The Jack-O-Lantern is My Favorite Metaphor

October 27, 2012 — This Halloween Blog has been around for two Halloweens, and for each one I wrote a piece about pumpkin carving (here and here). In this, our third season, I’m not sure I have anything else original to really say about it. However, I believe it’s the one part of Halloween that should always be there. Even if trick-or-treating gets Frankenstorm’d away, even if the Hallowcane knocks out your power and you can’t watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, if you carved a Jack-o-lantern this year, then you did Halloween.

Also, in looking over those previous two entries, it’s weird that in both years I took what is really not much more than an arts and crafts project and turned it into in a philosophical meditation on life and the state of humankind. I'm going to have to admit it. The Jack-o-lantern is my favorite metaphor.

I mean, we’re gouging a smiley face into a squash, which it is then forced to wear while it rots on a stoop and we party. The Jack-o-lantern has to literally grin and bear it. If pumpkins had of been indigenous to the Middle East then both the Bible and the Koran would have had a much easier time communicating the truths about the universe.

Lines like that make me stop and count how many drinks I’ve had.

Anyway, as I alluded to earlier, there's not too much to this story. We threw down some newspaper, gathered our sharpest utensils, and cut into some pumpkin flesh.

The biggest difference this year is that we carved three pumpkins. One for me, one for my wife, and one for our almost-three-year-old. She’s not old enough to wield cutlery (when her mom’s around), but she is old enough to design the face on her own pumpkin.

And, man, did she do a job. I’m not just saying that as a proud parent who is biologically predisposed to be so. I’m saying that as a guy who wants weird faces on his own Jack-Os but is barely able to think outside of the triangle. I went with X eyes this year.

Her pumpkin, the smallest of the three, looks like a face reflected in a funhouse mirror. Or maybe she has a really bad but as yet undiagnosed astigmatism and that’s really how she sees us. Either way, even though my wife cut the actual holes, she did it according to a pattern neither one of us could have achieved had we a Pumpkin Master kit designed by Salvador Dali himself.

I really should have had her draw the faces on all three pumpkins. Would have been a much more interesting post.

Meanwhile, our comfort movie that we watched while teaching my kid phrases like “pumpkin guts” and “flesh wound” was The Monster Squad.

Besides the great Stan Winston creature creations, most of the allure of this 1987 movie is that it’s complete wish fulfillment for every monster fan out there. That we one day learn that classic monsters are real and that some of them are cool enough to hang out with and others are so evil they must be fought with the passion of Peter Cushing.

The only thing I’d forgotten about the movie was the amount of PG-13 language, so not only did we teach our child how to carve a pumpkin this year, we taught her how to curse.

And that, in a pumpkin shell, is why I’ll never be a proud parent. If she turns out okay, it’ll be despite me. Or to spite me. That’s the plot of A Boy Named Sue, I think.

You didn’t see that allusion coming.

Make sure you torture some pumpkins this year.

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