I’m a dad. The joy of Halloween is not the candy, scaring people, or costume competitions. It’s the opportunity to spend time with my daughters customizing a big orange gourd and watching them delight in the national day of “dress up.”
After a day of meetings yesterday, I brought a 12 pound pumpkin through the door at 7:45pm. It was 15 minutes before bedtime, but I promised a jack-o-lantern and an evening of pumpkin carving. My girls began to bubble like warm Fresca.
As I pierced the pumpkin, I stabbed something like a circle around the pumpkin’s thick green stem. The girls craned their eyes around my hands as I was dissecting. Once we got it open, my oldest took a look inside and refused to put her hands in. No way. She was serious.
Not my youngest. I got out a large metal spoon and began to scrape the round interior. Orange strings of snot and pumpkin tendons fell away from the inner walls and to the bottom of the impending jack-o-lantern. On sheer principle, I played the mean-y and made my oldest touch the squishy strings and slimy seeds remaining inside. As she groused, my youngest threw her hands in again and grinned.
Mom, the school teacher, helped the girls draw the pumpkin’s face. At 5 and 7 years old, this itself required a strategic plan. “You can draw one eye, then your sister can draw the other. I’ll do the nose,” she mediated. Katy, true to form, unilaterally proclaimed another plan. Her plan. She’ll be the mouth-designer. Kenzlee’s face turned bitter. For mom, this was two strikes. No one on base. “OK. Kenzlee, you do both eyes and Katy can draw the mouth.” It was a change up. Home run. Kenzlee smiled. “Oh! And, I get to do the fangs,” Katy said. “You can do them thangs,” I said. I realized, again, my humor was degrading since becoming a dad. “No fangs!” she shouted like I was stupid. “I know what them thangs are,” I retorted.
She looked at me like I was her hopeless younger brother.
By the time I stabbed out the jack-o-lantern’s face with my dull on-sale kitchen utensils, we were over an hour passed bed time. In terms of mood, we were running on a Halloween high. It was also borrowed time. With all the exertion of watching, they were getting tired.
Wiggling the knife through the last couple of strokes, I was prematurely accosted. “We need a light! We need a candle! Daddy! Where are the tea-ites.” We sent mom on a mission. She found a few unopened.
Clearing off a space on the shelf of our plant stand, which faced the outside of our 5th floor apartment, we lit Jack. “Shouldn’t we face the pumpkin outside?” Mom asked as if that was the obvious intention. Our neighbors on the 3rd through 7th floors across the street could appreciate it. “But, I wanna see it!,” they jabbered. Their cry rang out, but out of sync. So, Jack faced in. For a moment, he was more popular than television.
“Light it, daddy!” they sounded. I sent a match in through Jack’s mouth hoping I wouldn’t gag him.
“Turn the lights off!” They scrambled. The girls ran like it was raining inside. We were at their mercy with a Halloween high and in the dark in less than 1.13 seconds.
A-glow, Jack was lit.
Admiring “their” work, they resigned themselves to bed.