WHO IS LIZZY?
Lizzy is an Aussie gal, formerly a journo, now a mother of two and ‘trailing spouse’, transported from the sunny shores of Sydney town to the colder climes of Somewhere, USA, via Elsewhere, Canada, and Overdaire, Ireland. She’s mostly enjoying the experience – even if it has left her feeling a little disoriented.
Writing this blog is a way to ensure that Lizzy’s communications skills stay honed. It also keeps her sane.
THE PARENTAL BOGEYMAN GOES TRICK-OR-TREATING
Surely, C insists, she’s old enough to go trick-or-treating without me. After all, she’ll be twelve in a few weeks. And twelve is a teenager, practically a grown-up. We’re on our front porch (where so many of these boundary-setting negotiations seem to take place), just about to join a small troop of neighbourhood kids as they head out into our tree-lined suburban street in search of treats.
Up until this year, Halloween has been a family affair: sometimes a school friend might join us, but usually it’s just been our little trio – C, her older sister, L, and me. D stays home, ready to appease any visiting demons with candy. This arrangement suits me – I’ve always found Halloween slightly disturbing, one of America’s stranger traditions. I mean, why would anyone choose to send their babies out alone on the one night of the year when the Hellmouth, as they call it in the Buffyverse, is most likely to be wide open? And frankly – those grinning pumpkins freak me out. That orange glow makes every house, even my own, seem sinister.
But this year is different: L is trick-or-treating with a friend, and C and I have planned to join up with the neighbourhood kids. It’s different in other ways too. Instead of the usual cutesy parent-approved outfit, this year C has devised her own Halloween costume. She’s a zombie: which means her face is plastered white, her undead eyes have been blackened, and there are frighteningly lifelike gashes of red at her temple and around her mouth. She’s rather terrifying to behold.
‘It’s lame, you coming,’ she says. ‘Everyone else gets to go on their own, without their parents. Every year. And they’ve all survived.’
‘So far,’ I say darkly, trying hard not to think of all the possible ways they might not survive.
The look she gives me is murderous (admittedly her emotional range is limited), and she stamps down the stairs and out the gate. I follow slowly, clutching my pumpkin-shaped bucket, my devil’s ears headband, the little red tail that clips onto my jeans pocket.
I Google on my phone as I walk: At what age should children trick-or treat without an adult? One mother with the same worries as me – and a few others I hadn’t considered – volunteers online that she reluctantly let her eleven-year-old out alone, conceding that the constantly hovering parent may be the biggest bogeyman of all. I swallow my anxiety. By the time I meet C, who has joined the small tribe of monsters gathered at the park across the road, I’m almost ready to give in.
One of my neighbours, a grade-school teacher with three kids, all younger than C, waits with them in the gloom. Her T-shirt is embossed with a luminous skeleton; her hairclips are shaped like witches’ hats. ‘Are you going with them?’ I ask, hopeful.
‘Oh, no.’ She looks shocked. ‘They’d hate that. Parents worry too much.’ I nod, give a weak smile, think about abductions, LSD-laced Twinkies, paedophiles. Guns.
‘Actually,’ her son, a boy aged around ten who is dressed as Captain America, pipes up, ‘some really gruesome stuff has happened to kids at Halloween.’
‘Oh?’ I try not to sound too interested.
‘We had to write about the meaning of Halloween at school, and I found this cool site with all the Halloween murders on it. There’s heaps and heaps,’ he smiles with ghoulish enthusiasm. ‘One time all these girls were kidnapped, and there was this kid that was shot. But the best one was this dad who actually poisoned his own kid. He put cyanide in all the kids’ Pixy Stix, but his son was the only one who died, which was actually what he wanted because then he could get the life insurance.’ Captain America shudders with delight.
His mother beams. ‘Jackson just loves his history.’ She pats him on the head proudly.
‘So,’ says C, clearly reassured by this conversational turn, ‘you’re not coming, right? I can go on my own?’
I mutter, look vague.
The captain’s mother gives a cheery wave. ‘Off you go, then. Be good.’ She offers me a smile, heads back across the road.
I wait until she’s tripping up the stairs to her orange-lit porch, then pick up my bucket, clip on my tail, straighten my ears. Parental bogeyman? There are worse disguises.
Original Extract Here.