Monday 24 June 2013

Memories of Halloween Past

By Eric Hanna, S.J.
There's a famous novel that begins with the protagonist smelling tea and biscuits. The scent brings back a whole series of memories for the protagonist and sets the entire novel as a flashback. Recently, I tasted a particular candy and it brought a whole series of memories flooding back to me of my childhood in Yellowknife, NWT. Enjoy a little trip to my past, which if nothing else will help you beat the summer heat.

Nighttime. -34 degrees Celsius. I am twelve years old. In this neighbourhood, time can go by for hours without a car passing to break the stillness. The quiet tastes of pines and ice. You can hear the gentle, constant roll of air that is not a breeze but the entire sky moving slowly past you. Behind me is the five hundred meters of empty snow where houses will probably be put in the future. There are only drifts. You can't walk through them without falling in to snow above your knees. You must follow the compressed tracks of the snowmobiles that cut through the field. There the snow is dense enough to support your weight.

Ahead is a road. Flakes compressed by passing cars form a hard skin above the gravel. And overlooking the road are craggy rock-faces, about ten meters high, where the rolling granite was sheered away to make a straight track for the road. Snow and clinging jack-pines rest upon the hills of solid rock.

The crumbs of snow in the ankles of my boots chill my skin but I can still mostly feel my toes. I am wearing insulated snow pants and a parka. The hood of my parka is thrown back so I can feel the frigid evening and see the orange-black sky hover silent and still over the white and dark-blue snows.

I job along the road, loping over piles of snow, giddy and happy to be heading to another house. Over top of my parka is a flimsy black-and-white striped shirt, matching striped pants fit snugly over the snow-pants. It's part of a costume for someone slightly bigger than me. A plastic ball and chain are tied with velcro to one of my legs and it flips around wildly as I run, weightless and skipping across the snow. There is a pillow-case clutched in the mitten clutched by my hand. It is weighted with treats, but there is always room for more.

The path up to the house is a white line, a trench dug making a path to a dark door. There are no decorations, but I work up the nerve to hit the doorbell. A crack of warmth and yellow light opens onto my freezing face. "Trick or treat!" I smile and push my pillowcase forward.

I'd kept on going after the others had decided to go home. I was just going to check these last few houses before heading back myself. An older woman with curly grey hair laughs at my costume. An old man's voice laughs with her and comments, "we've had a jailbreak". I never saw who commented but I was glad he liked the costume.

The door closes behind me. Racing home is exhilarating because I'm beating the cold just a little bit longer than everyone else. I'm getting to see this astonishing night that stretches endlessly over this huge world. I am warm and alive and flowing past these living, freezing sensations towards home, not worrying too much about when I'll get there. The candy gives a little shuffling sound in my bag as it bobs up and down to my running.

We're all kids with candy running through a wilderness too immense to be understood, with little homes perched amid the vastness. Our accustomed tracks through the snow get us to new places. And they take us back to the people we want to share with.

1 comment:

  1. It's so hard to tell the scale of things, when you remember them. Were those rockfaces really ten meters? It certainly did seem an immense wilderness at the time.