When I was a young child, I was afraid of the dark. I would beg my parents to leave the hallway light on outside of my bedroom, first and foremost because the light under my door chased away the darkest of the shadows in my room, but secondly because that same light would give me the slightest warning if a Jason Voorhees-esque monster came to a stop outside of my door. I was never a fan of scary movies, cursed as I was with an overactive imagination and an insatiable appetite for books. Nothing on a screen could scare me as much as what I saw in my mind as I burned between the covers of a Goosebumps book, or one of the many Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
It was odd, in retrospect, how much I loved Halloween, given my particular penchant for imagining monsters and scaring myself. I guess it was something about the lights, the colors that are so seldom used elsewhere on the calendar, the way it is the first confirmation of fall each year. For those of us so blessed to have spent time in Chapel Hill, I’m sure you’ll agree: September is still summer. Even the beginning of Octobe; I often mistake it for summer. Hell, my car was radiating heat when I opened it just last week.
But then pumpkins start to come out, squatting festively on porches and stairways. The jeans that had been stowed away in the closet begin to make an appearance here and there. That slight invigorating chill on the breeze that lacks the teeth of winter but rather promises to carry you to the cool, clear nights of fall in North Carolina begins to come around, sometimes carrying to you the soft smell of a neighbor’s newly-active fireplace. The things that we are afraid of, the spiders, and bats, and witches with cats, all become decorative. It’s a time to look squarely at the things that would scare us, and laugh at them. Or, at the very least, give the vampires and mummies a piece of candy when they ring the doorbell.
You’d be forgiven for being afraid on behalf of the Tar Heels, as well. This is the first time in a very long time that this football team has had this much to lose. The Miami Hurricanes are headed to town tomorrow evening, toting the strongest defense that Carolina will have seen to this point in the campaign and hoping to kneel out the proverbial clock on the Tar Heels’ perfect season. I know that the Tar Heels will eventually drop a game; no team remains undefeated forever, but I desperately want this ride to continue on a little bit longer. The fear of loss is maybe the most crippling fear of my adulthood, replacing those more nebulous childhood fears with concrete dread at the thought of losing things that are important to me.
Football season, like the Halloween season, is about decorating with that fear. This season, Tar Heel fans have more to decorate with than most, and that in itself is worth celebrating, even with the team’s toughest test in town tomorrow.
Even on a Friday the 13th during Halloween season, it’s a great day to be a Tar Heel.