Pumpkin Payoff

Can we talk for a moment about carving jack-o-lanterns? I was a kid not too long ago. I remember being the last one still sort of forcing my parents to carve a jack-o-lantern. They never acted like it was force, but now that I’m a grown up and know how obnoxious the process is, I feel a little guilty. I’m 4+ years younger than my next oldest brother. I wonder if sometimes they just wished I’d grown on out of those childhood things a little faster. I wonder if they wanted me to find out about Santa earlier, or stop trick-or-treating sooner. You’ve got to think after lots of years of parenting other children through those little kid moments that maybe they were a little tired of it. Or maybe the magic of parenthood was enough to make carving pumpkins a little more bearable.

I haven’t carved very many pumpkins since becoming old enough to use a giant knife on a gourd’s flesh without parental supervision. Maybe a couple in college, maybe one since then.

Can I be really honest with you?

It’s HARD. I mean, physically, it’s not easy to stab a knife into a pumpkin and drag it just right along the lines.
Then I see these people carving intricate designs of animals, and logos, and television characters into their pumpkins and I’m over here like “I can’t get these teeth to look straight.”

I’ve never come out of a pumpkin carving session with one that looked like it didn’t have some sort of mild facial deformity. That is the truth.

How did this become a tradition anyway? I know I can google that answer, and I probably will after this, but right now I need this moment just to ask the universe “how?” with dignified annoyance. I don’t need an answer just yet.

It took me longer than most kids to figure out Santa Claus, I like to believe it was willful ignorance and hard work of older siblings who didn’t want to ruin it.

It took me longer than most kids to grow out of a lot of things — cartoons, playing in the snow (still not there yet), sleeping in the same room as my brothers every Christmas Eve. But I was well into high school before I stopped wanting to take the drive out to a patch, pick out a pumpkin, and bring it home to carve out its guts… and my parents never stopped playing along.

I guess I can’t prove they didn’t enjoy it. I can’t prove they also thought it was tough to carve a good face out of the tough flesh. I bet the smiles on your kids’ faces helps make the challenge a little more fun. I may even enjoy scooping out the guts one day when I have my own children who are grossed out and fascinated by it. I’m sure there is some sort of payoff to the mess the whole process makes. There has to be, right?

It’s just, I’m not there yet… and I can’t help but think if there was really any retribution for the challenges of parenthood, right now my parents would be at my doorstep holding up my blank-faced pumpkin, hastily handing me the semi-dull kitchen knife and the big spoon for scooping.


  1. Nancy LaFleur says:

    It’s the seeds, baked to a light golden brown and heavily salted, that’s the payoff!


    1. elizabethws says:

      ha! i love this answer! the seeds are delicious.


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