It is Halloween…a favorite holiday because I was always able to hide, not only behind a mask, but in a costume where I could become another character altogether. It is one of the gifts of childhood…trying on different roles, believing we can be anything we want to be. For a chubby little girl such as I was, I frequently chose to dress up as a princess, Snow White, a ballerina, and one year, even a sleek black witch. Pretending was always easier than trying to BECOME the person I was meant to be.
But that has all changed with age. Being in the sixth decade, I have arrived at a time to simply be ME and remarkably, it doesn’t feel all that bad. The mask has been replaced and I am finally getting to know and accept myself, warts and all.
These Halloween thoughts stem from my recent retreat to Iona, Scotland…a Celtic island where the people herald Old Hallows Eve as the most significant festival of the year. Hundreds of years ago, Halloween (or All Saints Day) was a three day affair where bonfires were lit, rules were abandoned, and the revelers would call on their ancestors for new instructions. What wishes would those who had passed on want to be reborn within us? It was a time of acceptance of our roots…our mothers and fathers, grandparents and great grandparents.
Instead of ignoring their ancestral attributes the Celtic peoples learned to embrace that from which they came and manifest those things their relatives did not have a chance to fulfill.
I asked my husband this morning which ancestor he revered. “My grandmother and grandfather,” he answered quickly, momentarily choked up at the vivid memory of both of them. “They were pioneers,” he continued, “a quality I should try harder to incur.”
I hold a service in an ancient chapel on Iona whereby each woman retreater lights a candle to an ancestor that she would like to emulate. More than half the women lit a candle to their grandmother and nearly every woman described their “nana” as loving unconditionally.
Old Hallows Eve or Old Saints Day has become a reminder for me to have gratitude for the miracle of knowing from whence I came and therefore what I am next meant to do or be.
Both my grandmothers spoke Acadian French and little English. Thankfully, loving actions communicated where words couldn’t. My maternal grandmother’s clogging and harmonica playing warmed my heart while my paternal grandmother warmed me up with homemade donuts. I’m grateful for those memories. But truly, my Irish Aunt Mary who was born on Halloween, was my “All.” She taught me word play, humor/wit, unconditional love, and Irish Blessings. And she was a hugger. Each year when I light a pumpkin on her Halloween B-Day, I’m reminded of how she lit up my life.
thanks for reminding me about touching…living far from my 5 grandsons and the fact that they are sons make touching a bit harder but I am visiting both families soon and will make sure to reach out more
I think it’s interesting [but not surprising] that more than 1/2 of the women chose their grandmothers–even though I visited my grandmothers only yearly because of the distance between where we lived, they were both very special to me. Now I am a grandmother of 1 and it has been as wonderful an experience as I’d heard it would be! The unconditional love seems to work both ways!
it is so easy to love when you don’t have a stake in what they become….