At the eleventh hour, I've realised that I cannot be bothered with Hallowe'en.
I am sitting next to a truly beautiful specimen of pumpkin, grown by us, from seed. We had two beauties from a virgin gardening project and have already roasted and frozen the contents of one, ready for a future soup or pie. I've googled "how to carve a pumpkin" and quizzed more experienced parents whose neighbourhoods all 'do' Hallowe'en. I imagined that I'd rather enjoy the artistic challenge and have been dreaming up novel ideas to impress my family and local community. I came pretty close to lugging a hand-carved home-grown orange gourd to an outdoor playgroup in the woods. I didn't. After all, no one likes a show off.
However, I should admit that I have already paid one small homage to Hallowe'en this year (aside from the sleep-deprived zombie look I've been sporting since the dawn of motherhood). In preparation for the playgroup, I did plan a Hallowe'en special and read the excellent 'Room on the Broom' by HRH of children's literature, Julia Donaldson. I may have dressed up as witch (wearing a choice selection of regular clothes from my wardrobe; the woollen black cape fashion of my cycling in Shoreditch days c.2010 has finally paid off, complete with a second-hand witch's hat). I may have even dressed my two boys as a wild cat and pumpkin; I promise you that my husband was already wearing his lion costume anyway, which hadn't seen the light of day since his Night of the Walking Dead style stag do (but of course, I don't know anything about that night).
Maybe I peaked too early. Three days on and I have no desire to hack away at the Autumnal swollen fruit beside me.
As a child, Hallowe'en was never a thing. We never went trick or treating, but I do remember my brother's Hallowe'en-themed birthday cake with such fondness: the orange fondant haunted house with liquorice spiders and white-iced ghosts. As a teenager, I avoided the hassle of Hallowe'en, along with my parents who shut all the curtains and retired to a back room. If the door bell sounded, it was ignored. There was the odd trick in payment for a trick or treater's indignation, a toppled bin, or silly spray, but nothing to scare us into submission. During my university days, we took any excuse to pile into a student bar with black leotards and home-made cat ears, minimal layers and face paint. A tail to swing around the dance floor was an opportunity not to be missed. And then as a twenty-something living in East London, the night was taken over by the roaming rat-arsed undead. Fake blood, severed heads and fiendish ghouls. I remember my American friend's (dressed up as Betty from MadMen) reaction to how the gory-locks Londoners do Hallowe'en. And then there was that expat party in Kenya, a pool party with gin-fuelled decomposing Brits whose pumpkin flesh was smeared with sweaty fake blood and melting makeup.
But now I'm a mother to two little boys who are too young to complain if we don't mark the night appropriately, this unhallowed night before All Saints Day. "It's a celebration of the night-time," I try to explain to my three year old. We see the costumed kids over the weekend, preschoolers as zombies with fake blood. It's not even funny. I find it all rather sinister and realise that I'm trying to shield my children's eyes. Where's the cute black cats, bats and witches' hats?
Maybe I just need to embrace it, in all its blood and guts glory. Maybe I should take our eldest trick or treating while I cringe in the shadows, hoping the neighbours 'aren't in'. Or maybe we should just light up the house with glowing veg, prop open the door and see it through, treats and a sense of humour in hand.
Or better still, I could just put my feet up, close the curtains and let the world do its thing. Let our pumpkin live another day. Because, quite soon, my children may have their own spooky agenda for Hallowe'en.