What My Grandfather Taught Me About Being Born on Halloween
by Molly Boyle
I met this world while my mother was watching Vincent Price in House of Wax, and made my debut “covered in gore,” according to my father.
There are five percent fewer babies spontaneously born on Halloween than on any other day of the year, according to a 2011 Yale study; researchers postulated that superstitious women must either clench their uteri tight to keep their babies in until All Saints’ Day on November 1, or exert and expel more righteous babes on October 30.
My own mother was super-relaxed and ready to push on Halloween because her own father, known as the Warlock, was also born on Halloween, 56 years prior to my appearance.
This legacy meant that the Warlock always called me (never within earshot of anyone else, and therefore mostly said in a whisper) “Lil’ Witch,” and that in time, he and I would come to share a love of mashed potatoes, cheap wine, Western novels, and dirty secrets, along with the same long, bumpy Irish noses and double-jointed fingers.
I have learned, in the years since my entrance one Hallow’s Eve, that bartenders all over America are head-over-heels in solidarity with the Halloween birthday, and will quite often make any lil’ witch free drinks based on her ID alone.
But as the Warlock warned, a Halloween child will always be shortchanged of a true birthday party. On Halloween 1935, only one person showed up to the Warlock’s 10th birthday party in Tennessee. Mostly thanks to that tale of woe, I’ve never even tried to have one of my own.
I’ve also learned that any true spawn of Samhain must have a significant origin story. A black cat named Molly who belonged to my dad’s secretary, I told rapt elementary school classmates for many years, disappeared the night I was born — and she was never seen or heard from again.
The Warlock, as a young father in 1950s suburban southern California, made up for a birthday party deficit by taking the kids trick-or-treating as he brandished an empty glass, yelling, “Trick or Treat, fill my glass, dammit, it’s my birthday!” at any neighbor who dared answer the door. My mother and uncle grew to annually argue about whose turn it was to take Dad trick-or-treating.
My own misanthropic iteration of this practice has been to dress up as Carrie, drench my head and body in sticky red corn syrup, and walk around a Halloween party beseeching people to embrace me, and dance with me, dammit, because it’s my birthday.
Folks born on Halloween are also said to have second sight. One day, the Warlock quite seriously imparted this knowledge to me as we idled at a stoplight in his old Civic hatchback, which he liked to drive fast through SoCal traffic. “It’s about knowing something all of a sudden, being sure. See that woman?” he said, pointing to a silver sedan two cars ahead of us. “She’s going to try to turn left when the light changes. Watch.”
The lady in question was patiently waiting in line at the light, looking straight ahead with at least two lanes between her car and the left-turn lane. I waited for the light, willing it to be true, wondering how in the hell he knew. And lo, when the light turned green, she swung her wheel very suddenly to the left, clumsily blocking two lanes of traffic with her car all cattywampus.
The Warlock eased off the clutch and expertly zoomed around her, flashing me his most superior smile.
“Sometimes, you just know,” he grinned.
Previously: How Murder Ballads Helped Me
Photo via medialoog/flickr.
Molly Boyle lives in northern New Mexico, a region with a satisfying abundance of ghost towns.