Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ghosts and Goblins

The end of October is rolling around. And although we aren't enjoying turning leaves and cool nights out here in the Kingdom of Tonga, still a young woman's mind slowly turns to thoughts of Hallowe'en.

Hallowe'en has always been my favourite holiday. Christmas and my birthday are good, of course, but they sit there crammed together at the end of the year in an avalanche of revelry, and by January 3rd I never want to look at another canapé or a glass of port again. Easter also has potential, because excess chocolate is all to the good, but there is a certain reserve about Easter that comes from wearing fancy clothes that takes it out of medal contention.

Not so Hallowe'en. Hallowe'en revolves around superstition, mischief and candy – a trifecta of excellent possibilities. From the school parade during the day to treat-or-treating at night, is a holiday of good-natured devilry, when all of the normal rules of the year are suspended. Helicopter parenting and stranger-danger take a backseat to: "Take this bag to every house you see and demand candy from the monster who opens the door. Away with you, young person!" I like it.

My mom was a champion costume-maker. And everything she made was snowsuit-compatible. Astronaut, panda bear, clown – you name it, you could fit a pair of snowpants under there if need be. Her masterpiece, a Pink Panther costume that is still a going concern, was essentially winter-wear all on its own. Come hell or ten-inch snowfall, nothing was going to stop us from trick-or-treating.

Circa fourth grade, your correspondent was a punk rocker, and that was my best costume ever. I had long hair at the time, which my mother drew into a ponytail above one ear and teased into a massive lightning-shock ball. I spray-painted my hair pink and green, donned a pair of ultra-thin 80s sunglasses and my best sleeveless t-shirt, and I was off to the races. No doubt I had to wear a winter coat over the whole ensemble that evening, but, in my memories, I was bad-ass the whole day through.

Whatever the costume, Hallowe'en night followed the same pattern: 1. a very early dinner. 2. Drive to paternal grandparents. Stand for photos. Pocket candy. 3. Drive to maternal grandparents. Stand for photos. Receive a Laura Secord marshmallow-chocolate-witch-on-a-stick. 3. Go home. Trick-or-treat until exhausted. 4. Eat candy within 3 days, or into the garbage it goes. (This being dictated by the dentist in the family, and having to do with sugar saturation of the teeth and so forth. We didn't care about the finer points – it was a license to eat a sackful of candy at top speed, stomachaches be damned.)

When Stylish was small, I hauled out my little Janome and made her a ladybug costume. It fit like a cape, and, naturally, was made out of fleece to keep her warm. It actually became a late-fall-early-spring coat, she liked it so much. When Indy arrived, we plugged her into it, too. When Stylish reached school age, she wore a play-friendly costume to school during the day, and a cold-friendly costume for the evening. (This was a recommendation from my mother, the elementary school principal. There is nothing worse than a kid ripping a costume at recess – the tears will be copious and frenzied. My friendly tip to you parents out there: have a back-up.) Over the years, the girls have been bees, cats, doctors, chefs, skeletons, fairy princesses and ghost Pegasus-unicorns. This in addition to their daily costume-wearing, which is pretty constant.

I also took the girls around to grandparents and great-grandparents, and the chocolate witch marshmallows continued. Back home, it was time for the Big Event. Our old neighbourhood really got into the spirit of Hallowe'en. People built corn mazes in their front yards, set up elaborate faux-graveyards, flying ghosts, sound effects, and general over-decoration of an excellent degree. Hundreds of kids swarmed the streets, half-crazed on chocolate, mumbling out thank-yous as they raced to the next house.

All this is on hold for us. We managed to go trick-or-treating in Maryland shortly after we moved aboard Papillon, but once we left US-waters, we left the tradition behind. I suppose we could have knocked on random doors on Cartagena last October 31st and hoped for the best, but I'm not sure it would have been my greatest idea. Instead, a local pizza place hosted a kids' party, and we went to that with some friends. This year, we are in Tonga. We are out at anchor now, but friends have just sailed in and the town is only five miles away, so we will likely head back to Neiafu for another kids' party. It isn't the heady rush of knocking on strange doors, but the girls don't seem to mind, so I will try to keep my Hallowe'en orthodoxy to myself.

But now comes the costume question, and I can't believe how blasé they are about the whole thing. Maybe this, maybe that. I suppose this is because they spend their lives dressed up. Indy has been adorned with either a plush red-velvet crown or a tiara every waking moment for the past three months. Stylish, when she got up this morning, went straight into a hula skirt and bikini top. At press time, Stylish is considering being a bandit on the big day. When asked about the specifics, apparently being a bandit means wearing a bright yellow skirt and shirt, and a black ski mask. On further inquiry, it emerged that the yellow was to blend into the desert sands, since she doesn't own anything beige. Fair enough. Indy initially wanted to be a cat-ballerina-fairy-princess (that crown is not coming off), but has now scrolled back to a mere fairy princess (see what I mean?). This will remain fluid up to and
including the moment of departure for the party.

Someday, I'll sew them costumes again. At least, I'll offer. And I'll explain about the snowsuits when the time comes. I don't think the sand-bandits will really understand in this heat.

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Anonymous said...

Only a week to go before we welcome the little monsters & princesses at our door. I dare not buy the chocolate or little chips bags until the big day or it will be sure to be consumed by he who loves chocolate big time.

Stevie has booked the Pink Panther for the day so today I will find all the parts & deliver it to him.
Much love

Kate said...

Ha ha. I can't buy the candy either or it will be gone beofre the kids visit. Red is keeping me guesing she says she is a Raccoon or cupcake. I'll send pics when I see it...

Love Kate

teZa Lord said...

hi amy, really enjoyed your article found in sailmagazine about renovating for liveaboards. i'm going to follow you from now on! when you have the chance you can check out my blog one day:
Happy Wind and Safe Seas, teZa, done lots of sailing in the West Indies mostly