But today, on this Halloween of days, I was spooked.
Things started well and ended even better. It was our first proper Halloween and we started preparations early, carving a pumpkin on Friday afternoon (which subsequently disintegrated over the weekend, but noone seemed to notice that it wasn’t there on our terrace this afternoon) and making a Halloween mobile to hang over our front door. I’d never entered into the spirit of Halloween before but last year, in a token effort to do something, I hurriedly bought some Marks and Spencer sweets from London Bridge station on the way home from work, in case we had some trick or treaters. Unsurprisingly, come 10pm and with no revellers having rung our bell, Mister and I shared out the haul. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be bothered or that I was fundamentally opposed to the idea of Halloween, I just didn’t get it.
Back in Balgowlah, we had costumes and face paints at the ready and my expectation was that we would dress up, sit on our terrace and wait for a handful of trick or treaters to pass through before calling it a day. I happened to mention this to a friend at school and moments later received a text, inviting us to join up with their family to trick or treat on the streets of North Balgowlah. With no idea what to expect and with costumed children at the ready, I thought, ‘well, why not?’. TJ and Miggins were beside themselves with excitement but it soon became clear that they didn’t get it, either. And how could they? I had been so vague about the whole thing that they were sort of just cobbling along with my sudden enthusiasm for all things spooky. So we jumped onto our broomstick and headed into the unknown.
It was a balmy 24 degrees when we emerged into what felt like film set, with tens of children milling about in various guises, from the traditional witches and ghosts to the less traditional fairies, gnomes and members of the mafia. House after house was bedecked with cobwebs, skeletons and spiders but it didn’t feel tacky or cringeworthy, it felt like honest, wholesome, fun. TJ’s reaction to his first sweet was to promptly sit down and eat it and it took some time (and a small amount of foot stamping on his part) to persuade him that if he collected the sweets they were his, to keep. He moved pretty swiftly after that, quickly realising that the more ground he covered, the bigger his haul. Smart lad. Miggins consulted with me after each house, asking ‘are we allowed these ones’, she, too, in wide eyed wonder at this unexpected, surreal experience.
After an hour of trick or treating and with the children’s plastic pumpkin-pots brimming, we were ready to head home. The sweets were emptied onto the kitchen table and I listened whilst Miggins negotiated some swaps with TJ, at one stage convincing him that the pink lollipop that she was coveting in his pile probably tasted like a dog biscuit. He quickly gave it up. She also accumulated a pile of hard sweets, knowing that as a child I once swallowed a hard sweet whole and came very close to choking and she wasn’t about to let the same fate befall her or TJ. She mixed the unwanted ‘chokers’ and all of the green sweets into our trick or treat bowl and she and TJ waited, now in their pyjamas, for our own trick or treaters to arrive at the gate. As darkness fell and as the sandman paid his visit, TJ and Miggins drifted off to bed, with visions of sweets, pumpkins and happy, balmy nights dancing in their heads.
But I was spooked. Shaken up.
In the heat of the afternoon, my little witches and I decided that we would have a dip in the pool before our Halloween revelries commenced. Miggins and TJ waited patiently on the steps of our pool whilst I, a mere 3 feet away, cleared something from the edge of the pool. At that exact moment, an inflatable toy floated past TJ’s feet in the pool and the last thing I heard was ‘watch me surf Mummy’ before Miggins shouted ‘TJ!’ and I looked to see a blue hat bobbing on the surface of the pool with TJ flailing beneath it. I know I reacted immediately, jumping in and calmly pulling TJ up and into my arms but the replay feels so slow, so tortuous, so frightening. TJ cried for a second then proudly said ‘I went under without my goggles’ and we all carried on. But I was spooked.
So whilst our first Halloween felt more like a fairytale, it didn’t come and go without a scare, without a moment of terror, without a residual feeling of unease and without a lesson learnt. And I, for one, would be happy if I never, ever, get spooked again.