As a parent of three small boys, I couldn’t survive without a calendar; not a digital one but an old school one that hangs on the wall. Every hospital appointment, birthday party and extra curricular activity is written on there as I cannot trust my mammy-brain.
Looming large is Halloween which I would choose to ignore only for school projects and euro shop window dressings reminding my children who in turn remind me (hourly).
Once upon a time in the 1980s I loved this holiday and thought my black bag outfit and sweaty plastic mask to be a most worthy costume. One year I was Hilda Ogden and then Madonna completed the last few years.. early 80s Madonna, lots of ripped t-shirts and blasphemous rosary beads. I’m not sure which upset my mother most (probably the t-shirts). I sifted through my bounty (contained in a Quinnsworth bag or my mam’s old handbag) that night which consisted of grapes and monkey nuts to find a handful of sweets which were *gasp* not hermetically sealed. My next door neighbour, Granny Jones we called her would always gift us with large, shelled nuts that required a hammer to open (no nut-crackers in our ill-equipped kitchen) and disappointment on tasting. The ultimate Halloween experience however was being allowed to roam the streets in the dark with my little gang. We felt like the Goonies.
Then came the fateful day in late September 1988 as the kids began bonfire preparations (started early in our estate) and lugged wooden crates up the street. I was petting a friend’s dog and the noise spooked him prompting him to attack me and take lumps out of my face. While it wasn’t on the scale of a Michael Myers attack, it scarred me, literally. I was at an age where dressing up had become baby-ish anyway and my self-preservation instincts were strong when it came to bonfires and fireworks so I steered clear. I regained a little love for this holiday in college when dressing up became less black-bagish and more sophisticated (slutty).
Halloween has changed a lot since the ‘80s and has become completely Americanised. Instead of “help the Halloween party” it’s “trick or treat”. We are expected to decorate our houses as if it were Christmas; Halloween you are not and never will be Christmas! Pumpkins are now an integral part of the occasion with pumpkin patches thriving and carving kits being sold everywhere. I hate the bloody things and spend ages gouging out the flesh, it’s akin to chopping up a large turnip (I now buy these pre chopped and frozen). The kids get bored and slope off and I’m left to lose a finger and my mind. After a few days the pumpkin starts to decompose and attract flies; an unwelcome addition to my decorations. On the plus side, I do love the seeds toasted and the soup is divine; I have yet to try a pie as I’m unsure if it’s sweet or savoury and the uncertainty freaks me out.
The costume issue begins in September when one of the kids tells me he wants the €50 Darth Vader outfit complete with light saber that he saw online and I try desperately to sway him towards the €4 zombie ones in Aldi. No matter what they wear it will rain and they will need to wear a big jacket over their precious costume, concealing time and money spent.
If my kids get sugar, a molotov cocktail of hyperactivity will be lit and they can appear rabid and incoherent with the strength of the Hulk and the ingenuity of Horrid Henry. Halloween evening I can do nothing but sit and watch them gorge on the enormous bag of E numbers that they have procured and put emergency plans into place.
I hate having to answer the door every 2 mins to a throng of saccharin-saturated Elsas/ Minions. There’s always a token ’80s-throwback kid in a black bag that I have to ask who or what he/she is and get an indignant answer. Then there’s the unexpected 2nd wave of trick or treaters at about 8pm when I’ve run out of treats and I have to start handing out household items.. slices of bread, McDonald’s raisins, tampons.
Fireworks are gorgeous when viewed from a distance but I dread the day that my boys will want to be in close proximity to one. Mine are still too young and can be satisfied with sparklers and fun snaps but I am apprehensive of sparks and polyester costumes. I normally spend the evening with my fingers under a cold tap due to excessive sparkler lighting; If I ever decide on a life of crime, I am now fingerprint proof.
The kids like to play games in the evening but the ones of my childhood don’t translate well. I can’t dangle an apple from the light fitting as mine are fragile ikea ones and not the big brass fittings my parents had. I don’t do ducking for apples in a bowl of water because that is gross… lots of saliva and apple bits. I do however like to give chase with the lights out and scare the crap out of them as revenge for the sugar mania that I’ve endured although this game can end with the Exorcist-style projectile vomiting.
Then there’s the tail end of Halloween, late at night that seems to belong to actual zombie teenagers who year after year steal my green bin and set it on fire while cheating death with fireworks and cheap alcohol down by the river.
Nope, let’s get this scarefest done with and move on to Christmas, a more refined and genteel holiday where I and my green bin can relax without the threat of a fire….unless it’s an open one roasting chestnuts.