Featured photo: Me (far left) with her sister Shiori (the one that’s face down) and our childhood friend Sue.
When I was a kid, my family lived in a house at the end of a cul-de-sac. Just past the neighborhood’s pond, the house is situated at the bottom of a steep, sloping driveway that at times felt like it sat at a 45-degree angle. In the winters, it made for the perfect sledding opportunity. And on Oct. 31, it became a long, winding path for terrified kids to traverse to get to the pot of candy at the bottom.
This was my mom’s favorite holiday.
Even though my parents don’t really celebrate anymore — these days they leave a bucket of candy at the top of the driveway and go to a Chinese buffet for dinner to avoid the kids — for years, my mom got really into the whole thing. It wasn’t really about the costumes, though. For her, it was the thrill of the haunt.
First, she’d set up the classic scary accoutrement, like a bloody severed hand with exposed bone or a realistic owl perched atop our railing. There was the oversized spider and the fog machine. But the creme-de-la-creme was the stereo we would set up at the window facing out into the front yard that played the $5 “Halloween sounds” disc from Wal-Mart, an hours-long soundscape complete with screaming women, howling wolves and crying babies. No joyful “Monster Mash” here.
The whole setup was enough that many kids, after having collected their candy from all of the other houses in the neighborhood, stopped dead in their tracks at the top of our driveway. They’d cling to their parents’ legs with tears running down their chubby little faces.
“I don’t want to go!” they’d scream.
And if their parents forced them down that everlasting slope, they’d be met by my mom, who’d answer the door in a terrifying werewolf mask. They’d cry; her heart would grow three sizes; and they’d leave with tear-soaked candy.
It was the best.
That’s probably where I got my love of horror and Halloween.
To this day, the horror genre is my favorite when it comes to movies. I’ve seen most of the classics and have a list of ones from more recent years that I think of as the gold standard of the form. (My hands-down favorite from the last few years is Barbarian.) My first foray into horror movies was when my mom took my sister and I to the Blockbuster in Brassfield shopping center (RIP) and let us roam the aisles. We eventually ended up in the horror section where we laid our eyes on that classic 1973 William Peter Blatty story, The Exorcist. I was 8 years old, my sister, only 4.
But we begged my mom.
“Oh, that’s too scary for you guys,” she would say with a side smirk.
Hours later, we all sat on the striped green couch in the living room of our apartment, watching Linda Blair puke pea soup and convolt violently in her bed. I remember being so scared that I was literally petrified; I could not move. I remember when my dad came home from work, how desperately I wanted to run into his arms but couldn’t bring myself to leave the couch. I don’t think we ever finished the movie that day. My mom put on Mulan afterwards, but the trauma was everlasting.
And I’ve been chasing that high ever since.
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