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Tag Archives | halloween

Halloween, or, sometimes nostalgia looks like Boba Fett

It starts in September, when I get the late August issues of The New Yorker.  I’m always a few weeks behind because I like to read the actual magazine, not the digital one. Usually I don’t mind reading about current events from a month or so ago…until September.

In early fall, the magazine becomes a sort of arcade of impossibility: the new theater productions I won’t see; the restaurants I won’t eat at; the movies that (maybe) I’ll get to when they come out on DVD…the list seems endless.  Husband reminds me that when we actually lived in Manhattan we didn’t get out much, unless you want to count standing by the sidelines of a soccer game in the cold as “getting out.” He’s right, but somehow, when we lived in New York, all those things listed in the magazine seemed at least theoretically possible. Now, given that I live in a city where there is one theater (reserved mostly for state celebrations or the occasional children’s musical), only one museum, and where all the restaurants have too many forks for comfort–now, none of it is possible.

Following hard on the heels of the culture-vulture issues of The New Yorker come the facebook posts of friends’ kids off to school in sweaters and new shoes, and then there are the photos of leaves turning, until I can almost smell the seasonal crisp in the air and I long for the crunch of just-picked apples on sale at the Union Square Greenmarket. True, I could just turn off facebook but then there’s that whole I-might-wither-up-and-die thing.  Turn off Facebook? I shudder to think.

It’s not really that I miss seasons–because lord knows I do not miss February–it’s just that I miss fall. I miss that gathering up of breath and energy after the sprawl of summer; I miss the beauty of those last warm days in October, when the warmth feels like a gift because you know what’s coming.

And aside from that maudlin stuff, you know what else I miss? Boots. I loves me some boots and although some women wear boots in the winter months here, I just cannot bring myself to put on a pair of motorcycle boots when it’s 90F outside.

There’s a double nostalgia whammy in October and November–Halloween and Thanksgiving, neither of which, as you might imagine, are very big in the UAE.  I’ve never been one of those people who does the full Halloween costume and decorations thing, but I like the occasional witches hat and pumpkin carving and I have a serious candy corn addiction, which is really hard to feed here (I guess that’s not entirely a bad thing, at least according to my dentist. And my hips).  There are isolated tricksy-treatsy spots around town, mostly in the expat neighborhoods where lots of Americans live; and some of the shops have Halloween decorations, but mostly Halloween comes and goes with just a blip.

We bought Caleb’s costume this summer when we were in New York, where the Halloween shops are always open; Liam didn’t want to get a costume because at almost thirteen, he’s decided (sort of) that he’s just too cool for such things.

I guess because I’m missing “home” so much these days, I took a great deal of pleasure in how excited Caleb was about his costume, even though I hate store-bought costumes and am not a big “Star Wars” fan (practically heresy in my household).  He is not Boba Fett, although I kept calling him that. He is dressed as Pre Vizsla, an entirely different Mandalorian fighter. I mean duh, right? Keep it straight.


There is one way in which Abu Dhabi keeps pace with New York.  The shops here also have seasonal marketing schizophrenia (SMS). SMS renders stores incapable of marketing only one holiday at a time.

IMG_7408trick or hohoho?

Continue Reading · on November 2, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Kids, UAE

Halloween Has Come To Town…

I’m living in parallel worlds right now.

In one world, Hoboken is flooded, friends and family are without electricity and heat, tunnels have become swamps, and the subways are fit only for submarines.  Con Ed exploded only a few blocks from our old apartment and most of the world below 20th street has gone dark. My computer is permanently streaming the weather channel and I click over to facebook every few minutes to see if anyone has found enough computer charge to post an update, or maybe a picture.

I’m tempted here to say something about the need for the US to invest in its crumbling infrastructure, or to mention Nicholas Kristof’s facebook post, in which he says ” I’m always embarrassed when I have to tell Chinese or Europeans about our electrical blackouts. They look at me sympathetically as if I live in the developing world….” And I absolutely will not mention Romney’s high-handed comment about getting rid of FEMA or his insistence that individual states should handle emergency relief when disaster strikes.

Nope. Not going to say any of that.

Instead, I’ll tell you about the other world I live in, which has clear skies and blue that unfurls like silk against the shore.

And where it’s already Halloween.

Being that I’m the mother of sons who play pretty true to type most of the time, the costume discussion went sort of like this:

Me: How about one of the Marx Brothers?

Caleb: Nah, I think a skeleton.

Me: Groucho? With a cigar and a moustache?

Caleb: Nah, I think Death.

Me: A Hobbit?

Caleb: Nope. Skeleton. Maybe with a sword. Or a Nerf gun.

We arrived, ultimately, at Death Eater, specifically, Lucius Malfoy.  And that’s how I found myself trying to take this:

to this:

using this:

The other child? He wanted to be a character named Skulduggery Pleasant, from a book series that he read and loved this year. So that’s easy: black coat, black hat, some white face paint (Skulduggery is…a skeleton), black pants:

Front of cover book, Skulduggery Pleasant Mortal Coil

And then:

Liam: So I read online about how to make safe handheld fireballs.

Me: Safe and fireball don’t usually go together.

Liam: They are totally safe. You just get some cotton and some lighter fluid–

Me: No.

Liam: Then what’s the point of the costume? Skulduggery has fireballs. Without fireballs, I’m nothing.

Needless to say, he went off to a Halloween party with some school friends but without the Molotov cocktails. I know, I know, where’s the fun in that, but still, it’s such a drag to get the phone call about your kid lobbing flammable objects at the pumpkin carvers.

As for the Death Eater? He went off to trick or treat in our building with a friend from next door — without me or any other grownup. For the first time in what–twelve years?–I did not traipse around with a gaggle of costumed children on Halloween night.  I stayed home and answered the door to tricksytreaters, gazed out the window at the water, and clicked endlessly into facebook, where, in my other world, Halloween has pretty much been cancelled, or at very least, postponed.

I won’t make a joke about Thanksgiving turkeys this year being stuffed with Halloween candy; instead, I’ll talk about missing. My sister said to me once that basically she just doesn’t let herself think about how much she misses us, and I told her that it’s the same for me: I put all my “missing” in a separate little box and try to ignore it.

But at times like these – which I think you could pretty much call a crisis  –  that little box breaks open and I can think only about what’s happening not here.

The thing about this expat life? Sometimes it’s fine being far away.

And sometimes? It’s not.





Continue Reading · on October 31, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, family, Kids, NYC

Happy High Fructosaween

We’ve read about it in books (thank you Michael Pollan et al); we saw the scary movie (Food, Inc., anyone?); but the whole high-fructose thing came thudding home last night when the boys lugged home their Halloween goody bags.

I don’t remember the Halloween bags of my youth being quite so massive, and my suspicions were borne out this afternoon when Liam and I weighed his bag (already pillaged repeatedly by Husband, jonesing for KitKats and Tootsie Rolls).


“Wow,” said Liam. “That’s a tenth my body weight.”

5.5 pounds of high fructose corn syrup, packaged in a variety of nutted and nutless foil wrappers.  No way on god’s green earth did I get more than five pounds of candy in my suburban trick-or-treating days.

I watched last night as the kids trick or treated: people just shoveled candy, literally by the fistful, into the waiting goody bags.  Some woman handed out mini-decks of cards and I thought there was going to be a riot: NO CHOCOLATE?

Did I really grow up such a long time ago – before the invention of high fructose corn syrup?  Was there a pre-HFC time? Well, yes in fact, there was, and yes, in fact, I was doing the Halloween rounds before HFC found its way into all manner of goodies.

Back in those tasteless, pre-HFC days, we traipsed around our neighborhood at night: there was the thrill of dodging crazy Mrs. Henderson’s house, with its droopy pine trees,  but even the most familiar houses looked scary in the dark. Pathetic innocents that we were, we didn’t even realize that we were being gypped by being given only two small candy bars, or one lollipop.

Not only do my urban children go tricksy-treating in the safely lit spaces of apartment buildings, it’s still light outside when they start their rounds. Where’s the fun in that?  Daylight savings time, you’ll remember, used to start before Halloween weekend, but now it starts the weekend after.  A parent friend insisted that daylight savings time got pushed back due to pressure from the candy lobbyists, which I claimed was some kind of black-helicopter paranoia…but actually? Those purveyors of HFC-laced treats did exert some pressure on Congress to change the light-law—they insisted it was for safety, but of course, more trick or treating time means more time for candy consumption, right?

All I know is that in my apartment are two five-pound bags of candy, which is sort of like using a brick of heroin as a doorstop in a Keith Richards hotel room, circa 1975.  Who could resist?

Five and a half pounds.

That’s a lotta corn.

Continue Reading · on November 1, 2010 in Children, food, NYC

Cookies versus Costumes…My Line in the Sand

My mom always made our Halloween costumes. Sometimes that led to bad suggestions (Mrs Olsen the coffee lady, anyone?) but mostly we ended up with versions of vampires, cats, bats, hobos (does anyone still do “hobo” anymore?), pirates, and so on. But as I remember it, we almost never got “store-bought” costumes–which explains, I think, why I feel so conflicted about the fact that this Halloween, the boys will be dressed in head-to-toe polyester (let’s stay away from live flames, okay, boys?); costumes that are pretty much devoid of originality and creativity.


The costume discussion started strong: Caleb thought maybe he’d be a dead Easter Bunny (skeleton suit, black bunny ears), then a skeleton pirate (skeleton suit, pirate hat); and Liam thought he’d create some wildly complex character out of some Japanese card deck–a cross between Mad-Eye Moody, a spy, and a ninja, but with a fedora.

Then mistakes were made. Each boy was taken to the costume store to find the components of these costumes…Caleb saw a ninja sword (five bucks) and that was that: all he cared about was finding some kind of costume that would let him carry the sword.  Liam saw the “Emperor of Doom” package and was entranced by a costume that had a medallion and a skeleton mask and a sword.

I tell myself “I’m a working mom, I just don’t really have time to make costumes…” (as if non-working moms somehow do have time whip up magical costumes with just a few waves of the glue gun) but my guilt at letting my kids wear such generic crap was not assuaged until I found myself at 10pm the other night baking both banana bread and chocolate chip cookies for school bake sales.

Crazy, right? Just go buy some cookie mix, or take some advice from the working-mom narrator of I Don’t Know How She Does It: in the opening scene of the book, she is gently smashing the crusts of store-bought pies in order to make them look like home-made, for a school bake sale.

So that’s it. I’ve discovered my line in the sand: store-bought costumes are okay. Store-bought bake sale items aren’t. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel twinges of guilt about the Emperor of Doom marching around in his shiny black poly-blend costume, but hey. Something’s gotta give–costumes, bake sales, getting my own work done (hahahaha fat chance)…At least they’re eating homemade cookies (whole wheat flour! no preservatives!) while they march around in outfits that, if they leave them on too long, will probably give them both a rash.

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Continue Reading · on October 30, 2010 in Children, Kids

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