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Halloween: As It Used to Be, Long Ago

When I was seven or eight years old, we lived in a working class neighborhood of Rockville Centre, Long Island.  It was all blue collar, the place my mother wanted to emerge from, to rise out of.  But for me as kid it was largely paradise. 

Sure, there were scary moments.  They weren't Halloween-y.  They had more to do with the older neighborhood boys who abused small girls for sport.  We had no words then for "abuse."  The damage they did has had lifetime repercussions for some kids I knew then.  

I was lucky.  No one messed with me.  The younger boys on the block were my pals and we played marbles, trains, softball together.

On Halloween, I was allowed to go Trick-or-Treating with my best friend Caren.  My neighborhood only--Caren's apartment was off limits.  Even then, we only knocked on doors within a three block radius, and mostly we approached houses we knew.

Rebecca's house next door to ours offered heaven for us candy-seekers.  Her mom dressed up as a witch (we didn't love that, it kind of freaked us out).  But Rebecca's mom made candy apples.  And they were memorable.  That was more than 50 years ago, and I can still see the red, and taste it.   O my goddess!   

We weren't afraid to take unwrapped candy from our neighbors.  We revelled in it, we rolled in it, we made ourselves sick and then we got over it.

A few years later someone put a razorblade in an apple--or at least, that was the rumor.  And childhood was over, in some ways.

For Rebecca, our neighbor, childhood had ended sooner.  Her father used to beat her.  He was not the only father on the block who punched his kid.   No one said anything.   We had hedges around our house; the Berlin wall was still up; we were not supposed to know.

That funky witch who was the mother--why didn't she know?  Or was she a punching bag, too?

We have made some progress.  These days the cops will come on domestic violence calls.  We have language for what oppresses us, and battered women's shelters.

My poetry class is reading Marie Howe's book, "What the Living Do" and Lucille Clifton's "Blessing the Boats."  Both authors were  hurt by their fathers; and the mothers did not protect.  

Literature bears witness and educates us.  Halloween holds scary creatures, but none so scary as those that live cloaked in righteousness as our next door neighbors.

Listen to the children.   They know what's going on. 

Comments
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Hi Marilyn,

Frightening. Very frightening.

What goes on just beneath the surface of society is often so scary that even people who are aware of the monsters in our midst will not be able to take it in, will turn a blind eye rather than get involved, or, if they are not that close, can often be supportive at first but when the problems persist, they practically turn on or ignore the victim as they don't know what else to do. Shocking.

Because of the harassment, intimidation and abuse that Gina and myself were subject to when we moved to our current home (the inspiration behind Gina's dark humour novel), we sought help and ended up supporting thousands of abused people. The real life horror that was shared was so shocking that most people close to the victims would not believe it, or want to believe it. Some even became complicit in the crimes. Horrifying.

Sorry if I have rambled on too long, Marilyn. The subject of pain that lies just beneath the surface of society brings this out of me sometimes.

Peace to you, as always dear Marilyn.

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I'm sorry to learn that you and Gina were persecuted.

Your compassion for others has been hard-won.   I hope all your neighbors will act like real humans from now on!

You rock! 

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Thank you , Marilyn.

We appreciate your wonderful and kind words but I hope you won't mind me saying, sympathy really isn't required for us. In a very, very funny way, the three years of hell they put us through eventually turned around as they became Gina's muses in ways that they just could never have imagined.

I do not wish to make light of other people's experiences though. Gina is unusual. She turned tragedy into comedy and has done so in a very effective way, however, she is an exception. Most people we have come across bear their scars in different ways and it is spirit lifting to know that writers such as Marie Howe and Lucille Clifton have been able to voice their experiences through their craft.

I love how you say "You rock". You are brilliant, you know? :) You rock.

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I"m curious about who "they" were--

What was the issue for the idiots?   

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Hi Marilyn,

They are bullies who have persecuted countless people and were used to getting their own way, by hook or by crook. When we moved here in 2003, we were just their latest fodder, their new victims and playthings.

They did not expect such an amiable quiet couple to put up any resistance and eventually start legal proceedings against them. The whole saga is very long. On the support forum we were part of, our story ran into the hundreds of posts spanning two and a half years, with around 10,000 people (according to the forum owners) reading it a month at one time.

As for their issues, there were and are countless issues hey have! If you want to hear Gina in a BBC interview about it, she describes a very small part of what happened to us to the interviewer. The link is http://www.ginacolliasuzuki.com/videos.html at the bottom of the page.

I feel like I've hijacked your blog! Sorry, very, very sorry. Thanks for asking though. :)

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I'm grateful to learn more about your story--

Thanks for the link to Gina's interview!

"Such an amiable quiet couple"--and yet you showed the strength and integrity to protest and to thrive-- 

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I am so glad that you liked the link

Apart from anything else, you have now heard Gina's voice. She was the strength behind us, all the time. I was so proud of her and am so very proud of her now. One of my all time favourite quotes from a film is actually from a French musical and is taken from the lyrics of a 1970s or 80s French pop song.

The quote is, "Resist, fight for the right to exist!"

Thank you for indulging me, your wonderful blog and your generous responses. :)

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She's a class act,

and so are you!  

Gina is a great artist, too--you married well, my friend! 

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i, too, . . .

. . . have now heard Gina's voice, Ryoma!  So lovely to get one step closer to the flesh-and-blood reality of you two.  : )  How far is Weston-super-Mare from Bath???  I have a "standing invitation" to read in Bath, if I can only find the time and funds to get there...  Wouldn't it be fabulous to meet up?!

Marilyn, thanks for your original post, by the way.  I look at today's trick-or-treating in the mall and I think how much less *something* it must be -- but then, they don't know any different.  And you're right to poke holes in the fuzzy nostalgia for the "good-old-days" of childhood, which were always *only* as "good"as one's parents did (or could) make them.

Peace.

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Always good to hear from you!

Wish we lived closer!

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Dear Evie and Marilyn

Please let us know if you ever come to Bath, or even the UK in general! We lived in Bath for nearly 5 years (Marilyn, you would love it too methinks!) and it is not far from where we live now. Gina's talks on Japanese art take place at the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath and one of her favourite bookshops is there too. Bath has the highest concentration of Grade 1 and 2 Listed Buildings in the world and is a National Heritage site. It's amazing.

Please let us know if either of you ever come here! 

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Thanks for your invitation!

I'll get to France this summer, not sure about UK--but it's lovely, lovely to have your invite!

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Thanks, Red Room!

I'm honored that you selected this blog to highlight on Red Room.

It is good to be read/Red!

A million thanks--Marilyn