‘Oh darling. You look so cute!’
I eyed Mother carefully. If I didn’t know better I would think she was teasing me. But I do know better: Mother, for all her many, many faults, thinks I am the absolute best thing in the world and would never dream of mocking me.
Still, I wouldn’t blame Mother if she did. I looked as if her Carrot Surprise had exploded over me. (I don’t know why the woman feels the need to add the word ‘surprise’ to all her culinary endeavours. I suppose the only surprise that would occur would be if one of her dishes turned out to be edible.) No, I was not ‘cute’; I was a giant, orange, puffy ball of ridiculousness.
‘You’re mummy’s little pumpkin!’ she cooed as, once again, she attempted to place a similarly coloured hat upon my head and once again, I screamed in my absolute refusal to don the stupid-looking thing.
‘I’d leave it, love,’ warned Father as my verbal protestation reverberated around the room. ‘Best not wind her up.’
I might have looked ridiculous but I was a positive style icon next to Father.
‘What are you wearing?’ Mother had demanded earlier.
‘My jeans,’ he’d shrugged. ‘T-shirt.’
Mother’s nostrils flared and I knew Father was in trouble. ‘What day is it?’ asked Mother testily.
‘Monday,’ Father replied, looking bemused. And a little nervous as Mother’s eyes flashed.
‘It’s Halloween. You were meant to pick up a costume at lunch.’
‘I forgot,’ said Father in a tone which suggested he had entirely remembered but had chosen to ignore this request. ‘It doesn’t matter does it really? I mean, it’s just you and me, and your mum and dad, and the baby.’
Mother’s face adopted a martyred look. ‘It’s the baby’s first Halloween,’ she began. ‘The least we can do is put a proper party on for her. But fine, forget it. It’s my fault for trying to do something nice,’ she concluded with a quiver.
‘I’ll go and see what I can do,’ offered Father, heading back up the stairs with a sigh.
What he could do wasn’t a lot as it turned out when he remerged half an hour later with a sheet over his head and two crudely cut out holes for his eyes. As Mother said, he was: ‘The least scary Halloween ghost she’d ever seen.’ (That’s not entirely true though because I let out a terrified scream when I saw him and it was a good ten minutes after he had revealed his identity that I’d calmed down enough to stop crying.)
‘Trick or Treat!’ declared Grandma on our doorstep, a pointy hat on her head. ‘Hello darling,’ she said to me. ‘Well aren’t you the loveliest thing ever? Blimey love,’ she added, in Mother’s direction. ‘You’ve gone a bit overboard with the make-up. And…What the…’ Grandma’s smile fell. ‘What on earth is that you’re wearing?’
‘A sheet,’ replied Father but there was a sheepish quality to his voice.
‘A sheet,’ echoed Grandma. ‘’A sheet,’’ she mimicked. ‘I think you’ll find,’ she began, coolly. ‘That’s the linen tablecloth we gave you as a wedding present.’
With a swiftness that belied her years, she wrestled Father’s costume off him (thank goodness he was dressed underneath). He was no match for Grandma, whose subsequent frightening yells were entirely appropriate for this time of year.
‘All right, that’s enough,’ intervened Grandad firmly at last. ‘Let’s go bob an apple or something, it’s meant to be a party,’ he added.
Reluctantly, Grandma ceased her torrent; her mouth might have been closed but the look on her face left no-one in any doubt of her continued fury. Father, meanwhile, looked relieved, even more so, I imagine, when Grandma didn’t overhear his mutterings about her which were not unrelated to her choice of fancy dress….
Well. This was utterly ludicrous.
I tried to ‘tut’ at the scene playing out in front of me, but, not having refined that particular skill, I let out a loud raspberry instead – a sound which provoked an entertained reaction in my juvenile father.
‘Ah, nearly!’ declared Mother, as Grandma failed miserably to pull an apple out of a bowl of water with her mouth.
‘Use your hands!’ I yelled, for the umpteenth time. ‘Use your HANDS!’ I screamed.
Yet again my sensible and practical advice was ignored as now Grandad emerged empty-mouthed. I was utterly bemused; if any of them wanted an apple, all they had to do was reach in and take one, not indulge in this preposterousness which, let’s face it, was also a massive health and safety risk. If I had yet mastered the ability to pick things up – and to walk come to that – then I would have wandered across and taken one of those apples out myself and handed it to them.
‘Was that a knock at the door?’
The room fell silent.
‘Trick or Treat,’ from a collection of youthful voices.
‘I’ll get it,’ said Father.
‘No. Don’t,’ ordered Mother in a whisper.
‘Because I’ve eaten all the chocolate. And sweets,’ she added, turning off the light.
As we stayed there, in the dark, it occurred to me that we were indeed tricking those poor children. And I wasn’t about to collude with Mother’s deceit. So, at the top of my voice, I exclaimed: ‘We’re in here really,’ my words tumbling out as one big scream.
Sighing, Mother switched on the light. ‘I wonder if they’ll take cash.’
Later, I was falling off to sleep in my crib, reflecting on the bizarreness of the day, RoRo by my side when I felt a hand stroke my head. ‘You, my darling, are the best treat of all,’ said Mother, quietly. I didn’t know what she was on about, she’d probably been at the wine, but for some reason her words made me feel cosy and safe and I drifted off into a delightful slumber…