It’s that time of year when there are various effigies all over the place to scare, to celebrate, to let the adult kid out to play. I remember when a pumpkin face was as far as we’d go, an evening set aside with Dad for opening, scooping, discussing various faces. Dad did all the cutting, the knife being sharp, the gourd being tough, and Mom wanting us to end the evening with all fingers intact. I always asked for a happy face, big smile, a few teeth, but the boys and Dad invented some pretty wild and ferocious-looking creatures.
We got the pumpkins from Gram and Gramp who were generous with the orange fruit. We always used candles saved especially for the season – short stubs that would not fall over and not reach up and fry the top. Dad cut little hollows as additional candle support and we never carried lighted jack-o-lanterns around. That was a folly so heinous we never even discussed it, and I have never yet figured out why magazines always carried nervous articles on never letting your child get her costume near an open flame.
One year I noticed a figure slumped in an Adirondack chair bearing a pumpkin head. I thought it was cool and thought about making one. I soon realized that we didn’t have any old clothes (well, we did, but we were wearing them) and stuffing it with a million leaves would take a while. A couple years later there were larger numbers of them around and I lost interest, since I abhorred the idea of being part of a trend. Anyway I was still wearing my old clothes.
By the time I was raising kids there had been some changes in traditions. For one thing there were little saw-toothed tools which made it safe for children to saw out features on their own, if they had patience. These often com packaged with a sturdy little scoop which somewhat cuts down on the “EEW” factor of scraping out the strings and seeds. Adults still helped with the tough parts –like cutting the top so it wouldn’t fall into the flame below. Now, in another generation, my granddaughter paints her pumpkins, usually with purple glittery paint. This year a friend gave her a pumpkin with her name scratched on it during the growing season, so there is no mistaking that it is HER pumpkin, not Taige’s nor Jack’s. That and the purple paint make her happy, and we enjoy it as a centerpiece for a long time.
The someone came up with the bright idea of making orange leaf bags with jack-o-lantern faces. We had those for several years and they at least encouraged the whole family in raking leaves. As a family sport, raking leaves was always on the boring end of the spectrum, but racing to see whose pumpkin would get filled first kind of jazzed things up. The huge pumpkins kind of overshadowed real ones, at least until giant pumpkin contests arose.
The years go by and Halloween keeps coming, each year with more and more factory created items. I have a mental picture of poor people on assembly lines somewhere, making less money than they need to get by, wondering about the obviously rich Americans who buy turquoise pumpkins, garish skeletons, and spidery dishes. Who revel in plastic tiaras, weird make up, and lone skeletal hands. Plastic gravestones and glowing electrically lit eyes must elicit some gossip about the strange customs of a strange people.
Well, so be it. Have some fun along the way, but try not to fill the oceans with plastic bones and colored lights, okay? We don’t want these things to come back and haunt us.