I don’t remember all too much about life before the age of 5 or 6 (I think people who do are an anomaly and should be studied). A fleeting memory of sitting on a blanket chewing on a rubber gummy bear, my first time playing with a Nintendo Zapper, the remarkable feeling I got when all of the sudden, reading made sense to me and printed words weren’t a scary puzzle anymore, and the taste and feeling of hot apple cider on my tongue.
What I do remember strongly, is how much the Autumn season brought me joy. It meant the start of the school year and making new friends, the cooling off of the weather in Texas where I grew up, my birthday in late September, my grandmother’s birthday shortly after my own, and my favorite holiday: Halloween.
Halloween started being my favorite holiday pretty early on in my life. It was the only holiday where I could get dressed up in second-hand clothes that I customized, draw all over myself with my grandmother’s makeup, and all the good stuff came from strangers. It didn’t matter if I was rich or poor, I got to have the same fun everyone else did. Halloween is equal opportunity fun for all who are willing and able to participate and there’s something really unique, warm, and wonderful about that.
Before I was old enough for school, my auntie took care of me during the day while my mother and grandmother worked. One of her favorite stories to tell about those days is how I would always beg her to watch “Monster Shoes” and “My Chucky.” It turns out, after a few trips to our local video rental store, that I was talking about the live-action My Pet Monster movie and Child’s Play.
The My Pet Monster movie, upon adult re-watch, is not really that great. I think I just loved the idea of a big, furry monster buddy of my own and I remember being OBSESSED with the Hi-Tops Video logo where the laces just self-lace up the red rectangle.
I had somehow seen Child’s Play and LOVED it enough to beg for it every time she took care of me til she decided to purchase the VHS. In retrospect, the scene near the end where some guy gets doll eyes implanted into his head is really freaky and I don’t know how my aunt wasn’t mortified that I wanted to see that over and over again.
When I was in second grade (age 7), I received a Halloween charm bracelet that my auntie gifted me for my birthday. I wore that thing every day for almost 4 years. The only reason I stopped wearing it is because I caught it on the bar you grip as you enter and exit the school bus, it snapped, exploded chain and charms all over the bus steps and street, and bruised my wrist.
Over 20 years later, I still have a rat and witch hat charm that I was able to salvage from the street, sitting in the bottom of my jewelry box. The only piece of jewelry that has ever eclipsed the importance of that charm bracelet is my commitment ring (which was given to me in a jack-o-lantern ring box).
Some of the fondest memories I have of my mother from my youth are her making us taco salad every Friday night and sitting down just the two of us after dinner to watch The X-Files. Some of the episodes were really scary for me as an 8-year-old, but I hung in there because I enjoyed getting freaked out with my mother and not only did this instill a love for the TV show itself into me, but it also taught me the warmth and comfort of routine, stability and tradition, which for the most part I lacked in my youth.
By age 8, I developed a “weird poor girl stigma” around my neighborhood and really sought out the company of the other weird kids. A boy who always had his nose in a book and knew a lot about the horrors of history. Two home-schooled siblings, who weren’t allowed to watch TV or listen to the radio, that we would swap unusual stories with on the weekends. One girl, who I am still friends with to this day, was really into video games, action movies, and tales of alien abductions. Together, our interests combined and flourished, and we were no longer weird because we had each other.
My best friend and I would spend every possible moment together, learning about the paranormal, drawing and making up stories about monsters, watching chopped up versions of ’80s action flicks on TV, staying up way past bedtime playing her big brother’s video games, or climbing trees as high as possible to see if we could see the aliens. We also loved watching Unsolved Mysteries and old episodes of The Twilight Zone together, which was the first time I ever had someone my age I could appreciate horror with.
Every Halloween that I lived in the same city as this girl, we started working on our costumes as soon as school started. We would create elaborate back-stories for the characters we were developing. Our first Halloween together in third grade, she was a Lady Dracula who hadn’t fed in years, and I was a broken-hearted Ghost Bride. In 1996, I was an Alien Princess with mind control powers and she was an Undead Fortune Teller who could see exactly HOW you would die, but not WHEN it was going to happen. I dug through my memory tub where I house all of my photographs for almost two hours looking for the picture of this particular night, but sadly can’t find it. To this day, those 4 or 5 Autumns burn bright in my heart as some of the best times of my life.
My finding friendship, love, comfort, stability, and tradition in Halloween (and through Horror) absolutely shaped who I am today and is a huge part of my identity. I will always be that little girl looking forward to the Autumn season. While digging through looking for the picture of my friend and I on Halloween 1996, I did find some other pictures I thought you might enjoy. Enjoy!
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