It’s been a few years since we actually carved a pumpkin, so Katie may be excused for forgetting that this exciting family bonding type activity that she’s been feverishly anticipating for the past month also has its grubby, disgusting down side. (Actual quote: “Ewwww! I am not touching the pumpkin poo!”)
Last year, in deference to Caleb’s tender age and his tendency to rid his hands of any goopy, slimy substance by running them through his hair, we opted to decorate our pumpkins with markers instead of carving them in the traditional fashion. It was, I admit, much cleaner, but the end product lacked the “oooh” and “ahhhh” factor that a lit-from-within, gourd-turned-art project tends to embody.
So this year once again found us huddled together on the kitchen floor over a drop cloth of old wrapping paper, scooping the squishy guts out of a cavernous, decapitated pumpkin. The opening act went great; a few bold knife strokes and I was lifting the “lid” off the subject to the hearty applause of the offspring. A few minutes of delighted opening and closing followed, as each child repeatedly performed the trick of lining up the pumpkin puzzle so the stem would fit back on.
Unfortunately, when it was time to scrape and scoop, the delight vanished. Cries of “Grossssss!” and “Disgusting!” rent the air, and mutiny was declared. Determined not to deprive my little bugs of the vast satisfaction of overcoming hardship and obstacles to achieve a desired goal (and not being so crazy about “pumpkin poo,” myself), I put my foot down. Either help with the yucky part, I decreed, or the whole project would go into the trash, uncarved. That did it. Fifteen minutes of whining and moaning later (to say nothing of the kids’ objections), we had one firm, clean, hollowed-out gourd, standing ready to be imbued with personality.
A conference was convened. We discussed the relative merits of different shapes for the eyes, nose, and mouth, and, after a few rounds of sketches by Katie, settled on a jovial, sweet-faced design with a mouthful of snaggleteeth.
I set to work doing the actual carving–under close supervision by the conceptual artist, of course. We stopped a few times to consult the drawing and make adjustments. A slice here, an arc there, and suddenly our little orange guy was grinning boldly out at us. I didn’t even spill a drop of my blood, a feat unparalleled in my own personal pumpkin carving history.
The results were everything I’d hoped for. We placed a tiny candle in the bottom and I reached down inside to light it, which I did without burning myself (another personal first.) Then, we turned off all the lights and stood back to gaze upon our creation.
“Oooooh! Ahhhhh!” The golden light spilled out from the happy face and the pumpkin’s body glowed soft orange from within. Dozens of iterations of this same moment passed through my memory in an instant, calling to mind family Halloweens long past, with their roasted pumpkin seeds, bowls full of candy, and last minute costume creations (usually something made out of a paper bag or old crazy clothes from the boxes in the basement.) Even after the gloppy, stringy mess and the attempted coup, I knew that we had just created another warm family memory, one in what I hope will be a long string of such memories when the rugrats look back from the lofty heights of adulthood. I suppose that’s even worth putting up with a little pumpkin poo.
I’ve learned my lesson, though. Next year, I’m going to delegate.