It’s All Hallow’s Eve. The night when the spirits of the dead walk the earth. Whether you believe in honoring the mysterious spirits or fooling them, or whether you believe that the dead rest silent in their graves, it’s an eerie night. My family never celebrated the modern tradition of Halloween, dressing up in costumes to roam the neighborhood looking for candy. We marked the wakening of the spirits by hiding in the basement with the latest Disney movie and Pu-Pu platters for six. All the lights on the ground floor were turned off, the door was locked, and we curled up in front of the basement t.v. with our egg rolls and the pre-sorted plastic pumpkins full of lawfully purchased candy to ignore the doorbell as it rang and rang and rang.
I miss those Halloweens. In retrospect, they are probably one of those landmark moments where nurture defines you and they may play some bigger than small part in my anxiety about interacting normally with your average American. I cherish the memories, however, because they are also a memorable source of the bond I have with my family, especially my little sisters. I like to think that our little plastic pumpkin patch was, to borrow from Linus, “Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
Halloween has been a special kind of hell for me since I graduated and left the cozy womb of our isolationist traditions. Not that the womb would have stayed the same–somewhere along the line my mother loosened up about Halloween and now seems to enjoy celebrating it. I enjoy a good costume as much as the next geek, but Halloween is more the realm of Bacchus these days. There’s nothing like a macabre costume party to bring out a college student’s skanky, experimental, and overindulgent side. It is another side effect of my upbringing that as much as I try to reserve judgement, the sort of wild behavior that Halloween permits makes me extremely uncomfortable. On October 31st, my toes just curl in queasiness at the thought of joining the real world.
I’ve been feeling especially unexcited at the thought of leaving the house this Halloween, though for once my reasons are far from being connected to my aversion to the normal holiday traditions. Halloween is also, you see, the last day before NaNoWriMo begins. It is the last day for me to finish my penultimate (one hopes) revisions on the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year, freeing me to start the new year fresh. Working means eight hours less each day to spend feverishly hacking and rewriting vital passages in my book. I’ve already figured out a schedule to minimize the time I spend on things like eating, housework, sleeping, and personal hygiene, but there’s really only so much time I can shave off my time at work.
I’ve been trying to compensate this past week for all the revision work that I couldn’t force myself to complete over the summer and in September. Every spare moment has been spent at my keyboard, or roaring in frustration when Word whines at me because my file is too big for its tiny, inefficient brain (hah, look who’s talking). In other words, my efforts have been sincerity itself. With all my heart, I have been wishing for just a few more hours to write before All Hallow’s Day lands with it’s demand that I start anew.
It’s always struck me as heinously unfair that Linus was so mocked for his faith in the Great Pumpkin. I sometimes wonder if the purity of our faith isn’t more important than the object. I suppose, in the end, all we can judge the worth of our faith by is the evidence in our lives. Linus may never have seen the Great Pumpkin; he may never have received a pile of gifts. To him, all that said was that his pumpkin patch lacked sincerity, inspiring him to belief all the more fervently next year.
For me? The Great Pumpkin brought snow in October. I was thoroughly disappointed when the snow cancelled our trip to New Hampshire to visit John’s family, but I gained two days to scribble away in, working sincerely toward my goal. Better yet (well, better for my writing, though sadly not for the community), the storm took out power to the school I work in: on Halloween, I am free to stay at home in my pajamas writing like the mad woman I am.
I’ll meet my goal. And when ghost of last year’s NaNoWriMo project will be finished by midnight, I’ll get to start fresh on my next book on All Hallow’s Day. I say when, not if, because that one little slip is all it would take to doom me.
When I succeed, just try and tell me there’s no Great Pumpkin.