I hung up the phone and fell back against the pillows of the couch. An ensorcelled smile befell me. It was subtle at first, but inch by whimsical inch, it expanded and crawled from ear to ear. I even let free a jovial chuckle of incredulity. The thoughts encircling my thinking space were resplendent and joyful. But as is the case with all things in my life, a slight sadness meandered alongside the happiness. I don’t say that so you feel bad for me; it’s just a factual proclamation on how things playout in my life. Ultimately, in that moment, on that day, sitting on that couch, I was as happy as I am able to be, and that’s all we need to focus on.
I had just finished a pleasing conversation with my girlfriend, Sheena. We were discussing the countdown to our cohabitation. Expressing our excitements and hopes for the future. We found out early on that we both love the autumn season. And as it turns out, a rather giddy fondness for the ghoulish festivities of Halloween. I was remarking on my previous costume choices in a comedic fashion so as to engender a laugh from her. There is a melody to her tone that I simply love to hear. So, any chance I get to act a fool and cause a cachinnation, I am more than willing to oblige.
During our colloquial flirtations, she informed me that her friend, Amy, had procured a group themed set of costumes. She went on to explain that she would be dressing as a witch for Halloween. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her at the time, because I was still processing it all myself; but I had found a wonderful symbolism woven within the threading of her chosen attire.
You see, my mum, my poor old mum, she used to love Halloween. She was the kind of parent that would go all out, decorating the interior of our home from top to bottom, as well as the outside. Placing effigies of goblins, ghouls and ghosts alongside carefully carved pumpkins on our steps. As the sun went down, the eery glow of contorted cut-outs pierced through the blackened streets. A beckoning nictation to all who sought treats. A promise of sheer fright, or unrivaled deliciousness waited from behind our home’s closed door. My mother would spare no expense. She would buy heaps of mini-chocolate bars as well as choosing to splurge on their full-size counterparts. I often found myself on the receiving end of verbal castigations due to my proclivity at dipping into said sugary treats a little early. Like a week early… sometimes more.
My mother really seemed to come alive in the fall months. Summer’s were hit and miss. Sometimes she was held up in her room, manacled to her covers with depression resting beside her. Other times, disease and illness had kidnapped her and forsaken her to hospital rooms. But something about that shift in seasons; something in the air seemed to ignite a happiness within her. My mother’s smile was never more sincere than when she was decorating or rearranging the house for a purpose. Halloween was seemingly the start of that season. She would even watch all the Halloween specials on TV with me. These were some of the happiest moments of my life.
But why is this relevant? What made me find symbolism between Sheena’s costume and my mother’s adoration for this spooktacular day? Well… because, each and every year for as long as I can remember, my mother loved dressing up as a witch! Each passing year, a new iteration of cackling conjurer was donned by my mother. Ever since she passed away, Halloween and that stapled character within has held significant meaning to me. I never thought I’d look at a witch and feel safe, comforted and serene—but every time my eyes catch a glimpse of a pointed hat, curly toed shoes, heinous moles and green face paint, I am left feeling like a boy again. A boy who is truly at home.
When Sheena told me about her costume, my mind quickly sewed together a jubilant concatenation; my mum was saying “yes”.
For years, I lived in loneliness. The worst part of that loneliness, was that I had someone right beside me the whole time—I was just invisible to her—I did not matter. My mum never liked any of my girlfriends. Part of her saying that was just her way of supporting me and making me feel better when the relationship ended, I’m sure. And I’m grateful for it. Always feels nice to know that mum has your back.
But one thing she hated more than my previous love interests, was my being truly alone and without prospect. I was in a relationship with the bottle, and she could hear what it was doing to me. As toxic as any woman I had ever chosen to be with. And she let me know it.
“Matty… you’re not gonna find your answers in the bottom of a bottle, boy-oh.”
“I know, mum. I don’t think I’m searching for any, really…”
“Then what you doing drinking all the time?”
“Trying to silence the questions…”
“What questions, my boy?”
“All of them…”
I was in a bad way for many years. Traumas from childhood, the loss of my brothers in the army through to the horrors of having been a paramedic… they all left weighted questions of why? Impossible queries and conundrums that poisoned me from within.
My mother once asked when I was going to put the bottle down and find myself a woman to love. Said that I deserved to be loved and made to feel appreciated. “Not like those other ones;” she would say. I typically answered by twisting the cap off of another beer and then replying with “I don’t know, mum… love might not be for me.” Spoken through a sigh.
The first Halloween after my mother’s death, I woke on the morning to find a stuffed facsimile of a witch stapled to the light pole outside of my window. It was peering in and smiling a crooked smile. I couldn’t help but grin when seeing that. It made me think that it was my mum’s way of informing me that she was still around. Always watching. Always close by. The best part? Throughout that entire section of city, that was the only character to not be repeated on a respective light pole. The only witch, and it was outside my window…
And so now, there I was, sitting on my couch, grinning like a fool after having forged another fabled bit of symbolism. In my mind, Sheena’s dressing as a witch was my mum’s way of saying; “Oh… I like this one! Yep… she’s a good girl, Matty. Matty-watt… I say yes!” From somewhere out there in the ether of it all, mum had come to meet Sheena. And she told me it’s okay. That love is after all absolutely for me. So she said yes! Mum said yes!!
This Halloween will mark three years that she’s been gone. It also marks my first Halloween with Sheena. I’d like to confess to you all; that this year, this Halloween is the first year in a long time where I am smiling a happy, wonderful and ebullient smile.
Hey, Sheena… mum said yes! Happy Halloween, babe.