The Ghost of Halloween Past

On Halloween, Matt stayed behind during Bailey’s nap so that I could take a walk by myself.

It was a crisp fall day and I spent too much time trying to take pictures that properly captured the beauty of the light coming through the leaves.

Halloween has long been a favorite holiday of mine and Matt’s. In the years before having Bailey, our Halloween parties became a bit of a tradition. Matt always went over the top with themed food and drinks, I did my best to strike a balance between spooky and fun decorations, and we filled an “adult pinata” with nips of liquor and condoms.

We talked sometimes about how different our Halloweens would look once we had children- whether we’d continue our parties, if the pinata should become kid-friendly, how we’d incorporate trick-or-treating into the festivities.

As our pandemic Halloween approached, it became clear that the year’s celebration would look even more different than we had anticipated. We felt lucky that Bailey wasn’t old enough to understand trick-or-treating or pumpkin picking or any of the fun that she’d be missing out on, as we didn’t feel safe going anywhere with crowds of people. We went to a lame drive thru Halloween display at the grocery store and bought her an adorable pink monster costume from Amazon, but we were, for the most part, cooped up in our house as usual.

The week before Halloween I started to feel a bit down. Maybe there was a way to make things feel a bit more festive, even if it was just the three of us? As we prepared to watch some scary movies, I had an idea.

“Matt, I know it’s kind of stupid, but what if we decorate the family room while we watch the movies?” I asked. “We have all those supplies we usually use, we may as well get them out.”

“Whatever you want!” he reassured me.

In that year after my episode, in particular, Matt was on board with any idea to make me happy, no matter how silly it seemed.

I made my way down to the basement and located the box with shredded fabric ghosts and severed hands inside. I lugged it up to the family room, feeling hopeful that what was inside would brighten my spirits.

I opened the box and let out a deep groan as I saw it.

Resting neatly on the top of the box was a little cardboard sign with words scrawled in fake blood.

It read, “Psycho Ward.”

How could I have forgotten that “haunted asylum” was the theme of the decoration kit I had bought five years ago when we’d had our first party? Had there really been a time when I was so oblivious, so insensitive?

I sifted through the poster board cutouts that littered the box and it only got worse.

A dead-eyed zombie in a straightjacket.

A creepy off-brand version of The Joker dressed up as a nurse, with a bloody cleaver in their hand.

Broken shackles, barred windows, rats crawling over trays of hospital cafeteria food.

It was as though I had played a terrible prank on myself.

Had these decorations been an omen of what was to come?

Had my mania been penance for my past self’s poor taste?

In the end, I had to have a sense of humor about the whole thing.

I had gotten what I deserved.

And I would think twice before buying decorations for our future parties.

Thanks for reading,


46 miles