Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Happy Hallowgiving


My daughter was miserable. Halloween in England didn’t cut it. The only ten-year-old in our neighborhood out trick-or-treating was babysitting the little ones. The young children came in store-bought costumes and said “Happy Halloween” instead of “trick-or-treat.” There were few jack-o-lanterns and certainly no children’s parade. It was small consolation that she could save her Goth chick costume for next year.

My mother-in-law came to the rescue. She proposed we gather the four grandchildren to celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving together. Ever since they came to visit us for Thanksgiving, my English in-laws have been celebrating the holiday. Everyone loves the idea of coming together for a meal to give thanks.

I agree. I am already missing not seeing my extended family in NYC. My cousin cooks for the 19 of us, and it is the only time we are all together other than weddings. Amazingly my mother-in-law recreated the American feast: it tasted just like home. She even made my mother’s stuffing and cranberry sauce. She baked her first pumpkin pie and my favorite of apple pie.

My husband’s family has become my own over the years despite the cultural barriers. His mother is a retired occupational therapist who enjoys painting lovely watercolors. Her husband has the same first name as my father so sometimes we refer to him as Captain. He’s half Chilean and met his wife because his father sold a Devonian farm to her parents. The Captain has a memoir out now about the Tanganyika Mutiny from his time in the royal navy.

When the Captain isn’t writing, he’s bell ringing at the medieval church. They live in a quaint village, Goring-on-Thames, surrounded by bucolic countryside. It’s like stepping into a Joanna Trollope novel visiting my in-laws.

Since I have a brother but no sisters, it’s a bonus having sisters-in-law. Henry's youngest sister works in international development, designing and managing HIV and AIDS prevention and care programs in low-income countries. She was just back from China and has worked in Africa too. She has a beautiful old flat in Bath. My daughter thinks her aunt dead cool. It’s not only her fascinating work; she has a great fashion sense and is wonderful with her niece and nephews.

Henry, his younger sister, Neil and Jess

Henry’s older sister, Jessica Bett, is a planner in the South Gloucestershire Council. She has a degree in industrial archeology and collects old green glassware. Jess has an easy laugh and a gentle nature. She and her husband, Neil, live in Bristol.

Neil Bett is Scottish and a talented actor with a great sense of humor. He and a partner set up Barking Productions LLP. Actors teach businessmen, bureaucrats and doctors better public relations skills through role-playing. Neil still acts occasionally and will be on Max Bear with Tom Baker. It won't air until Christmas 2008. Jess and Neil have two boys close to my children in age. They get on fabulously.

Henry invented the game of Pirate Bold. It’s sort of like freeze tag but with a hidden treasure. The game starts with, “Ar, Jim lad!” The children run off base looking for the treasure chest while the grown ups tag them by hand or throwing a soft ball (ie. “firing a broadside.”) The best part is eating the chocolate treasure. For the Halloween version, they all dressed up in costumes except for my teenaged son. Granny provided plenty of extra treats and “pudding” as dessert is called in England.

It also happened to be November 11th so they went to a village service at 11:00 AM with girl and boy scouts and war veterans. Remembrance Day is like our Veteran’s Day only so many more Brits died in WWI. Everyone wears paper red poppies and dresses up somberly for the occasion. It was also my brother’s birthday so I called him in NYC and recounted our wonderful weekend. It felt like going home.


Leigh Russell said...

Thank you for introducing your family like this. We have quite a lot of family in America. My brother-in-law lives in LA with his OC wife, one of my husband's uncles and his family live in California, and I have relatives in Florida and New York. I think there may be others, but these are the ones we know well. It's lovely to feel we have close people all round the world, even though it would be nice to see them more often.

John Kelly said...

Summertown's the place to be for Halloween. We had close to 40 trick or treaters. We put out a relatively meagre outdoor display--at least for us--of three pumpkins and a crepe paper spider. No smoke machine, severed hand or creepy music. Still, it impressed the locals.

Sarah Laurence said...

Summertown is the downtown Brunswick of Oxford. It has a whole bunch of shops, cafes, two supermarkets, a library and even Americans. You won’t find a pumpkin in Wolvercote unless it’s growing organically in a field.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi Sarah,
Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I replied there, where I could see yours. I'm afraid I barely managed to restrain myself from launching into a full scale rant - a real onscreen tantrum - but my lovely independent local bookshop has recently been replaced by a Starbucks, so there's plenty of scope for megaprotest there... No, I'm not going to be rude enough to rant on your blog.

I'm mildly disappointed that John Kelly's locals were impressed when he didn't even show them a severed hand... Come on, John, surely you can make a better effort than that. You only need a sharp knife...
(English humo(u)r)

Brianne Hudgins Photography said...

Your father-in-law looks so very British in that photo. How is it that we were once one country and now seem so very different? Things that I'm sure are fairly mundane there seem so intriguing and fun to us on this side of the pond. "When Tony isn’t writing, he’s bell ringing at the medieval church." Brits would see that line & think "ok, he rings bells for fun" ~ I see it & immediately think how very cool it must be to ring these bells in a medieval church, and then wonder how many people over the years have rung those same bells and why were they ringing them?

Yes I'm an American tourist, can you take my picture in front of the Queen's guard please? LOL

I came over to thank you for your comment & wish you luck on your new book. To answer your question, Yes I always knew I was adopted. I've had several friends who found out as adults and it's a gut wrenching moment for them. Please feel free to email me if you would like. I posted Chapter 2 today, this is harder than I thought it would be.