Happy Halloween

 Homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with sugar skulls and harvest nonpareils. 

Homemade chocolate cupcakes with homemade salted caramel cream cheese frosting, topped with sugar skulls and harvest nonpareils. 

I love Halloween. I always have. 

The first Halloween I remember is hazy: I remember dressing as Minnie Mouse, tiny red-and-white polka dot bow adorned ears on a headband that hurt my head (as all headbands do). I was maybe 4, but not much older. I remember being in a car, looking out the window into the dark, and feeling that particular Autumn magic: the feeling of dustiness, of being able to stay up later than usual, the cold of early nights, how oppressively dark it seemed after an entire Summer. The approaching Winter seems closer than ever on Halloween. 

My next Halloween memory is my friend Noelle's birthday party, held at Lone Pine Farm, a Eugene, OR tradition most known for its haunted corn maze. It was Noelle's 7th (or maybe 8th) birthday. We always celebrated our birthdays in tandem: me on October 20, her on November 4. It was a novelty to have birthdays so close together, when so many in our class were March or June babies. I don't remember much of the birthday party. But I remember my mother carrying me out of the pumpkin patch. It was dark out -- maybe twilight, but I remember it dark -- and I held the child "swag bag" I'd received: a green and black flat plastic bag printed with a witch's image, warty nose and gnarled teeth, but smiling and cartoonish, full of cheap goodies and candy. 

As I got older, Halloween got more complicated (as all things do), but it always retained that magical feeling of coziness and changing seasons. It was constant. Every year, October 31 and Halloween came no matter what else was going on in my life, no matter where I was or what job I was working. Halloween was a easily measurable space of time, a period of 24 hours where I felt like the world was different. 

I've always been a big fan of a specific and easily identifiable aesthetic. The set designs of movies I saw when I was a kid impacted me greatly -- especially Hocus Pocus, with the dusty Sanderson Sister cottage covered in spider webs, lighters pushed into the wall, wrought iron ornaments and old hardwood floors -- but also steampunk-y elements, like the design of Tarzan's Treehouse in Disneyland. (I only recently, when visiting Disneyland with my husband, realized the influence of this little-spoken-of treehouse on my appreciation of steampunk, old typewriters, futuristic and yet retro lamps, and mahogany desks.) I've always wanted to live, or even just visit, a haunted Victorian mansion. Most of all, however, I've always referred to my design taste as ink-stained, retro, and Halloween-y. 

There is a coziness in what is old: dusty book covers, desks covered in years of fingerprints built up into a grime, typewriters with keys missing their letters from use, flickering candles in windows. There is something magical and mysterious about it, something beautiful and yet decrepit in the combination of dark colors (black, brown, burgundy) and warm (gold, yellow, orange, bronze). 

I love Halloween. I love the movies, the colors, the sets, the pumpkins, the lights, everything. It's the day where it's ok to be a kid again (and always), the day where the veil between living and dead is thin. It's a day to celebrate, to drink, to look back, to eat as much candy as possible, to appreciate the world we live in (full of rust-colored leaves and vibrant orange pumpkins), to remain thankful that we are here and nowhere else.