I'm sorry for the somewhat trite title today. But you see, as an Italian, Halloween is and remains foreign to me - and yet this year, we're celebrating it. In fact, Halloween is celebrated in this country these days, and has even largely taken over our traditional Carnival, but I didn't know anything about it until well into adulthood (the scene in Spielberg's movie ET, where Elliott and his siblings sneak ET out of the house by dressing him as a ghost on Halloween evening, was totally lost on us Italian children: why would American kids march around the neighborhood dressed as ghosts, we all wondered at the time).
Perhaps because I don't have childhood memories connected with it, Halloween is one of my least favorite celebrations: as a gardener, I cringe every time I think of the massive quantities of pumpkins grown and then wasted as decorations (I know, call me Scrooge, but, honestly, pumpkins are food - great food as a matter of fact - that can be eaten right down to the seeds, discarding only the peel), and I'm bewildered at the spectacle of children knocking on doors and demanding candy. Thought I know that all the pretty pumpkin displays and candy exchanges must bring on some sense of neighborhood, I confess, I have a hard time seeing it.
So, I wasn't particularly thrilled when earlier on this month, Rebecca, who previously had been oblivious to Halloween, got word of it, and announced that on the day, she'd dress up as a princess, and go first thing in the morning to the neighbors houses. Her brothers set her right - because when they were her same age, they too wanted to "do Halloween", and we did it for a couple of years - and told her a thing or two about the festival's inherent creepiness and ghoulishness.
The idea of having a new play dress appealed Rebecca, but she shied away from ghosts, ugly witches, scary mummies and skeletons alike, as well as the black or white fabrics such costumes would be made of (boring!). She chose a deep sky-blue fabric instead, with which I sewed my own no-fuss 15-minute play dress, and her Halloween-savvy brothers suggested some Halloween-ish touches, which we applied with fabric glue and a silver thread.
We found the silver thread in a bag of crochet threads that used to belong to my grandmother, and while we were working, I told them how it must be thread left over from a project that she'd made twenty-seven years ago, when my parents celebrated their 25th ("silver") wedding anniversary: for the occasion, she'd made dozens of traditional little lacy crochet pouches, to fill with sugar-coated almonds.
Rebecca's Halloween costume is truly a family affair, handmade with threads of family memories and the joint cooperation of her siblings and her mamma (and great-grandma!). And in spending a weekend working on it together, I clearly sensed the value of celebrating Halloween this year.