October 29, 2020: Five Little Pumpkins

Halloween Die-ary #20

I’ve talked for years about how holy the act of pumpkin carving is. How it’s the embodiment of and the ultimate metaphor for the season, how it’s more the climax of Halloween than trick-or-treating will ever be.

But at my house, pumpkin-carving is threatening to get pretty chaotic.

There are five of us in my family. That’s five pumpkins, five sharp knives scalping those pumpkins, five sets of guts that need to be disemboweled, five designs that need to be settled on, five high-precision acts of carving that if they’re messed up will result in tears. And all that’s not counting the dog who wanders around dropping her body on knife blades at random and eating anything that falls on the floor no matter how slimy and bright orange and disgusting.

To avoid all that chaos, we had the brilliant idea this year of doing the carving in shifts. Shift One would be Lindsey and I helping the three girls with their pumpkins, and then Shift Two would be us adults carving our own—with booze—on some other night after the girls have gone to bed.

For Shift One, we did it outside by the firepit. It was amazing. One of the best pumpkin carving rites we’ve performed. We dressed warmly, I built a fire in the pit, and we all sat down on the leaf-strewn lawn. And, it turns out, we might not have needed to do it in shifts.

First, our eleven-year-old needed no help, other than some encouragement. She’s in the phase where she thinks she has to design and carve the perfect Jack-o-lantern or Halloween is ruined. That lasted until age 35 for me.


Our six-year-old drew strange designs on the pumpkins that were impossible to carve until she finally decided just to poke the hollow sphere full of holes, which she did with one of those Pumpkin Masters tools. Later, I went over her stab wounds with a drill. It ended up being a pretty cool effect.

Our two-year-old was utterly mortified by the crimes we were committing against those pumpkins and utterly disgusted by pumpkin guts. She wouldn’t let us go near hers with anything sharp. Instead, she scribbled on it with marker and stuck tiny plastic eyes all over it and stared at what her sisters were doing with their pumpkins with morbid fascination.

So Shift One was manageable. Still, Lindsey and I put off our own pumpkin carving and enjoyed a chill afternoon around the fire while gutting our kids’ gourds.

A few days later, Lindsey and I took the kids to bed, put Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow on the television, and gave our own Jack-o-lanterns life. Lindsey’s design, as always, won. Although she used up all of my martini olive skewers. I went for the scariest face I could think of. Someone sneezing. A COVID-lantern.

Afterward, we watched a couple episodes of The X-Files and now I have to try to sleep knowing that the weather reports are saying definite snow tomorrow. I can’t wait. And don’t think this is some “stores are putting out Christmas decorations already” kind of thing. The only thing I like interrupting a Halloween Season is snow. Because white-covered Halloween decorations make it seem all Nightmare Before Christmas out there. And because I follow the weather, not the calendar. And because I take my magic in any form, whether it’s hollowed-out orange fruit harboring fire or whiteness from the sky hiding the ugliness of the world.