Blaheheheargh! Did I spell that right? I don’t know, but you were scared weren’t you? Tis the season of ghosts and goblins, hauntings and yes, pumpkins. Not just pumpkins though. Big, spooky Jack-O-Lanterns.
Three weeks ago we ventured up into the mountains in search of turning leaves and ripe pumpkins. October or no, neither did we find! My family has made this same trek, this same time of year, for decades and never have we failed to see at least one crimson leaf or bright pumpkin. Not this year. The locals said we were too early for the leaves, but there was no mention of pumpkins. The leaves can be tricky to time just right, but the pumpkins, what’s going on with the pumpkins? Beats me.
Several years we have also gone to the local pumpkin farm. There we can pick the beauties fresh off the vine! Some are small, and some are huge. We always go for a big one. Running through the pumpkin patch we would each pick the perfect orb, and then decide between us which one really was perfect. Sometimes that perfection was measured by a gnarled stem. Or green mixed into the color scheme with the orange. Not perfect by breeders standards, but exactly what we were looking for.
When it was time to carve we’d set up a space in the kitchen. On the floor, or on the table. I would cut out the hat, or top, and then the fun began. We all loved to cry out, “eeeew!” and “yucky” and “blech” as we stuck our fingers into the meaty, seed filled inside. Lots of funny faces that would have been good on a Jack-O-Lantern.
What kind of face actually wound up being carved would be chosen by the children. They would draw what they wanted and I’d do my best to copy that onto a sphere. As they got a little older we got much fancier. We bought one of those kits to transfer designs onto the pumpkin. Things like moons and cats and witches. Very intricate sometimes. And not too easy to carve. Once they chose the design, the children couldn’t be of much help in the carving. Which sometimes took hours. And seemed like days. Well worth it in the end as the pumpkins always garnered rave reviews from the trick or treaters, and their parents.
Some years I’d take the kids out on their candy quest and others I’d stay home to greet the goblins visiting my door. When I went out, I always checked out everyone’s pumpkin. I’m competitive that way. Rarely did I find one better than the one gracing my own porch. We trekked through cold nights, rainy nights and hot nights. We walked, we rode in a car and we even got pulled along in a wagon. Costumes galore. Cats, cowgirls, dolls, M&Ms. Always fun. And always productive in the loot department. I usually sorted through everybody’s basket to pick a few choices nuggets of joy for myself.
This year, the girls are away at college. Wow. Where did all that time go? When we didn’t find a pumpkin in the mountains, we planned to go to the pumpkin farm. Somehow the time slipped away. My wife told me to go to the grocery store and just pick one off the floor. Some how that didn’t seem right. Indoors. On a concrete floor. Couldn’t do it. So I went to a local church that was having a pumpkin sale and picked one off the ground. At least it was on the real ground. Earth. Dirt. Trucked in, just like the ones at the grocery store, but these were outdoors, sitting on the ground. I let me self be fooled. Yes, I’m sentimental about some things. Including a pumpkin.
So, there it sits, hollowed out, with a scary face carved into it. Tomorrow night it goes onto the porch. Candle lit, it will shine like a beacon to treasure hunters: come here for a treat! My wife suggested we just keep the lights off, lock the door and ignore the whole thing. I just can’t do it. I’m a child at heart, and I enjoy the trappings of holidays. Including pumpkins transforming into Jack-O-Lanterns. Always will. And I hope my children have seen that, and will also carve pumpkins in their future.
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