Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Halloween Memory

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as a child.  But not all Halloween memories are pleasant ones.  I'd hesitated on sharing this one with you, but in the end, I decided to go ahead.

The elementary school I attended--along with all my siblings--always put on this big Halloween Carnival every year.  It was held a night or two before Halloween, so we didn't have to choose between the Carnival and Trick-or-Treating, like kids do today.  The Carnival was just as much fun, and I looked forward to going every year.

The year my brother was in second grade, his class was in charge of putting on the haunted house.  Now, back in those days, when we didn't have to be so politically correct all the time, we called them spook houses.  Can't do that any more, but we did back then.

My older brother's class was in charge of the spook house, and my mother had volunteered to be the wicked witch.  Finally, the long anticipated day of the Halloween carnival had arrived.  My mother was in the kitchen boiling spaghetti and peeling grapes.  I was in kindergarten that year, and as there were no kindergartens in the public schools,  I went to a private kindergarten that was held in one of the local churches.  We got off at 11:30, so I was there in the kitchen watching my mother prepare.  I asked her why she was peeling grapes, and she explained that the grapes were supposed to be eyeballs and the spaghetti was supposed to be guts.  I said they didn't look like eyeballs and guts to me.  My mother replied that it would be dark in the spook house, so maybe nobody would notice.  Then she turned around and asked me the one question I never expected to hear.

"You are going to come see me in the spook house, aren't you?"

Now, I'd never been inside a spook house before. I didn't really know what they were all about. All I knew was that there was scary stuff in them. I didn't like scary stuff. I didn't like to be scared, so I told my mother no.

"What??"  my mother exclaimed incredulously.    "You aren't going to come see me in the spook house?  How do you think that's going to make me feel?  What will people think if my own daughter won't come see me in the spook house?"

That night, walking around the carnival with my dad and brother, and my baby sister in the stroller, we came to the entrance of the spook house.  My brother went in without hesitation.  I just stood there.  My dad asked me, "Do you want to go in?"

I didn't, but decided that the *** I would face when I got home that night was scarier than anything that could be in that spook house.  I was wrong.  My little shoulders slumped.  I didn't see that I had much of a choice, so I took a deep breath and slowly, reluctantly, I went in.

The first thing I had to do was crawl down a long tunnel.  I later figured out that it was sheets draped over card tables, but at the time, it was just a dark, scary tunnel.  I heard all sorts of noises, moans, groans, howls, screams, and through the sheets, hands reached out to grab me.  Just as I was crawling out of the end of the tunnel, a werewolf jumped at me, roaring and growling.

This was just too much.  Screaming, I turned around and tried to crawl back up the tunnel, but there were too many people in the way.  They wouldn't move.  They wouldn't let me go back.  In despair, I sat on my heels, just inside the end of the tunnel, and cried.  People continued to crawl past me.  I even heard one boy say, "Somebody's blocking the tunnel," but nobody stopped.

Nobody stopped to comfort a frightened, crying little girl.  The only one trying to reassure me was the werewolf.

"It's OK," he said.  "I'm not going to hurt you.  I"m not really a werewolf.  I'm just somebody's daddy, dressed up in a costume."

He was trying to comfort me, but I was having none of it.  Then I saw, through the end of the tunnel, my mother hurrying towards me, witch costume billowing out behind her.  I felt a brief flash of hope.  I thought for a moment that she was going to make those people move, so I could go back out the entrance.  So I could get out of there.  My hopes were quickly dashed when instead of helping me, she began slapping me.  And slapping me.

And slapping me, and slapping me.

And slapping me.

How long this went on, I don't know.  To my childish mind, it seemed like forever.  Eventually, my mother's rage was sated and she stopped hitting me.  She grabbed me by the wrist and jerked me out of the tunnel.  As she was dragging me over to her witch's table, I looked over at the werewolf, who had retreated to the corner, over by some fake rocks.  He didn't look mean any more.  He just looked sad.

He quickly got over it, though, and was soon back to roaring and jumping at people as they came out of that tunnel.

At the witch's table, I dutifully touched the cold spaghetti, squeezed the peeled grapes, and thought that even in the dark, they didn't look like guts and eyeballs.  I drank my little bathroom cup of witch's brew, which was just Kool-Aid without sugar added to it.  Then I turned, and without looking at another thing, walked out of the spook house. 

I have never been inside another one, not even the one the church put on when I was a youth.  Not even the one we held at the dojo a few years ago.  Oh, I went in and helped set it up.  I even took pictures.  But when it came time to open it, I left.

I guess there are just some things that once is enough.


Sus said...

Wow. I'm sorry that happened to you. I hope you've found lots of other things to make the holiday fun.

And, as an aside, I had to ask Gator why it would be politically incorrect to call a haunted house a "spook house". I really had no idea. So there you go.

Becky said...

Thanks, Sus. I did find other things to love about Halloween. It was one of my favorite holidays. I loved carving pumpkins, decorating, being outside after dark (it was one of the few days of the year we were allowed to be out after dark). I just don't do haunted houses.

I think that's funny that you had to ask why we can't say spook house. I was in my 40's before I learned that cracker was considered a racist term.

Lisa said...

Ahhh, Becky. They really have very little idea how much they can totally screw us up, and how long it will stay with us, do they?

I'm so sorry that you experienced what you did and that you still have that memory. It would be so nice if there was an 'erase' button somewhere that would make those memories disappear forever.

I know you are a strong woman now, but I deeply feel for that frightened, little girl and everything she lost in that spook house that night. I hope you never feel that sorrow, ever, ever again.

Becky said...

Thanks, Lisa. The worst part is, if you asked my mother, she would say that this event never happened. She would say that I'm just making it up. Now, either she TRULY doesn't remember it, which is frightening, or she is lying, which is infuriating.

Lisa said...

Yeah, Becky. Mine tried to convice my husband that I was mental and making everything up and should be medicated for my own good. What she didn't know is that for a long time, he had listened in to our phone conversations and a few times, not many but enough, he'd heard her admit stuff and tell me to get over it, that the others (brother & sisters) had gone through worse with my dad, or when I called social services when a family member who had been a child molester was trying to get custody of his kids during a divorce. That was when she threatened to make my son disappear if I ever hurt her son again. Yeah, she's quite the maternal and nurtering sort - NOT. You know the truth, and I've learned that for me, that's the biggest part of the battle. Granted, I haven't seen my family in umpteen years now. But, I've finally found as much peace as I think I ever will, so life is good. They can only hurt me now, if I choose to let them, and I don't.

Becky said...

I know what you mean. My mother has never admitted anything, not even to me. I think she has managed to convince herself that she really was a good, patient, loving mother and that I'm just an aberration. Even when I was a teenager, she tried to get me to go to a doctor because she thought I had a chemical imbalance in my brain that was making me sullen and angry. Even then, I wanted to tell her, No, you stupid bitch, YOU did this to me. But she never listened.

I don't have any support from any of my family--especially not my extended family. They say that they didn't see any of that going on, so it must not have happened. I want to tell them "Duh, you saw us for two hours a year on Christmas Eve! Of COURSE you didn't see anything."

Like you, I have found some sort of peace, though I've accepted that I'll likely never have the life I would have wished for myself. I just move on, and do the best I can.


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