I ran into the kitchen and tore the plastic bag off the gleaming orange box containing sweet sugar cookies topped with a bright orange pumpkin. I practically skipped with delight at the thought of vibrant, warm-toned leaves crunching underfoot, store shelves lined with discounted bags of candy ready for trick-or-treaters to pluck them out of skull-clad bowls under the moonlight, and most importantly, the painstakingly put together costumes.
I saw children dressed like doctors in shining, white lab coats, superheroes with shields sprinting down streets, fairies with wings and wands whimsically waving through the night. I wondered, why do some people choose to dress up as something so light on a night that is supposed to represent darkness?
Of course, there were two-ply wrapped mummies and blood dripping from fanged mouths. Cloaks and capes twirled with the shadows; feet padded down the streets, and laughter mixed with mania, creating a cackle-like howl from the busiest neighborhoods. Maybe Halloween was considered a heathen holiday because people showed the scarier side of themselves, the real one.
As I slowly peeled back the plastic masks and fading face paint I saw around me, the unfamiliar rosy cheeks and glimmering smiles of kids I went to school with, their parents and the old ladies that lived down the street handing out candy were unearthed. I was astounded by how alive people looked when they forgot to be anyone but themselves. Maybe Halloween wasn’t just about crafty costumes or tricks or treats. When every day feels like you’re stuck on the hands of a ticking clock, waiting for a moment to yourself where you can drop your fake smile and not worry about all the ways that you are not enough, putting on a real mask feels like home.
The scariness comes when you take both the real mask and the “mask” of every day off. When you are stuck staring in the mirror with only yourself and you rush to put on your fake face, your saving grace until you realize all too late that you are you and that is okay. That you can be afraid and that is okay. But you can’t rewind your life that you watched roll by you on a movie screen after you decide you want to live it.
So, perched on the cold cement stairs of my aged home, I watched the last few straggling trick-or-treaters stumble home with frost-kissed noses, red cheeks, and warm smiles. I decided then that I would have no regrets, only mistakes made, lessons learned, fun had. Because masks were meant to be taken off, and life was meant to be lived.