A second-grader made us run for our lives last night.
While strolling home from my neighbor’s annual pumpkin carving party, the silhouette of a small figure stood very still under a giant maple tree in the shadow of the moonlit night.
As we approached, we noticed he was dressed for Halloween. I thought I recognized him and playfully taunted, “Oh, no! It’s Freddy Krueger!” The striped shirt, hat, and mask of a monster sent a little shiver up my spine, despite his petite stature.
The boy didn’t move a muscle. His arms stayed by his side and his gaze seemed to be somewhere behind us. We assumed Freddy was waiting for his older brother, who was dressed up as Jason from “Friday the 13th.” His brother had given us a hug despite the clunky white face mask and working chainsaw in his hand.
As we walked past this little Freddy, he snapped his head and stared right at us. I giggled at how well he played this part. Yet, he held it. This kid stayed in character. We smiled and strolled past; but when I looked behind me, he was gone. I was happy, as I thought he had run back to the party after he’d had his fun with us.
Nope. He had sprinted ahead in the darkness behind another maple, only to calmly step out from behind it with another steady stare right at us again. I knew it was only a child, but in that startling moment, we shrieked and ran. The laughter that followed doubled us over as we gasped for air.
Halloween is not a favorite holiday of mine. My imagination is scary enough as it is.
I was sincerely afraid of something living under my antique wooden bed frame as a child. A night light and my brother’s old Winnie the Pooh bear kept me safe, most of the time. My mind could make me shake in fear from any strange sound or shadow. Let’s not even address what happened when my shuttered closet doors would randomly pop open.
Yet, I love it all: the costumes, the make-believe, and the gathering of the community on Halloween. When else do we, young and old, collectively challenge ourselves to connect and play?
Halloween is like recess again. It’s playtime. So come one, come all, let’s scream and run!
And try these three challenges for even more Halloween fun:
>> Play good old-fashioned dress-up. Head to Halloween parties, work, or school as unicorns, hot dogs, or Elvis, dropping that day-to-day persona. This is the time for even the shyest to shine, just like my normally timid, young neighbor.
>> Put those phones down, keep those eyes up, check each other out, and tune in. Ask how those costumes and pumpkins were designed. Listen. In this world that prefers texting, isn’t it sweet to hear voices live sing, “Trick or treat?”
>> Go to horror movies or haunted houses despite those fears. The bond after screaming our faces off, then sighing and crying in relief as we cling to the nearest arm is priceless, I hear.
We can do all that, and that is coming from me…the ultimate scaredy-cat.
Come on, it’s Halloween recess, gang!
Pretend like the bell just rang.
Let loose, and let’s play.
Embrace it, and say,
“Boo!” to someone old or new.
And yes, I triple dog dare you.
“It’s a happy talent to know how to play.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson