As I dart across the yard, I can hear my friends' voices gradually fading away in the distance. "One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock…" I dash down the lawn to the side of the house, frantically trying to find the very best hiding spot so that no one can see me.
The faint, flickering street light at the end of the driveway provides very minimal guidance for my trek across the yard - but I know this game's boundaries all too well.
Once I reach the backyard, I stop dead in my tracks for merely a fraction of a second, dizzy with nerves and adrenaline. The gentle rustle of branches and leaves in the breeze is enough to make my skin crawl. Yet, I must focus.
I figure the shed is too predictable; the dog house is too uncomfortable. The giant leaf pile - too wet with dew. So I settle for my go-to, without fail, hiding spot: the huge oak tree in the corner of the lot.
Maybe it's the trunk's massive size that makes this oak tree the ideal hiding spot for a ghost. It's comforting and safe. It protects me from the eerie darkness of the autumn evening.
Or maybe it's the familiarity - ever since I can remember, I admired the oak's autumn beauty, year after year.
Approximately two seconds after finding a comfortable seated position at the base of the trunk, I hear the final call - "11 o'clock… The ghost is out tonight!" - and all of a sudden, I hear them racing to come find me.
I try waiting patiently for my first opportunity to attempt to tag someone, but I'm distracted. I try to ignore the slight whistling wind in the air - it's spooky, particularly under the circumstances I'm facing - but I can't.
An abrupt screeching sound from the brakes of a car in the distance startles me. I jump in fright, my shoulder nearly grazing a dangling plastic skeleton figure that's hanging from the tree branch above my head. It's as if a real ghost was trying to distract me from the game.
Suddenly I hear footsteps approaching me, just a few - the stomping gets louder and louder until I nearly feel the vibrations of movement through the ground beneath me. Without any further hesitation, I hop up on two feet and pounce into the yard from behind the tree, immediately in pursuit of my two best friends who only think they can out run me.
I catch up, reach out my hands and tap their two shoulders all at once: Two victories.
No matter young or old, I've always made a point to celebrate Halloween. "Ghosts in the Graveyard" was a great game to play when we were kids. More recently, I witness that same, simple enjoyment as my own children take a dive into the giant leaf pile I've built up in the backyard, collecting more color and volume as the leaves continue to fall throughout the season. Their vibrant Halloween costumes stand out against the fading hues of the leaves as they smile for the camera.
But, oh, to experience the thrill of running around the yard on cool, breezy October nights once again - and to have the satisfaction of finding the best hiding place: a tree.
Have a safe and happy Halloween!