The first of the month is always a new beginning of sorts – a way we can start something fresh with renewed energy, sort of like a Monday. Inspired by my good friend Nicole who has a great blog, I’ve decided to try to write a post a day for the next thirty days. I haven’t felt much motivation to write lately, yet I feel that good things await in November. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to get back some of my writing mojo back.
First on my list of good things to come in November is cooler weather. At least, that is my hope. We have had pockets of cool air here and there; in fact, I have turned off the air conditioner twice now (only to turn it back in within a few hours, but that is neither here nor here). I am trying not to take today’s weather as an indication of what lies ahead, because it is a sauna out there: a heat index of 91 degrees with 82% humidity. The air was so dense this morning that I could barely make out the palm trees that line the narrow Matamoros streets. Last night wasn’t much better.
I had never before experienced such a hot and humid Halloween. One of my fondest memories of Halloween as a child is crunching through colorful, fallen leaves as we made our way through the crisp evening air, walking door to door in our costumes. No such luck last night.
Our Spanish teacher, Mr. M., had invited us to celebrate Halloween with him and his family in Harlingen, a smallish south Texas town about thirty minutes north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Mr. M. teaches English here in Matamoros, but he also has a contract with the U.S. Consulate to give Spanish lessons for the American officers and their families. He told us that Halloween in his neighborhood is similar to the way it used to be thirty years ago: throngs of kids, neighborhood decorations fit for a magazine, and participation from nearly every house. Feeling somewhat homesick for our families and fall in general at this time of year, we happily accepted.
I should insert here that Halloween is celebrated to some degree by Mexicans here on the border. We had an informal celebration at school, with the students and teachers dressed in costume and plenty of sugar to go around. Many of my students had plans to go trick-or-treating on both sides of the border, while others had parties to attend. The mood at school was festive overall. The U.S. Consulate also hosted a Halloween party for local families. Children had the opportunity to feast on pizza and trick-or-treat within the Consulate.
We arrived at Mr. M.’s house, a beautiful ranch-style home adjacent to a golf course, at dusk. The street was packed with families and children of all ages – most dressed in costume, but as was also the case when I was young, wearing a wig or smearing paint on one’s face seemed to qualify as a costume for the older kids. We had a blast watching the trick-or-treaters come up the driveway to collect their candy from Mr. M.’s wife, L. Even though we had arrived about two hours after the trick-or-treating had commenced, L. had to refill her candy basket at least three times while we were there. She estimated that they would receive well over four hundred kids.
After a while of greeting the Halloween-goers, we took a walk down the street with Mr. M. and one of his Mexican students from Matamoros, A., who had made the trip over the border to Harlingen with her son. A.’s son, about eleven, had never experienced Halloween before. We prepped him with a brief lesson on how to pronounce “trick or treat” and off we went to join the masses in search of candy. We passed many beautifully decorated homes, one of which included an elaborate haunted house leading from the curb all the way up the driveway to the front door.
Following our walk, we returned to Mr. M.’s home for dinner and conversation. His other guests included family members and other students, some of whom had just moved to Harlingen from the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. I had my longest-ever conversation in Spanish as we ate, drank, and exchanged stories.
We left feeling oddly content. In spite of the stifling ninety degree heat, it felt like Halloween to me, and that made me just a little less homesick.
Thank you for reading!