Monday, October 29, 2012

"Now I Have A Jack-O-Lantern"

There should be more pumpkin carving in preschool. 

Like nearly everyone, my history with pumpkin carving goes back to childhood: it's one of those things most living Americans have always done during the month of October. Dad did the honors in our house, starting by angling a paring knife into the top, cutting a circle around the stem. The angle was important, he explained, because then the top wouldn't then fall into the cavity of the pumpkin. He always then cut a triangular chimney to "create a flow of air" to help the candle stay lit.

After we scooped out the pulp and seeds, using a big kitchen spoon to scrape down the sides, he would draw a face in pencil, then go to work carefully carving out the triangular eyes and toothy grins.

I think we forewent pumpkin carving during the years we lived in Greece, but otherwise I've pretty much always had at least one carved pumpkin around the house this time of year, even in college. 

When our daughter was born on Halloween eve, pumpkin carving took on a renewed importance. At my peak, I was carving upwards of 40 pumpkins each year in celebration of her birthday. They would decorate our lawn, our trees, our potted plants, lining our driveway, sitting atop the fence posts. Indoors, smaller ones lined our mantle and accented tables.

It took me working every evening for a week and by Halloween itself many of them were beginning to decay. I could knock one off every 10 minutes if I really got in a groove. There were battles with squirrels and crows, but that's where having hounds comes in handy. I would wait by the door with three different dogs, peering out the window until just the right moment, then release them to chase the invaders back into the trees. I tried sprinkling the jack-o-lanterns with cayenne pepper, but it didn't really stop anything, especially the crows who actually seemed to like it. I came to accept a certain amount of gnawing and rot as part of the "creepiness" of carved pumpkins.

Most of my carving now takes place at school and always in the company of the children. I tell them about the importance of angling your knife when cutting the top and, of course, explain why we always cut out triangular chimneys. I sit in the midst of the classroom, carving and chatting with the kids, then sing about it once we're done. "Now I have a jack-o-lantern, a jack-o-lantern, a jack-o-lantern with a bright shining face!"

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1 comment:

Jen said...

Addison carved another of his own pumpkins at home yesterday and was instructing me as went along "..and Tom said it is very important to have a smoke chimney. That is why I am making one right HERE. "