Growing up in England Halloween was somewhat different from the American version, consisting of a party in someone’s home involving games such as bobbing for apples (an early form of waterboarding but involving fruit) and ghost stories. I’m sure that by now American cultural imperialism has swept all that away, but when I moved here in 1992 it took me a while to get used to the new paradigm.
Of course, the arrival of kids changed all that and as soon as they were old enough to go trick or treating, a routine was established. The local merchants organise an annual event which basically involves kids going from storefront to storefront and accumulating pancreas bursting amounts of candy. It’s a great way for local stores to give a little back to the community, it takes place in daylight and everyone is assured of a hefty haul in the course of the two hour run. Of course, the costumes have changed over time. My son who used to dress as Winnie The Pooh then morphed into a cow and then a construction worker for a couple of years and for the last two events has dressed as an angry bird. My daughter soon outgrew her flower outfit and swapped it for Pooh, and then a Hogwarts outfit. She’s a big mythology buff and last year dressed as Medusa.
Imagine my surprise when her mother dropped them off the day after with my daughter in her outfit sans snakes. You see, without the snakes she was dressed from head to foot in a long, hooded black robe making her look like she was off for a shopping trip in downtown Kabul, Tehran or Mecca. I’m pretty sure that if she had gone trick or treating in her accidental faux burqah instead of as Medusa she would have scared a hell of a lot more people.
This year they were with me, but we had to stop off at the kid’s house so her mother could do her makeup, as she was dressing as a Ghoul School Prom Queen. At least the outfit was long enough, although I’m sure part of the attraction was the opportunity to wear heels. As an aside, I have to ask why so many store bought Halloween costumes for young girls tend more towards porn queen than prom queen. I really, really find it distasteful that society seems to find it acceptable for preteen girls to be sexualised in this manner. I also don’t understand why adults feel the need to dress up for Halloween either, but that’s just me.
All was not calm, though. My son was very keen to TOT in a local neighbourhood after hitting downtown. I was less keen as it would involve quite a walk and would make for a very late night. His mother informed me that his concern was that at 12 this would be his last TOT as by next year he would be too old. However, all was not lost, as, just like the U.S. Cavalry coming over the hill in the final reel, I received a call from the mother of one of my daughters’ school friends inviting us to TOT in their neighbourhood.
I ended up shepherding my son and two other boys as they hit up every single house in the area, while my daughter and her friends took a different route. By the end of the evening they both had an impressive haul, although we will never know for sure about my daughters’ as she seemed to have eaten most of it while on her circuit. She did, however, learn a valuable lesson; High heels aren’t comfortable. As I told her, style has costs, but I guess she had to learn for herself. A lifetime of blistered heels await her, no doubt.
One nice thing, though. Several houses had left a bowl of candy on the porch, and my son, always the voice of reason insisted that the boys take no more than two pieces each, a statement that was accepted without complaint. Nice to see that parenting pays off in the long run.
Naturally, the next day while my daughter tried to hide empty wrappers, my son organized his 107 pieces of candy by type, lining them up on the bedroom floor. I know. As for me, having decided to abstain from candy in October as well as alcohol and snacks, I was glad that Halloween falls on the 31st, as by then the allure of all that chocolate had faded. Not that I didn’t pocket a few pieces on our sojourn just so I could indulge my sweet tooth the next day. At least it helped compensate for the bitterness of Liverpool’s defeat by Newcastle United.