Thursday, November 02, 2006

One night in October

I SHARED a wonderful experience with my son this week. On Tuesday night, long past his bedtime, we walked down the street to Riverview Terrace and watched the fireworks light up the night sky.

My sleepy boy, dressed in the trousers from his Dracula costume, an orange sweater and his winter coat cuddled into my arms and watched the sky light up with greens, reds, gold and silver.I

'm not sure which of us shouting "Wow" the loudest or which one of us was most impressed but for those twenty minutes on Tuesday night we both saw a little magic in the air. Joseph was convinced the fireworks were exploding stars and treated all those around him to a resounding rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle" before we padded back up the hill.

As we put him to bed, he fought to keep his eyes open just in case there was one stray firework still waiting to go off.

I'm sure it was a scene played out in many homes in the city on Tuesday night and I'll admit it brought a tear of pride to my eye. Of course, it's a far cry from my day.

While we took Joseph out in his (shop bought) costume, after his Halloween themed party (complete with frightening green cake), we all got to talking about how different it was when we were wee.No one was bought a costume. (Well, no one that I knew anyway). We made do with what was found around the house and I have fond memories of my mother pulling out a huge bag of old curtains for us to choose from.

A purple curtain could transform you into a vampire or a witch. A net curtain would transform you into a bride or a fairy. If you were really lucky you or one of your siblings would have made their First Holy Communion that year and there would be a dress to wear. In the worst case you got a 30p mask from Wellworths and strapped it over your face and buttoned your duffle coat up as far as it could go.

As far as I'm concerned those blasted masks (or false faces as some called them) were responsible for rearing a generation of Derry claustrophobics who struggled to breathe through the tiny air holes while the inside of the mask steamed up with the heat of your breath.

God forbid you insisted on wearing your mask before the big day and you nipped the elastic. You would either then have to walk about just holding your mask to your face or settle for the back of a Cornflakes box cut into a spooky shape and tied on with a stray piece of wool from your mammy's knitting bag.

As my friend put it, you inevitably took on the look of yer man from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

We didn't know about trick or treating and we never expected sweets with our loot. We jusbanged on doors shouting: "Any 'hing fer Hallowe'en?" or "Any nuts and apples?" If we got a Rice Krispie bun in our (Wellworths) bag we thought we had won the lottery- even if it would have disintegrated into a thousand pieces by the time we got home.

When we made it back to the safety of the house, we poured out our bag of treats on the floor. After discarding the bruised apples and the Rice Krispie debris, we set about dividing our nuts into their respective piles.

Monkey nuts were a breeze. Anyone could open them. Hazelnuts were a little tougher to handle. We only had one set of nutcrackers in our house and it was a battle to see who got them first. Those who 'lost', set about either trying smash doors closed on the blasted things, get a hammer out, the end of the poker or- if you were feeling really brave- trying to crush them between your teeth.

Anything bigger than a hazelnut and we knew we were in bother- and there was always at least one mammoth king of the nuts that no one actually knew the name of which would take a sustained effort with the hammer AND poker to get open.

It was all different on Tuesday night. Joseph's costume had been bought weeks ago in Tesco. My sister had stocked up on little pumpkin buckets for him and his cousin to carry and bought pumpkin lights to hang from the window. She was the person responsible for the green cake (which even Joseph turned his nose up at- and he would eat cake over any other food stuff) and she even managed to print out a selection of scary Hallowe'en colouring-in pictures for them to be creative with."
There wasn't a scary king of nuts, a poker or a Wellworths bag to be seen. That said, I suppose Hallowe'en has had to change and move on.

You couldn't possibly send your wains out into the street on a dark night with only a bag of nuts and apples to protect themselves any more- so it's natural, if a little sad, that parties have moved in-doors.

Sure we could do without the sweets and the expensive costumes, but at the same time it's nice to have occasions when the whole family can get together and share a magic moment.For me, I'll be putting the look of wonder on Joseph's face as the fireworks exploded around him in my mental memory book along with the dodgy masks and fun we had swathed in metres of purple 70s style curtains. Both are equally as memorable.

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