30 October 2010

For the Great Pumpkin, on Halloween

Dear Reader,

I'm going to share with you something that's very important to who I am, and that I haven't shared in many years, nearly 20 actually. When Sable Crow was a boy, Halloween was always his favorite time. It was a time when that little gay kid could be--for just a night--a little closer on the outside to who I was on the inside. Of course I see that now; at the time I thought it perfectly natural to decorate my bedroom and plan my costume, and escape from this shabby, brutal world for a while.

As you might imagine, Dear Reader (and you've seen it too, I bet) others could see this enthusiasm, and bore witness to the birth of this individuality. And something very magical happened one year, which carries me into my adulthood now. It also was the birth of my writer. For you see, I wrote about this in 1992, when I was 14. The result, which you'll read below, was published in the local paper.

It meant the world to the woman for whom it was written. I have lost her, and I have never found out what happened to her. I assume she is dead, and probably has been for many years.

Anyway, it was the first time I was published. Actually, it was the last time I was published, too.

And on this most sacred of holidays, when the darkness is so close and the other world is so near, I invoke the spirits to send this story into those shadow realms. I call on you, spirits, to hear my tale, and to remember.


Another Halloween day was slipping by. It was proving to be a good day, even for the beginning of the week. The October air was crisp with the chill of autumn and the excitement of the coming night. Lunch had just ended, and my class was filing in from the playground. It was the fourth grade, and the classroom I was in was alike to probably hundreds across the country. Thirty-two desks arranged in eight equal rows, all facing the green chalkboard, with the room, although spottily decorated with black and orange (and the occassional pumpkin or skeleton), on the whole unremarkable.

I thought that the day was going to be a regular Monday, enhanced only by the fact that it was my favorite day of the year, All Hallows Eve. Little did I know that this would be a day that I would remember for the rest of my life.

After lunch came math, a subject which made all but the hardiest of fourth graders cringe with terror. My teacher that year I had also had in the first grade, and she and I had become friends. She knew, perhaps, better than anyone else, that this was my day; that I loved Halloween even more than Christmas.

"Okay everybody, get your math books out," instructed Mrs. B, as I called her then and continue to call her now. As she said this, she strode to behind her desk and picked up a brown paper bag. I watched with growing curiosity as she brought the bag over to my desk.

"Someone said to give this to you," she said, with a smile I took to be kind curiosity but now know was barely concealed mirth. She handed me the bag, smiled, and said, "Happy Halloween."

As the rest of the class wearily dragged out their math books, I opened the package. Inside was a green which on a broom, the kind that is hung in kitchens for good luck when baking. There was also a card in a bright orange envelope. I opened it with the joy of a child opening a Christmas present. It was a peanuts card with Snoopy on the front in a Dracula costume. On the inside was the phrase that said it all, "Happy Halloween." The card was signed with an inked-in orange pumpkin with crooked teeth and triangle eyes. It was the seal of the elusive Great Pumpkin, whom I knew even then to be Mrs. B. With a smile, I glanced up at my unforgettable teacher, who smiled back, knowingly. The Great Pumpkin had struck again.

Even as I recall this incident, I can feel a bit of the joy and happiness it brought. It was a simple gift, the monetary value of which has been given to me thousands of times in the gifts of my family and friends. However, it was this simple present, given for simple reasons, that I will remember for all of my life because it made me feel special. Mrs. B., in her own magical way, had recongized me as an individual with individual likes and individual wishes. She had not treated me like part of a class, nor as a student. She had treaded me as a feeling person. Yet, the gift she had given me was no only the little green which with a pinched-looking face. She had given me the far moire important gift of self-worth.

We, as humans, all have our likes and dislikes, our hopes and fears. They are what make us unique, they are what make us who and what we are. Also, as humans, we need these likes and dislikes to be recognized so that we feel that someone cares. Looking back, I see that Mrs. B. had given me the feeling that someone did care, and the gift she gave me continues even today. On this lonely ball of rock spinning through space, such fulfillment is rare. Yet every person needs these boosts in self-confidence to continue in life.

Last Halloween, five years after receiving the little green witch, I got a Halloween Peanuts card signed with Mrs. B.'s seal of the Great Pumpkin. The moment I opened that card, something inside of me smiled, and it continues to smile today. Inside everyone there is a child, a child who needs to be the best, who needs to be cared for, who needs to be seen as an individual. Every person needs to have that child in them recognized, the child that waits for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night.

-(c) 1992-

Times have changed, Mrs. B, wherever you are. We use microchips to tell the stories that paper and ink once held. And those stories can be seen all across the world--this lonely ball of rock has gotten smaller in these two decades.

She hangs in my kitchen to this day.

But know this, my Great Pumpkin. The lessons you taught me were the beginning of a great journey--a night-time pumpkin patch as wide as a lifetime, and as deep as a dream.

And Mrs. B., wherever you are, please know that you are a light in that darkness, and that when this Sable Crow at last sees that Great Pumpkin rise up against the harvest moon--he will think of you.

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