Thirty nine years later and the memories still come – soft around the edges, filled with warmth and ensconcing me in tendrils of nostalgia. October. The month I belong to. The month that signals the end of hot summer days, with a promise of cooler breezes to come. It is the month in which I miss my childhood the most. My childhood of green grass, rainy days, pumpkin patches, apple picking, autumn leaves and a feeling that all is right with the world. Through the eyes of a six year old, magic is real and lives on for eternity. I am grateful for these memories – they make me weepy and nostalgic – but they are worth it. To have lived it, even for a short while, is a far greater thing then to have never lived it at all. It has taken 35 years for me to appreciate that.
There is a Welsh word I came across in my readings – hiraeth. It is a perfect word. It has no equivalent in English, but it is defined as such: as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for…the past. Yes – I understand that. It needs no English equivalent. Feelings inside are the same across the world, it is only our verbal expressions of them that are different.
Hiraeth. That is what I feel about my years on Long Island – and in October, those yearnings come fast and strong. I know I can never go home again, but sometimes, that perfect world seems only a step away. A cross over into a world that exists more in my memory than in reality.
In October I cross over to that world. I am 6 years old – wearing my Raggedy Ann costume (completely plastic and ready to ignite at the drop of a cinder) and a coat, because, well, it’s New York in October. I’m giddy with excitement because it’s Halloween and all the houses are beautiful. Lights, decorations, jack-o-lanterns, plans for trick or treating, plans for parties, plans for memories. I’m on my way to school, barely able to conceal my excitement. We’ll be having a parade and then a party. Then later on, my older brother will take me and my friends out for trick or treating, after we’ve watched “The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. Then he’ll go out with the ‘big kids’ and I’ll answer the door with Mom.
We go from house to house in the dusky twilight – beautiful porches, beautiful trees, beautiful world. A little trepidation, a little fear in the belly because it is, of course, Halloween. And we have all heard that the strange old man that lives on James Street puts razor blades in his apples. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know one person that can corroborate that story, but we all know it’s true. We all know it happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, and in our young minds, that’s just as good as it happening to your best friend. So we tip toe by, ghoulishly watching for any sign of life in the house. A little squeal erupts from us as the porch lights flip on, and the strange old man opens his door with a smile. We walk up the porch steps and look into the bowl he’s holding out, wondering if we should take the apples. No apples. It’s bubble gum. We say our lines, take our treats and bound down the steps – off into the night laughing and gearing up for the next house.
That is a perfect world.
Happy October, my friends ~