With so much to be frightened of in the world, it’s nice that we set aside at least one day to make fun of our fears.
But apparently not everybody enjoys the joke.
I’m not going to whine about “Black and Orange” days or what all that free candy is doing to kids’ teeth or their struggles with adolescent obesity. I’m just going to tell you a story.
This morning, while walking the dog, I ran into a costumed girl about 9 or 10 years old.
She was wearing a shredded black and white dress, a tiara featuring a skull and make-up that wouldn’t look out of place on “The Walking Dead”. And she was crying.
I also noticed that despite carrying one of those ubiquitous “kid on the way to school” back-packs, she was travelling in the opposite direction to the rest of the kids.
As she passed, I asked if she was okay. She said, “No!” struggling not to lose it completely. So, I asked what had happened and she poured out her story.
She’d worked all night on her costume, got up early to put on the make-up and still get to school on time. But the minute she arrived, her teachers turned her around and sent her right back home. Seems she might scare the other kids and that wasn’t allowed.
Now whether her teacher was well-meaning, following some prescribed School Board code, or just some crotchety old stick-in-the-mud, I don’t know.
Maybe she’s even one of those teachers you always meet in bars on the weekend closest to Halloween, tricked out in her sexy nurse costume and making you remember all over again where Eddie Van Halen got his best ideas.
But whatever her motivation, I knew she’d just tramped down hard on somebody’s creative instincts. And no matter what element of a positive nature she was hoping to accomplish, she’d succeeding in doing exactly the opposite.
I did what I could to make the kid feel better, saying how great the costume looked and how she’d scared the crap I was now scooping off the nearby lawn right out of my dog. But she wasn’t having any of it. She seemed inconsolable.
As she walked away, past all the pirates and clowns and superheroes in their store-bought outfits, I tried one last time, calling after her, “Hey, who’re you supposed to be anyhow?”.
She whirled back around, spitting out the words, “I’m the Princess of Death!”
And in that moment, I knew she was probably going to be okay. Her teacher’s attempt at making her heel to the acceptable mores of society, of moulding her to be just like everybody else had gone terribly wrong.
Instead she had sparked the kind of defiance of convention that every truly creative soul needs to survive.
The spirit of the season lives!
Have a Happy Halloween.