This afternoon, the kids and I went to Goodwill to work on their Halloween costumes.
You may think that the afternoon of a holiday is a bit late to be planning, but some people function best under pressure and with an external deadline, rather than an arbitrary inner one. Also, I’ve always found that if you wait late enough, you avoid those really long lines. My last excuse is that we’re still adjusting back to this Very Expensive place we call home, and end-of-the-month holidays aren‘t always easy.
“Aha!” you’re thinking. “Ms Nomad is getting greedy and materialistic, now that she’s back in the land of Retail Therapy.”
Well you’re wrong. First of all, I was always greedy and materialistic. Secondly, it is a special situation. We’ve just changed climates in a rather dramatic way. We were a family of shorts and t-shirts and sandals. This morning, instead of it being 40 degrees Celsius (about 104 F) it was 40 degrees Fahrenheit–a tad chilly for us Saharans.
I’m not crafty, as you may already know. I don’t sew, as I may have mentioned. So, with a fine exhibition of foresight and organizational skills, we headed off to our local Goodwill two hours before costumes were needed, where I experienced something new–sticker shock. I was envisioning picking up a vest for Abel’s pirate costume for 50 cents, maybe an entire ninja outfit for $2. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Vests were $4; velvet pants (for squires/pirates/Elizabethan gentleman) were $5. Yikes!
I did find a burgundy velvet fitted jacket with many gold buttons and a kicky little back pleat. It’s the sort of thing other people, ones you see on downtown streets or in films of old Bob Dylan concerts, find at Goodwill, so I was quite happy with it. It instantly transformed Abel into a sort of gentleman-pirate. $1.50 got us an eyepatch and large gold clip-on earring. Elliot kept saying, “From the back, Abel looks like a businessman.” On what planet? I wondered to myself.
Ilsa was easy. (I know this won’t last) She wanted to be a spy. All she needed was face-paint to blacken her cheeks and some black tights, which cost, of course, $5.
Elliot was, naturally, the hardest. He’s in Jr. Hi now, so it comes with the territory. He wanted to be a knight, but the only armour we could find was made for a five-year-old. Elliot is 12. We put him in a tunic, bought him black velvet pants (they’re girls but shhh!! Don’t let on! He doesn’t realize it yet) and strapped on the sword. He was supposed to be a medieval squire, but I think several mistook him for a pirate. Oh well.
It was the kids’ first time trick-or-treating. The last time we were in a place that celebrated Halloween, the twins were 3. I think we took them next door, but that was about it, and they certainly didn’t remember it. The French have Carnival in February, where the kids get to dress up but don’t get candy.
We set out in the cool evening air, carrying Starbucks bags. At first the kids were shy and felt silly, and fought about who had to ring the door bell. That soon changed. They loved the house where the woman was dressed as the Grim Reaper and clawed at the air near their faces. Her husband slumped as a scarecrow that didn’t move even when poked until suddenly, he sat up!
They couldn’t believe all the candy. And really, they’re right to be astonished. What other day exists anywhere when, by the simple act of dressing up and knocking on strangers’ doors, do they get huge smiles, compliments, and armloads of really fun American candy? They would say Thank You and Happy Halloween and then scamper down the driveways, unable to contain their glee, pulling open their bags and comparing. They would give me this look of mischievous disbelief, as if they had really pulled one over on the neighbors and managed to trick them into this unexpected benevolence.
Tomorrow is Toussaint, All Saints’ Day, and a holiday in France. In fact, French kids are on holiday all week, a fact which is helping us get caught up here. We are still in our first week of school, but are finding we can double up some days and still get it all done and have time to visit Goodwill and daub faces with black paint and make my favorite pumpkin cookies and go for walks in the invigorating air, scuffling through the leaves.
Pictures tomorrow!

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