Monday, November 3, 2008

All Souls Day

I was a terribly neurotic child. Monsters were everywhere and their favorite food seemed to be bad little boys. My parents and grandparents were quick to invent an appropriate ghoul of some sort who'd come to deal with my transgression du jour, usually after I was asleep by their telling. The boogeyman and the big bad wolf were the two creepers I feared the most, but anything scary sent shivers up my spine in the worst way.

My favorite uncle who also lived with us had this lovely image on the back of one of his record albums and I spent a good number of sleepless nights waiting for it to appear at the foot of my bed. Said uncle told me that this monster lived in the "Oakies" a wooded mile or so stretch of road not far from our house that separated the north end of our city from the south end of the next town and even in my teens when I drove at night to visit my best friend on the other side of that drive I raced as fast as I'd dare pump up dad's Fury II so as to be out of the forest before it or something worse would pop out from between the trees to even the score for something I'd done and for which my conscience bothered me.

I've spent most of my adult life thumbing my nose at the things I used to fear almost pathologically as a kid. Last night, on "All Souls Day," a day which an aunt once described as the day on which "the souls wander," I took a long ride after dark past a number of cemeteries which I'd not have been caught near as a kid even in broad daylight never mind after nightfall. I even rode through the Oakies to get to a few of them.

As a good Catholic schoolboy I whispered the "Requiem" as I rode slowly along the wrought iron fences that seem to enclose all of the older graveyards here, asking the Lord to spare from eternal damnation the souls of those who were laid to rest there, and surprisingly I felt an odd sense of peace in realizing that I was beyond that time in my life when the sight of lone red vigil lights glowing in a cemetery would have had me shaking with an irrational but substantial fear. If a wandering soul might have approached me from within the gates I believe I'd have met it with a bunch of philosophical questions I'd want answered about the other side.

It's not only the good magic of childhood, like the kinds that come with Santa, the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, et al, that get lost when we grow up. The bad magic of imagination disappears too. The comparatively small fears and irrationalities that gave live some pizazz fall by the wayside just as easily, and somehow I lament the loss of them as new and real fears like the size and shape of a mole or frequency of urination wait in the wings to take their places. Oh, to be a child again! Once upon a time grandma's back porch swing was my race car, my rocket ship, the locomotive of my train. I have a scooter to be all of those things now. It just might be the closest to reliving my childhood that I'll come - well, the good parts of it, at least.

1 comment:

Lance said...

Nice post, and I agree with you - I would like to trade my new fears for the ones of my youth; the latter were far more interesting!