I hate carving pumpkins. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I hate the gushiness of the guts. I hate the way the guts stain your hands. I hate my inadequacy at drawing faces on the pumpkin and then carving them out. I hate it all.
So, now, two days before Halloween, my wife insists on me and my daughter carving a pumpkin, the same way we have done it every year since she was two. My wife, you see, insists on all these recurring rituals for our family, because she was largely deprived of that sort of thing in her family of origin (whenever I get around to writing that autobiographical novel, her family is going to be a gold mine). So, she buys a pumpkin, and she brings it home, all cheery and festive, and I go, “Please, God, take me now.”
The Lord forbears, though, so I have to spread out the newspaper sheets on the kitchen floor. I sit down on that floor, which is damned cold, take a very sharp knife, and cut open the top of the pumpkin, with an aperture big enough for me to get my hand through. There is something atavistic and primordial about this act, as if I am cutting open the skull of an animal, or, worse, some poor slob of a Neanderthal whose cave I just appropriated. We homo sapiens are a nasty lot, there’s no denying it.
Then I have to clean out the guts. I stick my hand into the stringy goo inside and scrape the nastiness out. This cramps my hand and hurts my shoulder; if my wife has bought a big pumpkin (usually) this part of the operation takes a long time. When I’m done there’s a pile of ugly, stringy pumpkin innards on the newspaper, like the intestines of a prey animal.
Then I call my daughter in. She used to help me with the whole operation, but that was when she was little. She’s fifteen now, and just comes in and pencils in the components of the face– eyes and mouth, no nose– and says, “Call me when it’s ready,” for all the world like Dale Chihuly to his workshop assistants, and goes back to her room, because she’s not two anymore, and by God she’s got better things to do with her evening. So I carve out the eyes and the mouth, risking life and limb (or at least fingers) in the process, because that damn knife is still sharp, until I am able to pull the pieces out.
Then I have to clean up. I throw the knives and the scraper in the sink and pick up the pumpkin guts in the newspaper to put in the food waste recycling bin. Except the guts have rotted the newspaper, so that halfway to the bin the guts break through the newspaper and splat on the kitchen floor. So I clean that up, as well, including the stain the guts have made on the linoleum.
Here’s our inadequate pumpkin–
At least the weary task is done, until next year. Three hundred sixty-five days and counting.
Oh, wait– Christmas is coming…oh, frak– that’s a whole other post….