Kage Baker loved Halloween. It was her favourite holiday – even more than Christmas.
What she loved most about it was the air of nocturnal license, I think. Kage was thoroughly diurnal, and not usually given to running about in the dark. But there’s a remnant of childhood in most of us that persists in thinking that playing in the dark is the ultimate in fun. Combine that with free candy, dressing up and the world lit by live flames, and, well, Kage could not resist.
We trick or treated well into our 20’s. Oh, we gave up actually asking for candy – but with the unending stream of new babies in our family, there was always another little kid who needed escorting through the wild October night. By the time our youngest sibling was too old for it, there were nieces and nephews coming along – it was only moving North that finally kept us answering doorbells instead of ringing them.
Kage didn’t dress up – much – but she did go in for props. Most years, she would carve a single elegant crescent moon in a head-sized pumpkin, and carry it as we went along. That was the Lantern of the Weird (the Lamps of the Weird being my two Lava Lamps.) I got door duty, actually escorting our smaller relatives up to the Sacred Portal of Candy – so I know, from a thousand looks back down the front walks, that with that lit pumpkin in the crook of her arm and half-obscured by shadows, Kage looked like a headless phantom.
She’d wave silently, giving serious shocks to lots of house-holders …
Oh, what I would give if I could look down the front walk now and see her! Even with her face hidden in the shadows, I’d know her by that jack o’lantern and the solemn way she’d wave. And the way she’d inquire eagerly when we came back down to the sidewalk: “Anybody get a Snickers for your old Auntie?”
She could have all my Snickers if she just haunted me a little.
Nowadays, I’m at a low tide of available children. Which is all right, really, because the long walks around the neighborhood would be beyond me. And our house is liberally decorated, and all the kids at the nearby grammar school know about it and are already half-insane waiting to get here: so I can hand out candy to the expected ravening hordes and have a good time.
Then, at midnight, I’ll fire up the computer and make a symbolic start on my especial November mania – NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It’s a (hopefully) swift, ruthless road trip through a novel or 50,000 words of same – whichever happens first – and is largely an exercise in discipline. You just write – without revision, correction or editing – every day of November. At the end, you have some good new habits and (maybe) a book.
The last time I did this, I made my 50,000 words – but it turned out to be only 3/4 of the story. I mean to complete it this time, picking up where I left off. It’s an old, old, story idea – the first attempt was made when I was barely 25; Kage and I wrote a novel together, taking turns and braiding our ideas together. She ultimately mined her parts out and used them in other, better novels … but one core of the story is still there, and largely mine, and so tonight I will leap back into that river.
Maybe Kage will be waiting on the sidewalk, spuriously headless, enjoying her night out and jonesing for a Snickers. I’ll count on it; because if she’d haunt me for anything, it would be to bug me into finishing a book.
And into sharing the chocolate. And I will, too.