Monday, October 29, 2012

My Favorite Halloween Memory


Halloween was never my favorite holiday. Frankly, between the dance classes, piano lessons, and choir rehearsals of my youth I never really had all that much time or energy to think about a costume that would impress my friends. Don’t feel bad for me. I was a very self assured child in that I felt that my perfect grades and extracurricular made me impressive enough and Halloween was just a waste of time for boring people--yes, I was that kid. That combined with the fact that my family lived in Denver where, if there wasn’t a blizzard, it was far too cold by October 31st to wear anything BUT a puffy coat so I usually looked like a flamboyant Michelin man trudging through the snow whether I dressed up or not.
One particularly warm year went to a lot of trouble to dress up as Princess Leia from Return of the Jedi. I put on the top of my dad’s military uniform from the 70s, put my hair in two side buns, and put on lipstick. “Looking GOOD,” I thought to myself before I walked out the door. “OH! What a pretty little princess,” the neighbors would say to my sister, “And… oh, what are you dressed up as, dear?” Fortunately when I sold these same people Girl Scout cookies they bought enough to prevent me from harboring any ill feelings towards them.

A few times we got to shed our coats and enjoy a “Harvest Festival” at our church. I know how much people love to make fun of the church anti-Satan candy gatherings, but truth be told, I loved not having to endure the scary warnings about stranger danger from my parents and the creepy witches that grabbed my hand when I reached into a candy dish—it usually took everything I had in me to stop myself from wetting in my pants.  Besides, I loved winning pies for playing educational games and they served hot dogs and potato chips for dinner; a delicacy I was never served at home and was a nice break from the warm tofu.
But one year something very special happened that set that particular Halloween apart from every other one. A local bookstore called The Tattered Cover held an annual “Scary Story Contest” for children. 

“What makes you scared, Nicole?” my mom asked me as I saw agonizing over a piece of blank paper (my how history repeats itself….)
“Lots of things, the dark, strangers, snakes, Grandma’s basement, rabies,” I rattled off a few more before she interrupted,
“What scares you about Grandma’s basement?”
“The wolf rug. Grandma’s wolf rug because I think it is secretly alive.”
“Secretly alive?” my mom laughed, “Write a story about that! Pretend you are telling me what happens when we got to bed at night and the wolf rug comes alive.”
I made a strained my face for a minute and took a deep breath before I began writing.
A few weeks later I had won the contest out of all first graders in the state and was standing in front of the entire school, K-8, reading my story, “Grandma’s Wolf Rug.” I reluctantly walked up in front of the crowd and spoke as loudly and clearly as I could in a child’s monotone. I don’t remember much about the actual reading. I know I got a few laughs and afterwards I got a few thumbs up, but even afterwards I was so nervous I could only concentrate on cramming Starburst into my mouth.
            However, after the readings I reemerged from my quasi-catatonic state and lined up with my classmates to go back to our classrooms.
            “Great story,” on of my friends said, “You know, my grandpa has a gun in his basement!”
            “Yeah? Well, my dad has a full size replica T-Rex in our basement,” shouted the loudmouth of the class.
            “Well, my mommy told me it is murder to have fur and it sounds like your grandma is a murderer,” bullied another girl. I glared at her and called her a mean poop in my head.
            “Shut up, I think it is a good story. Besides, I know my Barbies come alive when I leave the room. They’re never where I leave them.”
            “Is too possible!”
            “Not uh”
            “Yes huh!”
            My teacher interrupted, “Clap twice if you can hear me.” We all clapped and walked silently back to class.
            My story was the cause of much debate and playground controversy for the next day or so, although when one of the boys kissed a girl in our class all memory of my story was forgotten, even by me. However, as I’ve had time to look back and reflect, it was that excitement, that discussion after reading my story that initially introduced me to the power of becoming a storyteller. Just by writing a story I suddenly possessed the power to influence conversations and either agitate my friends or inspire them enough to share more about their own stories. It’s that love for conversation and people that has inspired me to want to write as an adult and I was forever changed by that Halloween. 

Here's to hoping this Halloween is truly special! 


Nicole Jeannette


Laura said...

Love this. Great story...of a story. :) I love reading your stories and getting a glimpse into small Nicole! :)

AbbieBabble said...

What a wonderful halloween story! Happy happy halloween, Nicole!

Yours Truly said...

Hahaha loved your story! As for Halloween I am like you Halloween wasn't always a favorite at least as a child, mainly because my parents didn't let us celebrate it. But now with kids and a family of our own, it is my 2nd favorite! the first pictures with the Star Wars costumes, so cute!

henning love said...

what?! hold the phone!! i participated in this same contest back when i was in 4th grade and i won 3rd place for my age. and i had to come up and read the story to everyone who was there. i totally forgot about that memory until reading your post now