Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halloween Done Right

They say Halloween trick-or-treating ranks among the top ten favorite childhood memories for American adults.  It is certainly one of mine.  As with most memories from childhood, the good and the bad blend into one glowing feeling of warm comfort, brushed hazy from nostalgia.  

Back in the day, the Halloween season usually started at the beginning of October for me, my brother and my cousins, when a large box of home-made costumes would arrive from one of our aunts.  One year I was a medieval princess, complete with a conical hat and scepter.  One year, we received a box full of different colored capes, so we supplemented them with store-bought vinyl superhero costumes.  Forget what Edna Mode told Mr. Incredible; any superhero costume can only be enhanced by a brightly hued cape.  Didn't you know that Wonder Woman had an optional hot pink cape?  The color may have clashed with the red bustier and boots, but it worked for me!

This year, with Halloween falling at the end of the school's mid-term break, I decided to take the kids back to the US for a proper Halloween trick-or-treating experience.  Yes, the expats celebrate it in Hong Kong.  But it's either a party at the American Club or you hit a handful of houses in your small neighborhood.  And yes, they did it before we moved to Hong Kong, but they weren't old enough to really get it.  To enjoy the cheap thrills of scary decorations, to curse the cold clamminess of condensation on your cheap plastic mask, to get caught up in the greediness of collecting and hoarding as much candy as possible (maybe stealing some from your unsuspecting younger siblings or cousins), to give in to the gluttony of stuffing as much candy as possible in your mouth before your mother can stop you.  Was your Halloween not like this?  Not that I'm encouraging this type of behavior, but it's just one of those classic childhood experiences that everyone should have.

And what an experience it was!  My brother, Yung, lives in one of those densely packed suburban neighborhoods where you can hit 100 homes in one and a half hours.  They close some of the streets down to traffic so the kids can safely run around like sugar-crazed maniacs.  And the neighbors go all out with the decorations.  Taped up Halloween posters and jack o'lanterns?  You'd be pegged as the new neighbors who just don't know yet.  Fog machines and spooky music played out the windows were de rigeur.  One neighbor had the motion-detector coffin that popped out a vampire at just the right moment to startle out delighted shrieks from our merry little band.  Another neighbor made a mini-maze out of hanging black tarp with Halloween decorations at every turn.  Cayman got so distracted that she walked right by the old crone/neighbor handing out the candy at the end of the maze.  One neighbor, I kid you not, covered their driveway with a truckload of mulch and recreated a graveyard with crooked old tombstones and body parts sticking out of the ground!

But the highlight of the evening was the house with a child-size figure of the grim reaper with the skeletal face and scythe.  It was strategically positioned at the corner of the front walkway and slowly turned back and forth tracking the people walking up to the front door.  It looked and moved so realistic that Yung called me over from the end of the driveway to check it.  As we were waiting for our kids' turn to ring the doorbell, we stood there marveling over this realistic figure.  Was it plugged in?  It even makes sounds.  Right as we were about the touch it, the kids in front of us cleared out of the doorway, and the little grim reaper silently turned and walked off with his group!  Probably thinking to himself, "those old folks sure are clueless!"

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