From England to the US, from Being Shocked to Enjoy
My family and I immigrated from England to America when I was just six years old. My father had a heart condition that the doctors said would be helped by a warmer climate. It was only after I became an adult that I realized the ludicrousness of a move to a new country simply for more sunshine. Of course, many other parts of Europe have mild weather. I know now that my parents moved my brother and me to the US because my mother wanted to fulfill her dream of dancing on the stage as one of the Rockettes or along with the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
First Met with American Halloween----Totally Shocked
When we arrived in California in the summer, we were thrilled. In America, the sky seemed bluer, the grass seemed greener, and the air seems to be filled with possibility. My brother and I attempted to settle into school and my parents in their jobs, my father working as an engineer and my mum a nurse. It was here that we began to see that this whimsical move may not be as easy as we thought, all undergoing our own sort of culture shock. Yes, we spoke the language, but other than that, none of us seemed to have much in common with our neighbors. October came around and it was business as usual for us, until one fateful night which happened to be October 31st.
I was watching television- telly as my mother still calls it- while my accent has all but vanished hers remains thick. There was a knock at the door and I happily jumped up to answer it, excited to see the postman or perhaps a neighborhood kid wanting to play. I opened the door to find three small children dressed all in utterly ridiculous clothing. One, a vampire with jet black hair and blood dripping out of the side of his mouth, another a baseball player, and one dressed as a clown- red hair white face and all.
To say that I was confused was an understanding. I was shocked, dumbfounded, awestricken, and slightly appalled. Why in god’s name would children have done this? They then yelled Trick Or Treat at me and it all became too much. I ran, in tears, to get my mother, who followed me to the door and was equally “confused”.
Always Absented from the Halloween with My Family----Couldn’t Fit in
With each passing year of my childhood, I became more American, but my parents who were in their 30s did not. I never really did get to dress up for Halloween, although one year I went with my childhood friend Gilly Trick or Treating and she wrapped me in toilet paper so that I could be a mummy. A hilarious heartwarming memory with my friend for sure, but not something I shared with my family.
I have been told by some that English people do celebrate Halloween, but, I’m sorry, I never saw it, nor did my mum or dad. At that time England didn't celebrate Halloween because citizens were preparing for their own celebration, called Guy Fawkes Night. Also known as Bonfire or Fireworks Night on November 5th, which is as the names suggest a night where we set bonfires and light off fireworks.
My Babies Came, Things Changed----Hello, Halloween
Flash forward 25 years, and I have two kids of my own, a boy and a girl, born 18 months apart -I know, I too think I'm a hero. They were my dream come true. I still remember the day I decided I wanted kids. I was standing in line at the grocery store and saw a picture of two blonde children smiling, and all of a sudden I knew that was my destiny. (Luckily my children were born blonde or I’d have had to return them!) When they were five and six they began to finally be able to participate in holidays. By this I mean they wouldn't scream bloody murder when put into an outfit they didn’t like. Suddenly, I remembered my most memorable Halloween and I knew I had to do something different for them.
Come September, you better believe I was planning their first “real” Halloween, and I was going all out. I sewed costumes, learned spooky recipes, and covered every inch of our home in decorations- notable fake spider webs that were hell on earth to remove. I’ll admit, at this point, I may have lost my mind, something took over my being, and became a sort of fanatic. I went so far as to learn how to make spaghetti look like brains!
On Halloween night, my little chubby pumpkin of a daughter and my skunk son- his choice, not mine- beamed with joy, as did I. My husband, who was never one for extravagance in any way, even got into the holiday because he could see how much it meant to me. We walked the streets, hand in hand Trick or Treating and getting so very much candy I was nearly worried about their tiny teeth, only I was having too much fun.
When it got dark we headed home and prepared for what I thought of as the main event. I anxiously waited for our first “victims” to arrive. When the knock finally came I shuffled my son and daughter to the door, reminding them what we had practiced. A little boy and his mother, dressed as Batman and Robin, were waiting. When we opened the door I was ready to finally have my full circle Halloween moment as a real "American mom". Just as we opened the front door, my five-year-old daughter screamed “TRICK OR TREAT” at the boy. She had gotten confused as to what she was supposed to do. It was hilarious, and perfect, just as every Halloween has been since.
Halloween is the time of year when I feel most grateful. Grateful only for my family but for my own parents, our move to America, and the wonderful life I’ve built myself, full of spooky nights and silly traditions.