Here is my most memorable Halloween story, as told to my son, who is a mere 23 months old and wants to be a carrot this year.
Putting you to bed tonight, you declared to Daddy that you wanted to be a carrot for Halloween tomorrow, and we laughed at your impromptu change of plans. Of course! We could go as the mirepoix for the delicious chicken noodle soup that you and Daddy made tonight to ward off the evil spirits of the flu lurking around our home. Daddy, a tall, thin celery stalk, Mommy all round like an onion (“Hey! Don’t you mean, ‘all long like a leek?'” ), and you with your fiery golden hair, a bright crispy carrot!
Long before you came along, little one, Halloween was a little different when I was growing up in rural Alberta in the 1980s and 1990s. We would go trick-or-treating dressed as skiers or figure skaters or sumo wrestlers, with layers of insulation against the inevitable early snowstorm, your grandparents driving us down unlit gravel roads between houses spaced miles apart. We would be asked to sing for our treats by neighbours we knew, and belt out quirky Canadian tunes like “The Cat Came Back
,” and “Baby Beluga”
(timeless songs from Fred Penner
, and Sharon Lois & Bram
that you know and love too!) in exchange for paper lunch bags, marked with our names and full of “full-sized” treats.
But the Halloween I want to tell you about tonight is your first one, the one where you were in Mommy’s tummy, less than a month before you made your unforgettable appearance in Tokyo, on that first November snowfall in over 50 years!
The Japanese are often reserved and shy, and throughout my pregnancy, it was rare for anyone to acknowledge or even smile at my growing belly. They didn’t even say anything that time when Daddy and I went out for a run in Roppongi one evening, seven months pregnant with you, when I tripped and he tried to stop me from falling, but grabbed my shorts instead and pulled them down! I went sprawling across the street in front of all those sombre salarymen, bare bum and big belly akimbo, howling at Daddy, protesting his “help!” Even then, not a word, a look, or even a single helping hand was offered… We speculated that they were just being painfully polite, leaving us to manage our big display of embarrassment on our own. Well, we showed them: We laughed until we cried! But on Halloween… what a difference that was!
Halloween is a surprisingly new phenomenon in Japan, only getting really popular in the last five years, but like everything else they embrace, the Japanese do it better than anywhere else in the world. Thousands of people came out to celebrate in the streets of Shibuya in the heart of Tokyo, your Daddy and I included, in marvellous, creative, choreographed costumes — people dressed up like fruit and formed salads by the dozen, schools of sharks and troops of apes swarmed around in friendly formation, and countless Waldos were hidden everywhere! Daddy even found several casts of crabs to join.
I dressed as Mother Gaia, the primal mother earth goddess (wearing an actual NASA photo of a galaxy, stretchy enough to contain you, little one!) and the unfettered creativity and self-expression of our costumes created a bridge between us and our adopted homeland. People would request to touch my belly, asking “Sore wa hontō desuka?” “Is it real?”
“Hai!!” I would answer and that would draw breathless exclamations of “Sugoiiiiiii!” “Amazing!!” followed by more gentle touches and words of joy. You were even blessed by a convent of undead nuns! While the celebrations swelled to overflow the streets, we were never afraid, as everyone was polite and careful, intent on enjoying this opportunity to express their free spirits. You and I were kindly acknowledged by those who learned that you were real that night, and your Daddy and I felt the excitement and authenticity of those moments as we all “let our hair down” and connected as creatures of this (other) world.
So, little one, as you fall asleep tonight, dream of carrots and crabs dancing across the street. And please know as I stroke your cherubic little cheeks to sleep, that Mommy’s funny Halloween story is a reminder that you belong here. That when someone shows you kindness, these are little acts of courage to celebrate and emulate — today and every day. That you, and every soul and spirit in the world, are to be loved and accepted, whatever you want to wear, whatever you want to be — today and every day. Happy Halloween, baby-chan!