Horror: My First True Literary Love and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
I was raised in Philadelphia in a conservative Christian family. We had a lot of rules, most of which I didn’t like. Tuck in your shirt, don’t curse, wear a belt, go to three different churches twelve times a week, iron your church clothes even if they are jeans and a t-shirt, do morning devotions, read your Bible, do nightly devotions, pray over every meal and before you go to bed, go to the bathroom before we leave, eat what’s on your plate even if it’s gross and/or might be freeze dried survival food, do what your father says, do what your mother says, and do what your grandmother says. (Those last three rules had an entire litany of sub-rules which could be created and implemented at whatever juncture seemed appropriate.)
Some rules were created arbitrarily based on whether my grandmother considered something evil. For example, Santa Claus was evil because his existence (real or imagined) took the focus off of Jesus during Christmas. (This claim was further evidenced by the fact that the letters in his name could be rearranged to spell “Satan.”) Wishing was evil, as was any form of alcohol, Madonna, evolution, daytime soap operas, Labrynth, the Rolling Stones, Fantasia, Max Headroom, Native American dream catchers, and inexplicably, E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial. (I do know the biblical reason for this, but it’s way too complicated for this blog.) And finally, at the top of the heap of evil things was THE MOST EVIL THING OF ALL: HALLOWEEN.
As kids, we lived half a block from a store that sold penny candy. We weren’t rich, but damn, did we feel like it when we used our allowance to buy fifty cents of Swedish Fish. Candy was life, and that meant Halloween was impossible to ignore. Our parents tried to make us ignore it anyway, and every Oct. 31, we went into our house and our parents locked the doors and turned off the lights at the front of the house. All through dinner and our glum nightly devotional, we were interrupted by what seemed like hundreds of happy-go-lucky assholes whose parents not only encouraged them to dress up for Halloween but even went along with them. My dad would pause and wait silently until they gave up and went away. It was torture. One year, both parents were working on Halloween (but the rules still applied), so my brothers and I handed out potatoes and onions to those who…