“On Halloween night, Satan’s servants prey on the hearts and souls of the innocent,” the invitation read.
In our Catholic school sixth grade class, everyone was invited to every party. Leaving someone out would be cruel, even for the mean girls. Except for the student who had transferred from Montessori, we had all gone to school together since kindergarten. We had weathered long division, First Holy Communion, and now, puberty. We were all white and middle class and would soon face a life full of guilt.
Being Catholic meant there were lots (and lots) of things to feel bad about. At the same time, it was okay to have fun. If Christian schools thumped the Bible in our school, it was more of a soft tap that wasn’t taken too literally. We knew the Act of Contrition and genuflected before the altar, but we also mocked Christian music and made oral sex references that some of us didn’t quite understand.
“Hey Andrea,” a classmate of mine named Cameron called after me one day. “Would you ever do a 69?”
“What?” I replied. “Cameron, you’re an idiot. Sixty-nine is a number, you can’t do anything with it.”
This year’s party was being thrown by Jodi. Her invitation promised we would “bob for God’s apples” and have a contest to guess what our Bible-inspired costumes were.
Jodi was aware of how weird it all was, which might have been the only thing that kept her from being openly mocked for it.
“My mom insisted on the party,” she said, rolling her eyes. Behind her back, of course, she was ripped to pieces.
Still, I was intrigued, and even at 11, I had a feeling it was something I shouldn’t miss.
“Are you sure you want to go to this?” my mother asked me the day before, her face betraying her disgust and confusion.
“Yeah, I mean, Stacey and Hannah are going, so I might as well,” I said.
Acceptable activities are defined by the presence of one’s friends. Hannah was Jodi’s best friend, so by default she’d be there, and my friend Stacey had said that she was maybe going to be there, so it was close enough to the truth that I wasn’t lying.
For regular Halloween, I had bought a flimsy Cleopatra costume that I wore with jeans and a thermal shirt to keep from freezing. Clearly, it was not a Bible character. My mom and I were stumped for ideas until about an hour before the party, when she handed me my angel costume from the previous year with my brother’s light saber.
“Here,” she said, “You’re the angel at the Garden of Eden.”
Even though the invitation said that parents were more than welcome to attend, my mom said no, and that she’d pick me up a few hours.
“Have fun,” she said rather dryly as I struggled out of the car in my wire wings.
Stacey, Hannah and I were the only ones from my class to show up. Jodi’s younger brother and sister invited their classmates as well, which beefed up attendance, especially since their parents came with them. A couple of second graders from my bus were wearing wool footie pajamas with little white ears.
“We’re the sheep from the stable where Jesus was born,” one of them said. The other baa’ed in confirmation.
The rest of the party blurred past. In a corner, kids knelt over a steel basin, the promised bobbing for God’s apples, but all I saw were tongues and teeth and water and germs. I declined to participate. By accident, I also turned down Share Your Favorite Psalm by completely forgetting to have a favorite Psalm. There was a lot of sitting around while songs about God played in the background. I tried Muenster cheese for the first time and liked it.
Then it was costume guessing time. A couple kids were in bathrobes (shepherds), a few wrapped up in sheets (apostles) and several were animals, such as the second grade lambs. When it was my turn, I waved the light saber while making a solemn, garden-guarding face.
“Luke Skywalker!” one of the kids cried out.
“No, no, he’s not from the Bible,” said a parent. “Plus, she’s wearing wings.”
“Oh. The Garden of Eden angel,” said someone else. His tone of voice suggested that he’d be more interested if I had actually been the Jedi knight.
The party ended with Jodi, Hannah, Stacey, and I all performing the Macarena. Jodi’s parents stood in the doorway and watched us, smoking cigarettes. They didn’t look amused, annoyed or even bored, and the lack of emotion almost scared me. I wanted to stop dancing, but I kept going, not wanting to be the one to break the chain.
Jodi transferred at the end of the year to a Christian school. Her mom had a fight with a priest and her family left the Catholic Church. Christian schools were always discussed among my classmates and I in serious, almost-terrified voices. According to the rumors, at those schools, the kids weren’t allowed to talk about anything but God. No quoting Boy Meets World, no Puff Daddy mix tape exchanges, no gossiping at recess. Public school kids thought we had it rough, but we insisted we were normal, even if we did pray before lunch.
In the years since the party, I have celebrated Halloween with much more mature merriment in the form of free shots, short skirts, and even my own pair of devil horns. Despite the debauchery, there’s been no sighting of Satan’s servants. I think they might be too busy trick-or-treating.
Photo by giveawayboy