Monday, October 26, 2009

The Big Orange Circle of Life

Late October finds us once again preparing for that pagan holiday: Halloween.
Over 20 years ago I carved one small pumpkin for my first baby. Later, two pumpkins were carved for excited toddlers; me wielding the knife and they raking out the seeds and pulp with tiny fingers. Much mess and delighted laughter.
Later still; they grew to be able to draw the faces, hold the knives, and scoop out most of the muck. Invariable I cleaned up - at first because they couldn't do a good job, and later just to finish off their hurried efforts. Odd strings of orange slime pasted to counter-top edges and transferred from shirtsleeves to chair backs.
The tween years arrived. The costumes evolved from cute to macabre, fuzzy to gory. Interest in pumpkins waned slightly, and we no longer got them at the pumpkin patch, or grew our own, but grabbed them at the store during harried candy runs between work and home. Frenetic carving by Mom, candy flung into a bowl, and arguments about why they couldn't go trick-or-treating on their own this year even though "everyone else is allowed to!" Dad arriving home from work and being spun around at the front door and pushed back out to trail after impatient dead cheerleaders and chainsaw-massacre victims.
Older teens. Too old to look like they care about costumes, but too young to miss out on a pillowcase full of candy. Token make-up smeared on faces, and coat-less slouching out of the house to meet friends and knock on a few doors. Dad finally allowed to come home from work and stay home, only to be dragged outside to see 13 pumpkins carved by MOM. (I had to do something with my obsolete enthusiasm).
Mom and dad watching Halloween night TV with firecracker-traumatized cats scuttling about the house, all of us waiting for the kids to come home. Circumspect inspection of piles of candy dumped on the family room floor for sorting and trading. "That one looks like it's been tampered with - throw it out!". Rolled eyes and reluctant compliance. Pumpkin candles sizzled out by raindrops or burned down and flickering out on their own.
Finally, last year, I didn't carve any pumpkins. Didn't buy any. No roasted pumpkin seeds, no stringy muck. Lit a few candles in plastic pumpkins and placed them haphazardly in the driveway. Gave out candy to a new crop of kids I didn't know. One of my kids living elsewhere, the other one out at a party. Crappy Halloween - I felt empty.
This year - Hoo boy! My son and his girlfriend, blossoming young adults, decided to do it all. Drove to the store, bought the pumpkins with their own money (I don't care about the money, but it's a sign), scooped, carved, and cleaned up on their own!
They even bought a pumpkin for ME to carve.

Holy Cow. Talk about your circle of life whapping you in the face with delightful orange muck!

You cannot know the joy I felt, buzzing around the kitchen, roasting seeds, making pumpkin muffins, and watching "The Shining" (channel 53's fear fest playing discreetly in the background). I don't know whose smile was more manically gleeful - mine or Jack Nicholson's!

Sure, things have changed. The pumpkin have evolved from triangle-eyed innocents to cult movie characters (recognize Frank the Rabbit from Donnie Darko?). The kids are now definitely too old to go out trick-or-treating (and I will definitely not be able to sneak any candy from their spoils of war). Instead of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", we'll watch "The Simpson's Halloween Special". The cats are either too old or too deaf to flinch at the firecrackers, and Dave and I will go to bed before the remaining kid arrives home for the evening.

But, the Great Pumpkin has risen again, at least at our house, and the Big Orange Circle of Life continues.


Deborah said...

Oh Kath, that's a poignant post - a happy ending but the evolution of that circle of life is a hard one to accept.
I'm so glad Tris and Ava did that, giving you the best Treat you could have had for Hallowe'en. I don't think I'll do anything this year, Scrooge that I am. And no Anne at home to carve the pumpkin, which I'm hopeless at. Oh well.

Jacqueline Korteland Boller said...

Sigh...tried to get my boys over to the pumpkin patch over last weekend when Peter was home, and no one was interested...oh, well...if the wind dies down tomorrow, I'll put out my plastic pumpkins and some lights.

Christine said...

Plus ca change?
When we were kids pumpkins were an exotic vegetable so we used to make our lanterns out of swedes (the root vegetables, not the scandinavian people).
Ah well, guess I'd better go out and get a couple of pumpkins...