At ground level

A column about LIFE

Carving pumpkins, cherishing the moment

Pumpkins. Halloween. What is it about Halloween that signals the festive fall air? The rustle of falling leaves, the crisp, cold night, and then, of course, there’s the strong odor of pumpkin guts coming from my dining room table.

Coming from a country that did not observe Halloween, carving my first pumpkin was a new experience for me – slicing the top of the pumpkin, digging out its guts, shaping a face on it, and then placing a candle inside, so its flame would glow all through the night. Since then, for 26 years, I have carved many a happy-faced pumpkin, toothless ones, slit-eyed, three-eyed, jagged toothed, and “scary” looking pumpkins. It can be a chore and a mess, so when the time came, I would happily hand over the paring knife to each child, so they could carve their own pumpkin with minimal help from me.

Despite the mess, carving pumpkins has become a tradition in our household. Over the weekend, my 15-year-old and I tackled the task. I chose something new this year – a knucklehead pumpkin. You know, one of those creepy, freaky heavily-warted pumpkins we’ve been seeing in the stores this year. The pumpkin proved to be a real knucklehead! It had such a hard shell, I couldn’t even pierce its skin. Rather than running off to the store to buy a “saw blade” pumpkin carving tool, we decided to be a little more creative with my knucklehead …

My daughter was quite adept at carving her pumpkin this year. She didn’t even need me hovering around her, worrying she would cut herself with the knife.

“No, Mom, I don’t need your help. If mess up, then I will,” she smiled.

With ease, she sketched her pattern, slit the top, sliced out the eyes, the nose, the mouth, scraped the inside of the pumpkin, dug out the guts, and produced a grinning pumpkin that looked like Mickey Mouse!

Grinning Mickey Mouse pumpkin with the "knucklehead"

Every Halloween, I would walk the neighborhood with each child dressed as a cat, a Ninja Turtle, Lucy, Barbie, a pirate, a monster, a witch, a football player, a fairy, a princess, a vampire, a beggar, a rock star, a ballerina, a lady bug, Little Red Riding Hood. We would make a mad dash around the neighborhood at the stroke of 6 p.m., so we could be back in time to still greet kids and hand out candy at our home.

There is a strange tradition in Iowa that is not practiced by kids in California. The Iowa custom is, in addition to yelling “trick or treat,” each child would have to tell a joke. How jokes came to be part of Iowa’s Halloween tradition always baffled me. There were times when my kids would be more concerned about their jokes than their costume. “What do cows do on Saturday night? … They go to the moooooovies!” is a favorite of mine, along with “Why did the coach go to the bank? To get his quarterback!”

I don’t have to worry about thinking of a joke for my child anymore; nor do I hear them during Halloween. In fact, I no longer walk up and down the neighborhood holding my child’s hand. This year, Snow White will be trick or treating with friends, just as she did last year. I knew this time would come …

I know the day also will come when I will no longer be carving pumpkins. It’s why this year, more than last year, I was more enthusiastic about carving pumpkins. I even took greater pride in decorating my goofy knucklehead, and cherished the moment.

October 25, 2010 - Posted by | California, Children, Iowa, Parenting

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