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Haunted

The breeze tonight is cool, and damp, and rich with the scent of leaves and woods and wet grass. Just one breath of it sweeps me up and takes me back to every Halloween I ever knew. I close my eyes, listening to the trees outside the window of my childhood home; I am eight years old, wearing my dyed towel cape, holding a bag with a plastic handle. I feel the thrill of this night, the scary excitement of my disguised neighbors as I run to the next doorstep. I feel the weight of the candy, the best of treasures, slapping against my leg as I run. I hear Liz behind me, Pammy ahead, and Joanne right by my side.

Another breath, drawing in the crispness and moonlight; I am fourteen, too old to Trick or Treat, but just right for dressing up and walking the streets of town with my friends. I look up at the moon’s face; hear the voices of the little kids, the slap of their sneakers, the crinkling of the candy wrappers; watching the race of flashlights across the darkened streets. I wish for bags of chocolate, and toasted pumpkin seeds, and sharp edged plastic masks that catch the feel and smell of my breath and my skin and give them back to me. Fourteen years old, feeling the pull of the future as I self-consciously joke with boys grown suddenly tall. I’m soaring with excitement and a sense of adventure.

There’s another puff of air, rushing smoothly past my cheek. I am thirty. My heart is racing, just a little; it is my first Halloween as a Mommy. I dress my baby girl in black cat ears, put black make up on her tiny nose, and walk with her in my arms around the same streets where I once ran. We are newly returned to my parents’ house, saving some money and trying to get on our feet. I hold my daughter, and together we breathe in the cool, damp leaves smell. We smile at neighbors and join in the flashlight race. There are voices, laughter, masks and candy; I am only aware of Katie, safe in my arms, big eyes bright with wonder as I introduce her to this night.

Another, deeper breath, held inside of me, nearer to my heart. I can taste the night. Eyes closed tight; I am older, a Mommy in her prime. My girl in her pink harem pants and veil, one small boy dressed as a werewolf, the other in a dyed towel cape. The streets here are darker, with longer walks and fewer houses. The plastic candy bags have been replaced by plastic pumpkins or pillow cases, the flashlights with glow-sticks. But the hurrying sneakers, the voices calling back and forth, the sense of nervous exhilaration, all remain the same. The scary thrill, carried on the autumn breeze, remains.  And a new pleasure has been added to this special night; the joy of washing those little faces clean again and tucking those little tired bodies into bed. The candy counted and sorted and traded and safely stored in plastic pumpkins. The warm lights of our house, closes us in against the night.

The breeze comes and goes, softly reminiscent. A breath taken slowly; I am here, no longer out in the shadowed world of tricks and treats, but haunted just the same.


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