My Most Important Halloween Photograph

October 17, 2017 — This photograph is of Lindsey and I in the living room of my condo in Fairfax, Virginia. The year is 2007. Halloween night. Our first official Halloween together. Four months after this photo was taken, we would get engaged at a castle in Ireland. Four and a half months after this photo was taken, we would move to New England. Thirteen and a half months after this photo was taken, we would get married. Twenty-five months after this photo was taken we’d have our first child.

But that first Halloween, man.

I don’t remember what Lindsey said when I admitted I celebrated a long Halloween. I know she loved autumn. And Halloween. But I just can’t remember when I told her I spent some 50 days a year living inside it. And I think that’s because I had to admit it way early on. Like in July. Because on July 4 of that year, we celebrated Halloween.

I also don’t remember what she said when I broached the idea of celebrating a random Halloween instead of July 4, but I remember us doing it. Covering all the windows in blankets, cranking up the A/C until it was sweater weather. Watching horror movies in the dark. At one point the loud explosions in the sky drew us out to take a brief look in the humid Virginia summer, but we quickly scuttled back into our cool jack-o-lantern.

So if she was okay with celebrating a July 4 Halloween, she must’ve been way okay with a long Halloween season.

But the photo here was our first October 31 together. After a whirlwind of a season. I remember late August or early September, sitting on the floor of my study planning it out. That Halloween I took her to Burkittsville, Maryland. To the Exorcist Stairs in Georgetown. To Field of Screams in Pennsylvania. That’s where I learned she physically couldn’t handle haunted houses, shutting down and just plowing through them like a person in a hurry on a crowded street until she exited out into the night.

That year, we also ran something called a Goblin 5K. It’s the only 5K I’ve ever run, and I only did so because I saw the shirts minutes before the race and liked them. That’s why her number is 94, and mine is 1091. She pre-registered, and I trained with her to support her, but I had planned on just cheering from the sidelines with a triple-thick milkshake in my hand. However, when we showed up, and I saw those silly green shirts with the jack-o’s and the ghosts on them that they were giving the runners, I had to have one. Which meant I had to run it.

Mostly, though, I remember our New England road trip. A fateful one, it would turn out to be, since less than half a year later, we became New Englanders. But on that first, innocent road trip, we hit up Salem, Lizzie Borden’s House, Sleepy Hollow, Jamaica Plains Cemetery, Stephen King’s house in Maine, the P.T. Barnum Museum in Connecticut, Houdini’s grave in New York, Lovecraft sites in Providence, Mercy Brown’s grave in Rhode island, Mystery Hill in New Hampshire, and Cortland Hull’s Witch’s Dungeon in Connecticut.

All of these sites fueled OTIS for the next year and set up a template for our future Halloween seasons together.

I have scores and scores of photos from that entire season, and have thousands of photos of our Halloween Seasons since, but the one at the top of this post is the most important.

I know what you’re thinking. That condo looks like the most boring place on the planet. Beige carpet, beige walls, white blinds. Take away the Halloween gewgaws and it would look like nobody lived there. And you’re right. Welcome to the DC Metro area, where everything is bland new. One of the reasons we moved to New England.

But it’s also because I was a single guy. I rented this place with one of my brothers. We lived there about three years. It was big for our needs. Four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, three floors. And it was 20 miles from downtown D.C. We had the best landlords, a Korean couple who never bothered us except that one time the neighborhood sent them a letter because we never mowed the 3x3 plot of grass that was our front yard.

Anyway, because I was a relatively young bachelor, I just didn’t decorate the condo. At least that floor, which was the shared area between my floor and my brother’s floor. The kitchen was there, one of the bathrooms was there, there was a dining room (that I filled with a weight bench instead of a dining room table, which meant every time I bench-pressed I was looking up at a small glass and brass chandelier).

That also explains why my Halloween decorating tactic was just throwing anything spooky that I had on whatever horizontal surfaces I had. The top of the massive tube TV, the floor, and I moved the coffee table against the wall to turn it into a Halloween shrine of sorts.

But that TV. Let’s take a moment for that glorious tube TV. It was the first thing I bought when I moved out of my parents’ house about six years before. Before I had even bought a bed or groceries for the apartment, I got that TV. For the first six months of ownership the only thing I watched on that TV was a fledging DVD mail service called Netflix, as I didn’t connect to cable until that fall Halloween season, and only then so that I could watch holiday commercials. I moved that massive, heavy TV to four different houses (including all the way up to New England) before finally surrendering it to a dainty flatscreen that doesn’t give me any ledges for Halloween decorating.

Back to the photo, at the time that it was taken (on a tripod with a timer), Lindsey and I had been dating for about six months.

The 2017 Halloween Season marks our eleventh together. This December will be our ninth wedding anniversary.

I’ve celebrated lonely Halloweens, Halloweens with strangers, Halloweens with friends I no longer know, Halloween with friends still in my life. But for the past decade, I’ve always celebrated Halloween with her.

And that’s what that photo reminds me of.