Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Outsider

In public school, no one knew what to do with me this time of the year.

Halloween is a sticky subject for a lot of Christian families. My parents weren't the sort of sheltering overprotectors who refused to let me exist in the culture around me, but they also were wary of letting me participate in fun little games that seemed to glorify darkness. So on Halloween they often pulled me from school so I could avoid the whole witches-and-ghosts brouhaha. My lunches would still be packed with bite-sized candy. They found ways for me to prance around in costumes. I just escaped a lot of the scary stuff until I was old enough to make my own discerning decisions about trick-or-treating.

Of course, just skipping one day didn't mean that I avoided all things Halloween. Elementary schools thrive on holiday prep, so the week or so approaching the day would be filled with crafts and songs and stories related to black cats and broomsticks. If you had been in my class, you may have not even noticed my clever exits and alternative activities. But I knew I was different. And it was awkward.

Sometimes the teacher would assign me extra work. While the class was laughing and building costumes with Elmer's glue and yarn, I'd be in the library, writing a book report about something non-evil.

Or while the teacher instructed everyone to cut out silhouettes of cats from black construction paper, she would hand me a sheet in brown. "There's nothing wrong with a brown cat, Nadine." My cat was the only one that wasn't bad luck.

Perhaps most uncomfortable was the Halloween assembly in the first grade. My teacher realized that I wouldn't want to participate in my class' Halloween play. Instead of just letting me sit it out (or write yet another book report), I was sent to the special-ed classroom. For a student who ended up spending her entire educational career near or at the top of her class, this was a bit of a blow. But it was probably good for me. What was almost traumatizing, however, was that I had to perform with this small group of students at the assembly. Yes, it was a Halloween song. But my line was changed from "there are witches in the air" to "there are bats in the air." The teacher repeated pointed out that bats are real animals and not necessarily Halloween-specific. Yes, the lazy teacher found a loophole in my Halloween-avoidance request.

So I stood up with a class of emotionally disturbed and developmentally challenged students and sang about bats. There were only six of us. And I'm still not completely sure what the point was. Nor have I made any conclusions as to how I'll address Halloween when I have children of my own. Maybe there's a compromise between the extremes of zombie worship and isolation.

But maybe being set apart is important. Going with the flow wasn't a lesson I needed to learn. And perhaps it's better to be an outsider when you're young. It keeps you thinking for yourself and making decisions apart from the influence of the mindless masses. Maybe my escape from adolescent idiocy can be linked to my Halloweens in the library.

Happy Halloween, all. Save some Smarties for me.


Walking Church said...

Good post there Oht's...

As a kid - it was nothing more than a candy grab; hanging out with some other kids checking out decorations and having some innocent giggles. Didn't smell evilness at all.

As the Prodigal going back to a Church body in Aylmer - I couldn't believe how over read Halloween was by some Christians...there seemed to be no real discernment. Yes, I subscribe to knowing there can be/is an evilness about celebration. In some is like alcohol...a glass or two of wine over a meal with some friends is wonderful. Killing a case, having an orgy - not so great.

Sadly, I kind of lump Halloween into my Christmas classification of things I really despise. As a kid it was a hoot and innocent. As an adult - these two things seem more like chains rather than true celebrations.

Maybe I am getting 'old' and 'grumpy' . . .I sure hope not.

It was funny last night...I got a sense of the joy out of this silly wife loves to hand out candy to the little kids (the innocent) and engages them in a fun conversation. I thought this is good! All sweet, All enjoyable... back to my roots...just a candy grab and some clean fun

Beth said...

did your teacher actually say, "there's nothing wrong with a brown cat."?!?! or was it implied?

i appreciate your thoughts here...

nadine said...

I believe it was implied aloud :)

I can't quote her exactly. It's been almost 20 years....