East Meets West: Halloween- Stina’s Nostalgic Monster Mash
“October 31, 1997- Halloween Friday was a day of profound omens and endless coincidence, but with no guidebooks to help in discerning a high meaning. It was a day when the world became on enormous omen-making, luck-producing factory. Later I would learn that coincidences are the most planned things in the world. Later I would learn that every single moment is a coincidence.”
Douglas Coupland’s book Girlfriend in a Coma influenced me heavily. I read it for the first time in high school and it planted in me the seeds that would bloom while seeking myself in the west. I shan’t ruin the plot, but for me, it’s the Halloween equivalent of leafing through A Christmas Carol in December.
It’s no coincidence that the smell of pumpkins always takes me back to childhood. It was a time when Momma O would make Halloween costumes, custom-fit to conceal a snowsuit should winter come early to Ontario. Whether eight, dressed as the Phantom of the Opera or eighteen dressed as something hussy-like, the smell of Jack-o-lanterns always take me back to making hot dogs on the fire, being scared of “Thriller” and having Daddy O doubly assure me that my pink My Little Pony nightlight would keep me safe. Though I think it was Daddy O who kept me safe, not my nightlight.
I only spent one Halloween in Newfoundland, without any guidebooks as to how to celebrate this occasion in a new province and memories from that year are blurry. Photos from a party I went to as “the new girl from work” recounted very specific instances that sounded like nonsense I would get up to. I remember dressing as a zombie and being proud of my make-up and laughing that the blood handprints cupping my boobs, because, 12-year-old boy humor, but yeah. Blurry.
At that point in the game, I’d been in St. John’s for three weeks, reigning queen of the weird Come From Aways, but was doing pretty well with making friends, so well that I had been invited to a work Halloween party. I slapped on my gnarly makeup, triple-checked the directions and bust on into the party. Yah! Crank up the tunes! One thing I can remember from this blurry night was that it struck me that I hadn’t spent any time with these people outside of work This could get really awkward really quickly so I did the only (in)appropriate thing; got rip-roaring drunk.
Humbly, I’m a wonderful drunk. I’m not cantankerous or fight-y, just vivacious and inclusive and ridiculous and charming and loud. I’m sure other people might have another take on me, and that’s ok. And that’s the night; 90s jams, a lot of chocolate, gin and juice flowing and laughter, smeared makeup. I think.
Hallow’s Eve in Newfoundland wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t coloured in the same traditional nostalgia I was used to experiencing. How could it be? I hadn’t yet had the time to or space to create traditions. I wish that I would have gone to Lester’s farm with friends, protesting loudly about going through a haunted barn and screaming for dear life if I was dragged along. I wish that I would’ve gone to the Crow’s Nest Officers club to ask the old gents if they’d tell me a ghost story.
However, I’m fairly certain there was the ghost of an old man who lived in my home on St. Michael’s street. He never scared me, never played tricks on me. In hindsight, it was kind of like having a grandpa vibe around. I should’ve asked him to tell me his story, I bet he would have. Funnily enough, it was in Vancouver where I found a haunted pirate ship…
Talk about a coincidence. Every year, especially when Vancouver is gifted with a golden sunny Halloween. Golden Halloweens provide one last morsel of summer before we really have to lock it down and get infiltrated with fa-la-la-la-las and retail hell. Vancouver Halloweens have swathed me in their mystery and teased me to be naughty; I’ve drank cheap beer at a tiny hole in the wall club bursting at capacity in Chinatown surrounded by my fellow sweaty hedonists. I’ve sought the reverent hush of the yoga studio and practiced in a full class lead only by candlelight and my darling-teacher, Lucy, enticing us to celebrate the darkness and the gods and goddesses that govern the day as she regales us with their mythology.
I’ve wandered the streets of my neighborhood in East Van as a lost soul at the Parade of Lost Souls. A masquerade, cabaret of sorts, that invites inclusion into the darkness, with labyrinths and fire dancers, cauldrons to throw your fears into, skeletons death-dancing to xylophones. I’ve walked down empty streets blasting “Season of the Witch” and found the infamous neighborhood haunted pirate ship, offering wonder and delight, asking only for donations in money or canned goods to the Food Bank. I’ve been invited to share a beer on that pirate ship porch, by people whose names I don’t know because I lived around the corner and the neighborhood cat deemed me a good egg.
These moments are always punctuated with fireworks. This tradition still perplexes me. Ontario reserves its sky sparklers for May 2-4, and Canada Day, not here. These bursts of sounds and colours, make everyone, even the clowns and vampires, cartoons and creatures, stop in their tracks and stare, mouths agape.
There have been years when I could care less about Halloween even hated it. One year when my inner landscape was already feeling scary and treacherous I didn’t wear a Halloween costume that fit over a snowsuit, or one for fit for a hussy. There were no ghosts, haunted pirate ships or candlelit corpse pose shavasanas. Instead at 12:01 AM on November 1, I put on Christmas music.
In 2018 though, my head and heart are doing just fine, and even though I’m dressing up for Halloween, on the 31st, and every day I’m working on something; taking off the mask I show the world and wander around this Halloween the purest, most authentic version of myself. Dare you to try it too, even if looking in the mirror is really scary. Don’t worry, you’ll still get candy.