Halloween Memories

I didn’t intend to blog in English about Halloween. And certainly not with an almost exact translation of my French post about Halloween. I swear my blogs in French and English are different. But a small event happened to me this morning and since I like stories and people a lot, I thought you might like it too.

My first year in the States guided me through the American calendar, very different from the French, which is essentially built around Catholic fêtes. But it is only the following year when my daughter started preschool that I truly discovered the American traditions. Through her own discovery, each one was much more memorable. One by one, they replaced the French celebrations, and I got rid of my French calendar.

My daughter started preschool at two and a half years old. It was hard, but her dad and I believed that it was the best way for her to learn English without catching her parents’ accent. For the record: it has worked beyond expectation; she has caught an American accent when she speaks French. For her first Halloween, her preschool teacher sent a note home, asking parents to dress the children for a morning parade through the neighborhood.

“I want to be a cat,” my little girl decided.

I purchased a set of ears, paws and tail at JC Penney, and she slipped on her black leggings and sweatshirt.

“You’re an adorable cat,” I said. “Now, you only need a mustache.”

“Cats don’t have a mustache,” my daughter said. “They have whiskers.”

“Oh,” I said. “In French, we say moustache for mustache and whiskers.” With black eyeliner I drew whiskers on each side of my daughter’s mouth.

The children were all cute on Halloween day. Of course, I found mine the most adorable and told her so after we had paraded through the neighborhood.

“That’s because of my moustache. It was a really pretty moustache,” she said, in an equal mix of French and English.


Three more children and six moves on both coasts of the country have followed this first Halloween. None has been similar. We’ve had Halloween in California and in Massachusetts, in our different neighborhoods, in the kids’ friends’ neighborhoods, and in the Sierra where the traditional trick or treat is replaced by trunk or treat: candies are offered from the trunk of cars decorated like houses and gathered on a commercial plaza, only because climbing the hills to get to your neighbors would be a true marathon. Costumes have changed depending of the kids’ ages and the trend of the year. As for me, the surprise to discover a tradition that was absolutely not celebrated in France in 1991 has of course diminished.

But this morning before going to the library where I like to write, I stopped by Starbucks to get a cup of coffee. While I waited behind two customers, I got my money and when my turn came, I was mute.

“How can I help you?” The young woman behind the cash register had used a black crayon to draw a set of cat’s whiskers on her face.

“A black coffee with no room for cream, please,” I said.

But because I couldn’t take my eyes off her face I had to tell her that her makeup had brought instant memories to my mind. And I told her about my first American Halloween.

She smiled, one hand on her heart.

“I love this story,” she said. “Happy Halloween to you.”

“Happy Halloween to you, too,” I said.


The American Halloween is debated more than ever this year. Some want to banish it. Some want to give veggies instead of candies. Or toothbrushes. Some want to boycott frightening costumes.

I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween. The French gave it a try. Not sure it’s the same at all. So I don’t really feel like having an opinion on a tradition that wasn’t part of my childhood.

For me Halloweenphoto-10 remains very American, and once a year I like to be reminded of the surprise and enchantment that filled me when I discovered the American traditions.

My first Halloween included.










  1. […] Octobre a été mon premier Halloween. […]

  2. […] de souvenirs que je vous livre pour une fois en anglais et en […]

%d bloggers like this: