Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Prefer a Happy Not a Haunted Halloween

I've never enjoyed watching vampire movies, reading ghost stories, or touring haunted houses. Some people enjoy being scared and even find a thrill in it. I've never been one of those people. Perhaps is it was because I had a traumatic childhood, or because anxiety disorders run in my family… but being frightened has never held any appeal for me. And because so much of Halloween is based on things ghoulish and scary, it has never been my favorite holiday. However, I do have some wonderfully happy memories of Halloween when I was a child.

For me, the absolute best part of Halloween was watching the classic, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Back when I was a child, there were no digital video recorders or movies on DVD. This wonderful holiday classic only came on TV once a year shortly before Halloween. I loved this animated cartoon and I always looked forward to watching it. It appealed to me on many levels and I still watch it faithfully every year.

I'm sure the anticipation of watching this movie contributed to my appreciation of it. If I could have watched it repeatedly at will I might have gotten satiated with it by now. Back in my day, (Oh, don't I Sound old now?!) anticipation and delayed gratification were more common than they are now. These days we can have so much more of the things we like whenever we like. But I still only watch, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, once a year shortly before Halloween.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this holiday classic. Charles Schulz was an absolute genius at teaching life lessons to children and adults too. Let's face it, we've all had our "Charlie Brown moments" in life. There are so many wonderful ones in this movie… Like when Charlie Brown gets suckered into believing Lucy yet again and gets the football pulled out before he can kick it (haven't we all "been there done that"?)… Or when they go trick or treating and all the kids gather round to compare the goodies they got and Charlie Brown comes up with the classic line, "I got a rock" (this is one of my favorite sayings, I use it often and it never fails to crack people up) and then there's the part where Linus waits in the "the most sincere pumpkin patch" for the great pumpkin to rise up and show his presence, which is a wonderful metaphor for the faithful awaiting the coming of Christ.

There is just so much material to work with in this movie I could go on and on analyzing the characters and the interactions among them… and would delight in doing so! But that would be diverging a little too far off the topic of Halloween, and I don't want to do that here.

On a much simpler level this Halloween classic shows children enjoying so many autumnal delights: trick or treating, bobbing for apples, jumping in a pile of leaves, carving a pumpkin, dressing up in costumes, and enjoying each other's company at a party. And then there's Snoopy, who becomes a WWI flying ace… a great example of a little boys imagination come to life.

Each time I watch this holiday classic I'm reminded again of the wisdom spoken by the characters and it never fails to amaze me. When I became a parent, I sat with my children and watched It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and enjoyed seeing it again through a child's eyes. It's such a timeless classic and they enjoyed it every bit as much as I did. Sometimes I can talk them into sitting down and watching it with me again but that doesn't happen much anymore. Hopefully one day I'll be able to sit and watch it with my grandchildren. That would give me the greatest pleasure.

This movie isn't my only happy memory of Halloween, however. I used to go trick or treating every year wearing a costume that was usually made by my mom. My dad always stayed home to pass out candy and my mom would take me around the neighborhood. We always went up Carlysle street about 3/4 mile to a little area that had some small businesses and a grocery store. The proprietors of these commercial establishments always passed out large candy bars as opposed to the little miniature ones and that was always an enticement to go there. In my neighborhood we didn't have Halloween parties. But at school during the day when we would dress up in our costumes, parade through each classroom, and eat cupcakes with orange or chocolate frosting dotted with pieces of candy corn.

If anyone else is a Charles Schulz fan like me, you'll be happy to know there is a new biography coming out about him this month. The book is called Schultz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis. There is a in-depth book review about it in the Friday, October 12, 2007 issue of the Wall Street Journal written by Bill Watterson (creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip).

I generally don't read biographies. I don't know if I'm just bad it picking them or if they all tend start off slow, but I tend to lose interest early on. Every once in awhile though I find one I'm tempted to read. This is one of those books that tempts me. Perhaps I'll give it a try.

However you choose to celebrate Halloween, I hope you enjoy it!