Monday, October 30, 2006

Trick or Treat Indeed


I was raised in New England, in Massachusetts. A more Halloween conscious state you would be hard pressed to find. Probably part of that Salem/Puritan thing. Even two weeks ago when I was visiting there, yards all over the state were decorated in anticipation. Ghosts flew from trees, pumpkins were piled in big, roiling heaps, stalks of corn were gathered and rested against door posts. Cardboard witches were in windows, and Indian corn was hanging from the front doors. Some houses even had more techno-savvy decor, but as that is not my taste, I won't go on about it. Suffice to say, it was as though the state colors had turned to 0range and Black, dotted with giant clumps of chrysanthemums.

As a kid, my mother made all my costumes from scratch. That was for two reasons -- 1st we could not afford to buy ready-made, and second because I think I was fulfilling my mother's own fantasy about the kind of Halloweens she wishes that she had had. Nonetheless, I always looked forward to the whole adventure..including the scrounging around for fabric on sale or hidden away in some drawer -- or outfits that could be re-purposed. I recall one year as a geisha in a kimono made from what used to be drapes in a oriental print. Then I was a kind of Carmen Miranda gypsy wearing a bowl of plastic fruit on my head which had been glued into a basket and tied to a scarf, and a whirling striped skirt and tons of necklaces. Then I was a flapper in a black dress with tons of gold fringe on it from an upholstery store going out of business. The dress was one of my Mom's old taffetta slips, given wide straps made from the narrowing up bits. I always fely glamorous and special and so proud of my Mom.

But here was the best part. When we called on a neighborhood house, I was allowed to take candy, but always had to leave a handful too (My bag was pre-stocked from home).
My mother was very clear about why --"Because in *this* family we never just *take*."

She didn't want her kid standing in front of someone's door expecting to be given something -- feeling entitled to it just because of the calendar's date.

I like that part of my upbringing. I get troubled by the sense of entitlement I see among some American children, children whom their parents protected from the reality of life -- children who have grown into young adults never having to face what things cost -- never having to understand how a family sacrifices one 'thing' in order to have another. I see parents struggling to find the money so that their kid can have any number of absurdly priced items without the child having any understanding of this in the broader scheme of things. My hunch is there will be hell to pay when the grim reality of the work world catches up.

4 Comments:

Blogger Collagemama said...

Thank you so much for this. I think Halloween was a fun excuse for my mom to get creative and sew our costumes. I'm stunned at the extent to which Halloween has been taken over as an adult party occasion.

1:42 AM  
Blogger samtzmom said...

Two Halloweens ago, I had a 16 year old come with his little brother to the porch where I sat with my bowl of candy in my lap. Without saying a word, he stuck his entire open hand in the bowl to get as much candy as he could. I put my hand on his, and said, "Whoa there!" and promptly handed him two pieces of candy, and put two in his little brother's bag. They moved as if to go off the porch, when he suddenly whipped around, and grabbed as much has he could in his fist, and jumping off my porch, laughed and laughed at me. It seriously almost ruined my wanting to give out candy at all. Indeed the sense of entitlement has changed. The innocence is not there as it used to be.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Rainbow dreams said...

I never did Halloween as a child, it just passed us by, but now it's almost an accepted practice to trick or treat.
That said, it's not something my kids really want to do - they like the idea of having sweets in to give out, and apple bobbing and carving pumpkins, but haven't been enticed to go out asking for sweets themselves yet.
When I was working nights one halloween, I came home the following morning to all the waste from the dustbin piled outside our front door, just because we weren't in to treat them. It seemed a bit extreme for a few chocolates!

1:14 PM  
Blogger beth said...

Mata, this is a great post. I wish I could see photos of some of your past costumes as you describe them!

8:01 AM  

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