I am absolutely exhausted. I keep forgetting that I’m not Martha Stewart and I’ve spent a good part of today baking and making little treats with Ali. JP says that we were making memories, but that’s not what I would’ve called our kitchen circa 3pm this afternoon. Think confined space, sticky gloop and hand grenade. Funny how none of that is captured in those expensive baking magazines, eh? (In hindsight, marshmallow top-hats would’ve sufficed. Making muffins was pure madness, especially for someone who is almost allergic to baking).
Ali was harping on at me for ages to have a Halloween party, but to be honest, I don’t think Halloween is that big a deal. It certainly wasn’t in our day, when the majority of costumes were plastic masks and bin liners (I haven’t seen a kid in a bin liner in yonks). I certainly don’t believe in holding unnecessary gatherings which require cleaning up of any description unless it’s not in my house. We didn’t have Halloween parties, although some of the other children did. They were weirdly extravagant affairs, with material costumes and Halloween decorations.
I remember how I used to almost resent mum for this lack of effort, for this apathy towards what was such an important holiday. She didn’t even let us go trick-or-treating on our own: instead, we were bundled into the back of the car and escorted to her friends’ houses, where we would stay for half an hour at a time. I wasn’t impressed that she would let my older brother Steve go by himself. I remember the really early days, when Steve was still trick-or-treating, emptying our bags, trawling for cash. We’d usually be able to stump up about four pounds and Steve would walk to Egans the next day and buy four hundred penny sweets which would be long eaten before we’d touched all the monkey nuts we accumulated.
I don’t think anyone in our house liked Bairin Breac, so every year mum would bake two apple tarts (which we sometimes ate after Trick-or-Treating) and hide punt coins wrapped in greaseproof paper. No ring shite for her; she made mauling her apple tart worthwhile. She also bought sweets for the trick-or-treaters, which was rare at the time, and I know for a fact that certain trick-or-treaters changed costumes and visited our house more than once! (Won’t mention names though – the past is the past and all that). And that was Halloween. No frills, no party games or bobbing for apples. Pretty boring really.
And then one Halloween night, in 2001 to be exact, Dad got a phone call to say that his mother had passed. He looked so forlorn, so lost, and so tired, having only come in from work fifteen minutes before. Fifteen years have passed, but in many ways it doesn’t feel like it. It’s something that all we cousins remember even now. After all, gatherings at granny’s was often the only place we were all together, and now that was gone. Her wake and her funeral happened during midterm, and us girls went back to school, a little bit emptier.
As an adult, the feeling of loss is what I now associate with Halloween, but as a parent, I want Alison to remember Halloween for the right reasons. I want her to remember fun and happiness, and not sadness. I want her to remember the lengths we went to to decorate, to make treats, to enjoy each other. But sometimes I have to remember to calm the f**k down.
As scary as it is, there’s certain things I just can’t control. It’s taken me a while to learn it, and one day, she will learn it too. It doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying to make her happy. Although next year, I might just decorate shop-bought madeiras instead. And in doing so, I’ll be teaching her something important: there’s no point in trying to be something you’re not.