The 2013 Advent Calender: For the 25 days of Christmas, I will be blogging each day about a miscellaneous thing I love. Not necessarily a big thing, not necessarily a small thing and not in any order.
In which our hero discovers the dark side.
I read Harry Potter in secret because at the time my parents were of the Church-influenced opinion that it could only lead me to the dark side. Never mind that one of my mother’s favourite books was The Lord of the Rings, which features magic just as heavily. It was an uninformed opinion that I wilfully ignored. To give them credit, as soon as they realised I had read them, the bought a book of Christian essays on the subject and concluded it probably wasn’t that bad after all.
The same kind of view stretched to Halloween. It’s not hard to see why it doesn’t exactly chime with being conservative Christians. Some of the people I knew under that umbrella handed out tracts instead of chocolate to trick or treaters. In our house, we answered the door and politely declined. Our drive was long and very dark, so few ventured up it anyway.
I never experienced Halloween until I was fifteen. I had become friends with Kat in the Attic, and every year her family threw an elaborate Halloween party. I was invited, and somehow managed to square it with the parents. My mother even got into the spirit enough to bake pumpkin-shaped gingerbread, the prospect of delivering with filled me with an awkward embarassment that was utterly ridiculous but all-consuming. It was as if there was a strict line between two worlds which could not, under any circumstance, blur, otherwise I would explode with tension-induced stress.
My visiting cousin did my make-up, painting me as The Crow, a character I loved before I was even allowed to see the film. We overdid it a bit, and I look a little bit more like a member of Kiss, but that was completely not the point. This was by far the first time I had dressed up in costume, but it felt entirely different. That night I was dressed as a shadowy creature of the night. This… was… awesome…
Now, I know I don’t have much to go by, but this Halloween party was pretty bloody fantastic. A fully decorated house. Everyone in costume (although I can’t remember what, but I have a suspicion that Kat in the Attic might have slicked back her hair, donned a leather jacket and become Spike from Buffy for the night. I had no idea who that was.) I have a vivid memory of even the food being themed, with the rice hidden beneath a fake cardboard pie crust bearing the words ‘maggot pie’. We played games–the traditional bobbing for apples and a trickier one involving eating sweets hanging from a string without using your hands. We went trick and treating around the village, even though were were probably a good few years to old…
Then I went back home, and washed off the makeup.
Nowadays, I’ve actually seen The Crow. It’s one of my favourite films. When the year ticks around into September and the leaves fall, I start to get very excited. Halloween is, far and away, my favourite holiday. Every year from leaving home I have celebrated it. The university parties were wild affairs with everyone in costumes of increasing sluttiness. Post-university, my second-favourite Halloween of all time involved cosplaying around Whitby. Even years when Halloween has been nothing more than sitting and watching a DVD with jack-o’-lanterns burning are underlined in the calender, and the cobwebby line can be traced right back to that first Halloween party.
Which brings me to:
In which our hero discovers the Lord and Lady of the dark
So who, pray tell, presided over this oasis of Halloween in cloudy Alkborough? Well that would be Kat’s wonderful parents. A decade ago, their house was full of the kind of assorted paraphernalia that, if you have any grasp of my upbringing my now you will understand, fascinated me. Tarot cards, books on mythology and witchcraft, canes, jewellery–things that when I list like that don’t seem so completely madcap, but were like a crazy alien world to me. They were regulars of Whitby Goth Weekend, frequently taking their kids along–Kat had been enough times that it seemed run-of-the-mill to her. They dressed in fabulous grand-gothic clothing–corsets, waistcoats, chokers, feathers and the like–and I have a vivid memory of them turning up in full regalia to Kat’s art exhibition at her college in Scunthorpe.
These days, they’ve turned it all up a notch. They’re now regulars of pretty much every goth and steampunk fayre in England, her father is a talented dress-maker and the inside of their house is painted–brilliantly–to resemble large stone castle blocks, complete with gargoyles. To me, theirs is a house where creativity and freedom reigns. When I return home to Lincolnshire, my mother’s house and Kat’s house are like a yin and yang. It’s wonderful.
Aside from the unassailable awesomeness of a castle-house and that moustache, I have a note of earnestness to hit that was part of the reason for choosing this as a post. People often say that you grow up to either emulate or rebel against the example your parents set. Although with age and maturity I have come to recognise alot of the privileges I had growing up, I’m still firmly in that second camp. Thankfully, I also have an example for the former.
Although in actuality I didn’t spend a great deal of time at their home in Alkborough, in some ways I regard them as a second set of surrogate parents. Most certainly as the example I would model myself on for how to bring up children–with love, freedom, frankness and a joy in individuality. But honestly–Kat’s mother knows more about me than my own. At one point in the last summer holiday before university, it was the only place other than Scunthorpe park I was welcome with my boyfriend, someone who my parents never even knew existed. When I go back to Barton, an trip to Alkborough is an essential part of the visit. Otherwise I haven’t been home.
So there you go: I salute you!
Plus, if you’re still on the fence as regards to how fantastic this household can be, try this: because of them, one New Year’s eve party I ended up dressed in corset, skirt and wig as Count Gladjerhere. Case closed.