By some happy circumstance I seem to have escaped trick or treating last year but this year living on a compound of over thirteen hundred houses with children living in well over 70% of same, there was no escaping. I tried to avoid the event by selling the virtues of all souls night to the children in a different manner, by remembering the dead and saying one of the few prayers they might remember from National School. This approach wasn’t warmly accepted and thus the hunt for the best Halloween Costume began along with the hunt for the biggest cheapest bags of sweets.
The blooded eyes, sharp pointed talons and the gaunt and haunted faces of the other last minute mothers, glared threateningly at each other as we all trawled the bargain baskets in Carrefour for the most effective costumes and accessories. Armfuls of overpriced and useless plastic prongs, forks and chains gathered, I made my way to the confectionary aisle. I wasn’t a fan of these Halloween festivities but as I was taking part, I decided that any underachievement on my part could be compensated by copious amounts of sugar. Throw candy at the problem so to speak. An approach I find works well in successful short term parenting, i.e. ten minutes in supermarkets, five minutes in car.
Whilst draping the artificial spider’s web on the hall table and hanging the spiders strategically in the sitting room, I regaled my children about tales of Halloween when I was a child.
We used to hang an apple from a doorframe using a piece of twine, the hours of fun we had in trying to bit the apple while our hands were behind our backs was endless, only to be rivaled by the cherry on the pile of flour. Mother would break open the tub of Glace cherries and place one carefully on top of a little heap of flour on the table, we had to slice off some flour from the sides and whoever toppled the cherry lost, ingenious, no wonder so many of us flew the secretarial course years later with our nimble finger skills. The best of all though was bobbing for twopences, rumour had it that some people in Blackrock had fives and tens in the bottom of basin of water. We, as children, would immerse our faces in up to three inches of waters in an effort to win some money by taking it up with our mouths, again, hands held behind our backs, the rest of the family would clap and cheer while we struggled to win, the younger siblings turning bluer quicker. David Blaine eat your heart out. Ah, the days of old. “A couple of coins an apple and the cherry from the flour if you were lucky to get it”, I told them. I could see their faces staring back, perhaps I was striking a chord, maybe trick or treat would be cancelled “Jeez you were so poor, where did you get the flour?” said one and “Why didn’t you go to Carrefour for decorations?” said the other. My traditions were gone.
Gone also was the anticipation and excitement of knocking on each door, wondering who would give and who wouldn’t. As some bored expat decided to make a poster to denote who was partaking, those with posters got callers and were ready with the candy, those without didn’t have the poster had no candy to offer. A system that would have been handy thirty years ago, it would certainly have avoided all the rotten grapes and soft monkey nuts at the bottom of the loot bag, given by those who forgot the night and answered the door by mistake.
Trick or treat went well, every nationality is becoming more American than the Americans themselves. The costumes were one better than the other, with great detail but little originality as they all shop bought. It when the doorbell rang for the eightieth time and I hoped the last that I admired the costumes at the door, they were tops in their simplicity. A scary looking figure draped completely in black and a ghoulish figure in white from head to toe. Scary and imposing, I liked it. It was when I offered a fistful of sweets that they introduced themselves as the new neighbors, Maryam and Ahmed, and the dark figure extended a gloved hand, now that never happened at home.