On a crisp Saturday I brought bright orange pumpkins to my grandchildren’s house to enjoy this autumn ritual. Elias, who is six years old, himself looked like a jack-o-lantern with his two front teeth missing. River, who is four, couldn’t wait to start carving with little tools that looked like mini-swords. And Aurora, who is nine months, found that her pumpkin was just the right size to pull herself up to stand – a feat she managed with a grin.
My son grew pumpkins in his garden, but like last year, they had to be rescued off the vine before freeze-up – even on a sunny windowsill, they didn’t turn orange until sometime in November. So by necessity, pumpkins for carving had to come courtesy of the grocery store this year.
We started by carving the top around the stem to make a lid and opening. Peering inside their pumpkins, the boys wrinkled their noses and said “Eeewww!”
These are boys whose parents rightly believe that dirt and sunshine are all necessary to become healthy, grounded human beings. The kids help Dad clean fish, peel carrots for Mom, and take out the trash. But to look inside a pumpkin was enough to make them both grimace with disgust. I laughed remembering how my son, two dozen years ago, used to gag as he pulled the seeds out of his pumpkin.
Elias steeled himself for the task and did an excellent job emptying his pumpkin of its contents. River enjoyed some help getting his gourd ready for carving. Aurora was relegated to the backpack so that her Dad’s two hands were free to prepare pumpkin seeds for roasting.
According to pumpkin-patch.com, every continent in the world except Antarctica grows pumpkins. The self-proclaimed pumpkin capitol of the world is Morton, Illinois, home of the Libby Corporation’s pumpkin industry. And the largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds; it used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12-dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.
It turns out the Irish brought the pumpkin carving tradition to America. The practice originated from carving turnips and placing embers inside to create a lantern. In the United States, the carved pumpkin was first associated with the harvest season, long before it became an emblem of Halloween
Brothers Elias and River are the whirlwind of the household – all motion, noise and joyous rumpus. But as they finished carving happy faces (no scary monsters please), the house grew oddly silent with their quiet concentration. The scent of roasting pumpkin seeds filled the house.
In the end, we lit candles to place inside their jack-o-lanterns and posed for photos. I had to laugh at the resemblance of the boys to their own grinning pumpkins. Next year, the gaps in Elias smile will have closed, River will be nearing kindergarten, and Aurora may well be talking. And these are the rituals of family that create the snapshots we hold dear as the years pass. One autumn after the next.
Happy Harvest to All.