“My Scariest Halloween,” Oct. 23, 2018

(NOTE: I’m taking this week off. This “replacement” column is from 2000. Yes, that’s 18 years ago. Some of us are getting old. Thanks! ) Sharon<

The most terrifying Halloween story of my life had nothing to do with ghosts or monsters or severed heads or slimy eyeballs. Or even the monkey or the moonshine. Those things were all part of it, but they weren’t scary. It’s hard to fear anything that makes you laugh.

The ghosts, for instance, were just little kids tripping around in their mamas’ bed sheets trying to act big and spooky. Except my brother, who was blind, and didn’t know a ghost from a fence post. He’d dress up in a sheet and when people said, “You’re just the cutest little ghost!” he’d get mad and say, “I ain’t a ghost, I’m a mattress!”

Bed-sheet ghosts and mattresses never did scare me. Neither did the monsters, which were just big kids rolled in bandages, dripping with catsup and smelling like hot dogs.
The “eyeballs” in the Haunted House were just big peeled grapes. Anybody could see that, even my blind brother. And that disgusting “severed head” _ the one that made my friend so sick she threw up on her Annie Oakley costume and had to be taken home _ was just somebody’s daddy looking bored and glum with his bald head poking through a hole in the table.

To me, those things weren’t scary; they were hilarious. Scary was having to walk across a stage grinning like a jack o’ lantern. I was 6 years old and had no front teeth. I did not want to be Queen of the Halloween Carnival. But I agreed to run for three reasons: (a) My classmates nominated me and I considered it an honor, even if nobody else wanted it; (b) my mother made me do it; and (c) the boy I loved was running for king.

His name was John, but I called him Johnny. He didn’t call me anything. Ever. At all. I thought the Halloween Carnival just might do the trick. Little did I know.

Halloween night, I gazed into the mirror at the dress my mother’s friend (a seamstress better known for her drinking than her sewing) had gone on the wagon to sew just for me. Dang. I looked good. Until I smiled. Then I wanted to go hide up under the porch with the dogs.

My granddaddy could always take the fear out of anything by making me laugh at it. “If you want teeth,” he said, popping out his dentures, “here, take mine.”

I didn’t even smirk. I just hoisted up my crinoline slips and headed out the door, a condemned woman going to the gallows in style.

OK, about the monkey and the moonshine: I didn’t see Johnny until the contest began. By then, it was too late for me to hide. There he was, the boy I loved. Wearing a monkey suit. Grunting like an ape. Twirling his long tail. And scratching his crotch with a banana.

The crowd adored him. I did not. Nor would I ever again.

But then, guess what? We won. Where I come from, people are fools for novelty. And as my brother pointed out, what could be more novel than a monkey king and a toothless queen?

I should also mention that as folks were voting by dropping coins in the candidates’ jars, my Uncle Harry, God bless him, distracted the front runner’s daddy (who was busy stuffing bills in his daughter’s gallon jug) by saying he had moonshine out in the car. Which, of course, was no lie.

Even better than winning was the sudden realization that I wasn’t scared any more. I could stand on that stage and face all those people and not be afraid to show them who I was: A girl with no teeth, who could laugh and feel lucky, because her granddad was at the foot stage holding up his dentures.

I think of that every Halloween. And every time I have to step out on life’s scary stage. Or anytime I have to smile when I’d rather hide under the porch with the dogs.

It helps me to remember who I am, and to laugh at all sorts of scary things. It also helps, of course, that I now have teeth.

 

Comments

  1. Angee Hannon says:

    Dear Sharon,
    My local newspaper used to run your column and it quickly became my favorite part of getting the newspaper. As a busy mom I just figured all I really needed to know about the world may as well come from you because I so identified with much you had to say and I often just didn’t have time to read the rest of the paper. I was just cleaning out my underwear/sock drawer (thought you would appreciate that detail) and found one your articles I had clipped out of the paper. It was titled “The sweaty palms of motherhood.” My children range in age from 15-27 and I now have a granddaughter. I laughed and I cried as I reread the article, probably the same way I did years ago when I first read it and decided to save it. I am a teacher of 6th graders as well as a mother and I just love this part…. “Children always ask for our best, but they’ll take whatever we give them. They push us beyond our limits, probe into our depths, make us stronger and weaker than we ever dreamed we could be. In the end, if we’re lucky, they’re like the eyes of God, blind to our efforts, and seeing only our hearts.” (sniff sniff) So now I find myself googling you, to my delight I have found your blog. So now you have me as loyal reader again. I smiled when I read you are a nana too. In my saved article you also mention a blanket you crocheted. I also crochet with apparently about the same skill as you…I also sew. My attempt when I was expecting was making a stuffed animal in hopes of creating my own personal Gund puppy. Well to make a long story short he turned out twisted and nicked named road-kill dog and has been loved over the last 27 years by each of my children. Just as the blanket in the article ” it stays with me. It’s not much to look at, but looks aren’t everything. Besides I like the way it smells. ” Thank you for your influence on the little things in my life and for validating that some of my personal feelings, thoughts and actions. I look forward to catching up with you as I read this blog.

    Sincerely,
    Angee Hannon

  2. Kate Sciacca says:

    Made me laugh out loud… thanks! Needed that…. after tonight’s disaster…

  3. Dear Sharon:
    I have so much I want to say (write) to you…today at Bridger Field House at Wake
    Forest University I was privileged to meet you in person!! It was good to hear you
    talk about your brother who cannot see…I have read your articles for years so I
    feel I know you. I have limited vision. My friend, Jo Anne, who “treated” me to
    today’s event, asked a woman at our table (I think she was part of Financial Pathways)
    if she could bring you over to Table #1 so I could see you. I could hear you as you spoke
    but I could not see you at all. Miracle of miracles, you came over and we shook hands,

    After I introduced myself I asked if I could give you a hug…you graciously said , “Yes.”
    Then you added, “I do not give autographs, I give hugs.” It was necessary for you to
    move on to greet other people, but, please be aware, you MADE MY DAY!”

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