Halloween weekend was a lot of fun for us. Nana arrived fairly late last Friday night from Georgia. Saturday, the family across the street invited us to their son’s birthday party. The spread of food was bountiful — our neighbors are Montagnards, part of an ethnic group from Vietnam,
and they prepared a feast for their friends and family. We were lucky to be invited, and even though we arrived only a couple of hours after we ate lunch, I couldn’t turn down the pho-like bowl of soup they prepared for me. While Jackie played with two other babies on the floor of their living room, Katie and I sampled items from the buffet in the kitchen.

One of the older men there explained that Montagnard/Degar people supported U.S. forces in the Vietnam war, and that outside of Vietnam, Raleigh has one of the largest Montagnard communities in the world. I don’t know much else about their culture, but they definitely have food figured out — rich meat flavors, aromatic ingredients added ad hoc to suit personal taste (cilantro, basil, lime), and plenty of heat from raw or semi-cooked peppers. Our sinuses cleared, we crossed the street to get ready for some sugar-free trick-or-treating.

Quick background: Just after Katie and I moved into our current house last summer, I discovered that a friendly neighbor down the street was actually my second cousin once removed. He informed me that another mutual cousin lives on our street, between our house and his. So, I have a second cousin once removed and a third cousin (neither of whom had I met before) who live within one city block of me on the same street.

Early Halloween evening we met up with the Blairs (my third cousin, her husband, and their son, who is about the same age as Jackie), and hauled the little ones (a monkey and a spider) down to Fallon Park for the neighborhood Halloween Parade & Potluck. We got there just in time to see some interesting costumes, and even a few families that showed costume solidarity — dad, mom, and kids had coordinated outfits. And, some of these kids looked like they were in middle school. I’m pretty sure I was enough of a brat as a teenager that I would have sneered/jeered at anyone who suggested that my family dress up with a unified Halloween theme.

We left the park and headed back to our street, where we stopped by neighbors’ houses to show off the babies and turn down candy offers. Of course, Katie and I weren’t counting on 75 degrees and sun when we ordered Jackie’s monkey suit, so she seemed relieved when we finished our tour up and down our street.