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Halloween Daydream in 2020

At my third floor window I languish in the maizey leaves clinging to the honey locusts before their final abscission. A man strolls out of the building across the street and stands at the edge of the sidewalk.

What exactly do I believe in these days? Smelling babies. Talking to dogs. The Post Office. I believe I’m armed with more knowledge than any old trickster.

Oversized orange buckets swing from each of his hands, full to the top with candy bars. Even a daydreamer can spot Snickers and Three Musketeers. He’s in a grey suit and tie, his face hidden by the ubiquitous mask. Is he waiting for a ride to a party?

I’m the day-of-the-dead queen costumed in veil and beads armed with loaves and fishes and bellies of the beast.

CostumedChicago kids are allowed to walk around in small groups trick or treating as long as they keep moving and don’t bunch up on the street. A masquerade of tiny witches and goblins approaches the man in the grey suit. They retireve candy bars from his swinging plastic pumpkins. I squint in the brewing dusk to see that his grey suit is actually a doorman’s uniform. Building overlords have chosen him to stand in thirty degrees to guard the front door from trick-or-treaters. I’m offended for the doorman. This surmised slight ruffles my daily itch for anger. 

I climb into and out of death everyday.

At the beginning of October Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared as superhero, Captain Covid, to announce the city’s guidelines for Halloween. Fitting, since Halloween is a month-long event in the windy city, thanks to Mayor Daley II who loved Halloween. I do too. 

There’s a full moon this Halloween, a Hunter’s Moon, they call it. The last time Halloween revelers in Chicago saw a full moon was a few weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. It’s not exactly like the 2016 Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, but Chicagoans love to celebrate any milestone. 

Not this year. 

The pandemic has dampened celebrations. The governor shut down indoor bars and restaurants starting midnight Friday on Halloween weekend.

Captain Covid pleaded for mercy to keep the Chicago bars open at least for the weekend. No, no, said Governor Pritzker. The risk is too great. Chicago party-goers are scary, unpredictable, unruly. 

I’m no longer a party animal myself, but their disappointment is mine too. One of my yearly delights is gawking at the outrageous costume parade rollicking in and out of the bars on Rush Street. Some years I’ve dressed Henry in his skeleton sweater to be in that number on our late-night walk. Instead, we’ll go outside to view the Hunter’s Moon, descend into the Druid bygone, and muse about fattening the game, the hunt, the slaughter and the preparation of winter provisions.

I see all the past and all the future, in the moment, aided by the magnetic Jesus stuck to the corners of my eyes.

Casper the Holy Ghost

Casper the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost appeared to me in the first grade on the day our Catholic school nun taught our class about the three persons of the Trinity.  My shimmying skin signified Casper the Friendly Ghost had floated into our classroom with his new, deeper nature as the Holy Ghost’s doppelgänger. A 1950’s cartoon character, the bubbly, happy, peaceable Casper tried desperately to befriend humans because his fellow ghosts were too sinister.But the poor guy terrified most people even though his spirit was warm-hearted and affable. Now he was one of the persons of God. And I needed Him.

My original first grade at Stone Ridge Academy of the Sacred Heart in Washington DC was interrupted by illness. I didn’t learn about the Holy Ghost until I got to my next first grade in a parochial school in Terre Haute Indiana. I was happy to repeat the first grade so I could be with my younger sister and best friend, Erin.

Third-gader Mara, my older sister, teased me relentlessly about flunking first grade in front of her friends – and what would have been my friends if she hadn’t poisoned them against me. I prayed that my one new friend, Casper the Holy Ghost,would scare Mara away from tormenting me.

I never had any trouble with the Trinity. Catholics bless themselves by making the sign of the cross, tapping the head, heart and each shoulder, while reciting “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” The concept of the Trinity was and is still simple – three persons in one, just like a cross. For the life of me I don’t know why theologians are always trying to explain it. Perhaps they didn’t have Casper to guide them in the first grade.
I dressed as Casper at Halloween –  many kids still do. My mother wasn’t the least bit interested in dabbling in children’s holidays, much less making costumes. But my Casper costume was a cinch. As long as I didn’t cut holes for my eyes, she let me drape a white sheet over my head and Erin, in her hobo costume, led me around trick-or-treating. Mara, in her I Love Lucy outfit, ridiculed us surrounded by her pack of friends.

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I started collecting Casper the Friendly Ghost comic books in 1952 when I was six. By the time I was ten I had them stacked up alongside Superman comics in my closet. One day I came home from playing baseball and Mara had thrown away my comic book collection. She said it was time for me to grow up. The slick odor of those mistreated keepsakes haunted me for a time but the quivering feeling of Casper’s friendship and protection eventually evaporated.

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About that time Catholics started using Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost. The only image I had of the Holy Spirit was an inanimate white dove hanging open-winged over statues of Jesus. He certainly didn’t look like he needed friends. I slinked away from the Holy Ghost until years later when He fell into my own spirit and turned my old fear of Mara into forgiveness. She’s still scary. But not to me.