waiting to display — just like I used to do every year. Decades of cute, hand-made and post-seasonal-clearance Halloween doodads lie hidden away in a back bedroom corner, awaiting release from their stacked, orange-hued bins.
Last year — and again this year — I considered opening those containers, pulling out their contents, and placing them on display … then I thought, Bah, humbug!
Dear me. I’ve become a latter-day, Halloween version of Scrooge.
This month I skipped my ward’s (oh-so-family-oriented) trunk-or-treat night, and this October 31, I have no intention of answering my door. (This one night each year, I leave my porch light off as much for Doggie Dear’s sake as for my own.)
I used to like Halloween. But it was the first so-called holiday following my husband’s unexpected death in the fall of 2010. The rest of that season I moved — when I mustered the energy to move at all — through the fog of newly bereaved shock. It seemed garish displays everywhere mocked my family’s loss — at the grocery store, doctors’ offices, schools, and in my own neighborhood.
I was reeling from burying my husband. I did not want to see fake coffins, plastic graveyards, R.I.P. tombstones, skeletal “remains” in varied states of decay, ghoulish or even cutesy ghosts exhibited — for fun.
In my state of mind at the time, I bristled at each sale item and neighbor’s display as a personal affront. (Was that logical? Of course not, but grieving seldom is.)
I’ve (finally?) forgiven the calendar for repeating seasons. I enjoy seeing photos of my friends’ kids (and pets) all costumed up. I smile at displayed pumpkins and black cats — and even oversize spiders! — as my dog and I walk each other every day.
I admit, though, I still pass by death-oriented scenes with my lips pressed together in a firm line. I try not to judge those who bought them, put them up, and left them visible for all to see. I try not to realize that one day these people may suffer a shift in perspective that causes them to see their own decorations the same way I do.
Next year, perhaps I’ll pull out my orange bins again. I might even use them.
How have your lifelong holiday perspectives or practices shifted after life-altering loss?