Thursday, 13 October 2011

all hallowed out

Call me old-fashioned (come on, I know you want to) but are the unhappy souls of the dead roaming the earth searching for peace the stuff of parties, dress-up and sweeties for the under 4s? Really?

Last year I managed to body swerve Hallowe’en, steering Snookie away from the hollow-eyed ghoul masks and chocolate coffins, lest he ask, as he surely would, “what’s that mummy?”

How do other mothers explain it all to their offspring? “Well you see the nice pointy hat you are wearing? You would have been burned alive without a fair trial if you had done that a few years ago.”

I know I know. I am taking it all a bit too seriously. Just a bit o’ fun, you say. If you have read my previous posts (true stories) you will know about my issues with Santa too. Maybe I am just a mean old killjoy.

But when you grew up where I did with Pendle on the doorstep and you have had enough crossings over in the family to warrant a tab with Charon, you tend to have a fairly healthy respect for the dead … not to mention independent women with a penchant for potions and black cats.

I just don’t like it. Explaining spirits to Snooks, good or evil, is not a task I treat lightly, and the transformation of the religious feasts of All Saints and All Souls into a national fancy dress party strikes me as, well, downright disrespectful.

We have had to touch on the subject once or twice to explain the whereabouts of his grandparents, the absence of whom his increasing socialisation has brought to his attention.

In lady, I described his first encounter with my mother - or a picture of her in my locket – an encounter which ended with me explaining that she was now in ‘heaven’, a concept Snooks seemed to grasp with little trouble.

Or so I thought until one morning, many months later, as he and I were passing the local prison, a prominent blot on our landscape as it sits along a regular route we take between our old home and our new one, I thought it was time to explain its purpose.

“Do you know what that is?” I asked him as he gazed over the wall at the vast imposing building. “It is a prison. It is where people go when they have been very naughty.”

He nodded soberly, adding with suitable gravitas, “and mummies go when they get old.”

My mind swirled around trying to find the source of this astonishing assertion. Heaven/prison. An easy rookie mistake.

“No, no darling that’s not it. That is heaven - quite a different place…” I gabbled along trying desperately to stretch the two places as far apart in his understanding as it is possible to be.

I decided bigging up heaven was the way forward, but had to take care not to oversell the place, also home to both his grandfathers, to the point where he wanted to visit.

I thought we were out of the woods until just before he started at the nursery he now attends for three hours every day, where unfortunately, due to its high pedigree, one’s personal heritage is likely to be explored and judged by both children and parents alike.

He and I were sitting at the lunch table discussing love. I was answering his question about whom I loved, and had reached “… my mummy and my daddy” when he helpfully interjected, head tilted just enough to show the appropriate degree of sombre sympathy, “… and they are in prison.”

Snooks’ language has been a source of much comment in his short life – the early age at which he spoke his first word(‘books’), his perfect polite grammar, his appropriate use of the conditional mood which has been one of his great party pieces to date and now his delightful ability to rhyme and joke with words thanks largely to Dr Seuss.

But no amount of coaching seems to be able to prevent this one superb malapropism from causing our social downfall.

Oh well, at least we won’t get invited to any Hallowe’en parties.

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