October 26, 2011 2 Comments
It’s almost time for Halloween, boys and girls! It’s that very special time of year when we get to cast off the shackles of sartorial convention and embrace the thespian in us all. Or, as Sue Sylvester puts it, it’s “that day when boys dress like girls and girls dress like—” well, you get the picture. Add to this an abundance of pasties, puffs, candies, and chocolates, two healthy dollops of the macabre and the supernatural, and a wild saturnalia or six, and you have one of the most bizarre, hedonistic celebrations America can claim.
In other words, my favorite holiday.
I love the costumes. I love the candy. I shriek like a goosed parrot every time I go into a haunted house or hear a ghost story, but deep down I love the creeptacular too.
Sometime between birth and second grade, Halloween ceased to be a single day for me and gradually became its own season, one that did not truly start until my sister and I had picked and carved our pumpkins. For most children, carving pumpkins is a fun, straightforward event that begins in the pumpkin patch and ends with grinning (or leering) jack-o’-lanterns proudly displayed on porch steps. My sister and I, however, made a point to never do things simply if there was a more convoluted method to be had.
In my family, picking a pumpkin was not so much a selection process as it was a competition between sworn enemies to nab the perfect specimen of pumpkin-ness. My sister and I entered the pumpkin patch like drag racers armed with wheelbarrows. Bolting down the rows of squash and gourds, we set our sights on the orange prizes and piled our carts high. Trash talk—such as eight- and ten-year-olds could invent—was common.
“My pumpkin’s bigger than your pumpkin.”
“Well, my pumpkin’s prettier than your pumpkin.”
“That’s not a pumpkin.”
“Yes, it is.”
“It’s white. Pumpkins are orange.”
“It’s a ghost pumpkin, duh. And besides, you can’t even lift your pumpkin, so mine’s better, so there.“
Though bitter rivals in the field, once our chosen pumpkins were in hand (and loudly touted as the Best Pumpkins Ever), my sister and I always joined forces in order to plan the best way to lobotomize them.
Our parents never let us cut the tops off ourselves (hyperactive children + pointy objects = bad idea), but that didn’t stop me from laughing like a mad scientist when the lids were finally removed and the pumpkin brains exposed. Pointedly eschewing the spoons our parents had left out for us, my sister and I would fill our hands full of pumpkin innards and parade the goop around the kitchen, trying to smear the stuff on each other and bellowing “Guuuuuuuuuts!” like pumpkin zombies.
Eventually, we would remember why we had cut open the pumpkins in the first place and get down to carving them. In this I was always at a disadvantage, not for lack of skill (though that was admittedly scanty) but because, somehow or another, I always managed to pick the thickest pumpkin in the entire patch. (To this day, I have yet to pick a pumpkin that did not turn out to be denser than a steel bunker. I have come to believe that pumpkins, in general, must have some sort of gourdish vendetta against me.)
My kit of dinky kids’ carving knives were never a match for the thick shell, so I usually resorted to hacking away at the inside with a spoon while my sister tried to hide her smirk. She could smirk all she wanted. I had my perfect pumpkin, and now Halloween could begin.
Marit Hanson is the (other) new editorial intern at Fulcrum. Hailing from that bastion of snow and Scandinavians—Minnesota—she is a Wikipedia addict, chocoholic, and faithful advocate of all snark.
Make sure to check out Gloria Evangelista’s addition to the Halloween canon, In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin.
Better yet, enter Fulcrum’s In Search of the Perfect Pumpkin giveaway and win the book in time for Halloween!
And for some truly impressive pumpkin carvings/designs, check this out.