Empty Pumpkin Syndrome

hall04bridehorsemanDouble, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn, and caldron bubble
~ Shakespeare (Macbeth — witches’ spell)

A long time ago, in a land far far away, I was a kid who loved Halloween. I loved all things spooky and ooky and on that one glorious day of the year, I was allowed to act it out any way I wanted to—costumes, parties, movies, you name it. Over the years, I’ve had a veritable cornucopia of costumes—my earliest memory is the sheet-ghost, in which I face-planted in a mud puddle and accidentally turned into a swamp monster. As a young adult, I still dressed up but went to parties instead of trick-or-treating. Then I had two little creatures of my very own and Halloween became about their costumes, even though I was still dressing up with them to chaperone their candy-begging activities at strange houses which were suddenly deemed safe just because the owner has a porch light on and a bucket full of fun-sized* chocolate bars.

I often started their costumes in July. After all, this was Halloween, and that meant serious business. My little creatures were every classic monster over the years, as in the picture—some amazing, some I still get grief for (how many times can I apologize for the mummy vs. hot glue incident?). They dabbled in modern horror, with Carrie and Edward Scissorhands. They enjoyed the trick-or-treating, the costumes, the decorating (as my mother once said, “only in your house is it normal to hear someone scold a child and tell them to get out of a coffin”). They loved all of it with me. The spooky, the ooky… the energy.

And then they grew up. My daughter is celebrating her first Halloween as a mother this year. She’s in charge of the costumes and trick-or-treating now. My son is back in that land far far away for the season, third year running unfortunately. And I’m here. Buying candy and preparing to sit on the porch and ooh and ahh at all the little costumed monsters who come begging for my wares. I’ve got a costume to wear while I peddle my fun-sized treats. And while there’s some minor decoration, I was out of town for a good chunk of October, so for the first time in what feels like my entire life, there is no graveyard in my dying grass.

It’s Halloween. It’s October. It’s horror madness 24/7. But something just doesn’t feel right, and it’s not the lack of a graveyard. It hasn’t felt right for a couple years. Last night, I finally figured it out. I have empty pumpkin syndrome. I’ve entered the next stage of Halloween and find I have no idea how to celebrate. It’s a strange feeling. I don’t like it. I have no monsters to dress up and take trick-or-treating. I have no parties to attend. I feel as if I’m celebrating the same holiday as everyone else, but from a strange bubble. If I’m lucky, in the next 24 hours, I’ll figure out how to feel like I’m a part of the holiday I love, rather than feeling like a bystander. An interloper. A ghost.

In the meantime, it’s still my favorite holiday. I won’t go to the day job on this sacred day (I’ll work Christmas, I do not work on Halloween). I’ll watch the traditional movies during the day while I’m setting up, and end the night with my beloved Michael Myers. In between, I’ll hand out candy and take pictures of the best costumes… and in case I don’t come online again until November, may all of you have a magnificent Halloween — full of costumes and candy and that one moment when you truly jump at something, because after all, “It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”

*Nod to my nephew, who once claimed Halloween candy is NOT fun-sized. “If it were the size of my house, then it would be fun size!” He had a point and I’ll never forget that comment.

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