Posted October 31, 2006on:
Flipping through the TV tonight, I suddenly remembered our 2nd Halloween in 1991. We had moved to Temple City by then, An was in 10th grade, Tin was in 3rd grade, and I was in 7th. Halloween only meant free candies to us, pounds of them. Other than that, we didn’t care. We didn’t look twice at carved pumpkins, didn’t care about costumes, didn’t care about decorations. The 3rd-world mentality was still hardwired into us, we viewed costumes and decorations as something belonging to rich white people, and on our poor ghetto end, we got free something – free candies – out of it.
Mom got Tin a $10 skeleton costume from the grocery store, made of soft thin plastic, like those disposable tablecloths you can get in the Dollar Store. Tin wore his costume to school that day. After school, we got home and frantically anticipated nightfall in the most disorganized fashion. We hadn’t a clue what was going to happen, except we knew we were going after the free candies, those glorious freebies were calling out to us. We didn’t say anything, just sort of watched the T.V. listlessly, ate our dinner in a hurry, then loitered around the T.V. some more, watching the evening news that Tram had on. We didn’t even dare to ask if we could go trick-or-treating. We stalked Mom nervously, wanting so bad to hear her say “yes you can go” but fearing the no so equally bad that we ended up not opening our mouths. Then 5 o’clock came, the sky darkened, and feeling the inevitable, An asked Chau to ask mom if we could go trick-or-treat, Chau serving as our sponsor of sort. Except Chau had no credit with Mom. It got down to 8-year-old Tin. Tin got an open-ended answer: “I don’t know, ask your dad.”
Well that wasn’t too bad. That was half of a yes. So we waited for Dad to come home. I remember just sitting there, by the dinning table, watching T.V., marking time passage by the program of the hour. Evening news ended. Jeopardy began. It felt hopeless. Around 7:10, Dad came home, and Tin got pushed to the front to ask for permission to go trick-or-treat. Dad said OK sure, and the world resumed its course once again. Tin quickly changed into his skeleton costume. I had a black shirt on, I think. I can’t remember anymore. I didn’t have a costume, and it wasn’t my concern. As far as I cared, Tin’s costume was enough for all three of us to stick out our plastic bags asking for candies. But just to play it safe, An and I drew quick masks on brown paper bags, cut out the holes, tied rubberbands to the two sides and got ourselves each a mask. An’s was a cat of sort, and mine was a jack-o-lantern, I think. An also got a black T-shirt with skulls filling up the front side of it.
Chau walked with us around Reno Ave. It was fun, because each of us was thrilled with the idea that we got something for nothing. Rich people giving tons of candies away for free, fancy that! After 1 hour, our bags were so heavy that we had to go home to drop some candies off. Then we were off again. Ding-doong! “Tricko treeet! tricko treeet!” we cried under the cold october sky. The leaves were already falling off trees, I remember that. They were rustling under our quick steps. The clouds were in the sky too, and there were winds. Ding-doong! “Tricko treeet.” We got to know our neighborhood well for the first time that night, seeing for ourselves who lived in what houses. Or more like seeing for ourselves who were behind the facades of all the houses in our neighborhood.
Most people handed out candies without questions, but there were chatty ladies who liked to identify our costumes too, which is to say, pointing out that Tin was an adequate skeleton, An was a … [pause] … cat? [ pause] with, oh, scarry skulls! And finally [long pause] confused look… um… … She handed out candies by the time she was done with us, and we hastily retreated to save her from the pains of having to guess what my mask was supposed to represent. We didn’t let that deter us one bit, and we continued to hunt down the brightly lighted porches for another hour. That year yielded the biggest harvest. Years later and much more fluency in English language and American culture later, after we got more elaborate costumes and what not, we couldn’t match the pounds of candies the three of us collected that one night in 1991. Waiting for Dad to come home back then was so meaningful to us. Not just Tin and me, but An and Chau too.
I know my time stamp is wacked. actually I like it that way. It’s still Halloween over here, though the time stamp says otherwise.
picture: last saturday’s farmer’s market load. I ate all of those bitter melons, yum!