Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Punkin Guts

My wife and I this week wondered aloud how bored the first guy who carved a face into a squash must have been. And how this bizarro act could have possibly caught on with the masses without Pinterest. Then we each offered the Gods of Spare Time a burnt offering of a month's salary in exchange for that much time to come up with our own weird phenomenon...or to get laundry caught up...before realizing that there aren't any holidays left.

So next summer we'll petition the month of August to create a holiday that celebrates dry brown grass or oppressive humidity, and we'll carve Tic Tac Toe boards into cow patties and eat pale, tasteless watermelon cut into the shape of William Howard Taft, proclaim that this should become a "tradition" and BOOM! an August holiday is born. Stay glued to Pinterest to find out to see how that works out.

In the meantime, a different Halloween issue has crept into our consciousness...whose job is it to clean the orange stringy crap out of pumpkins? More than one correspondent reported that boys have pawned that duty off on their moms, insisting that the inside of a pumpkin is a place they'd rather not go. BOYS, mind you. The same kids who will eat heads off of worms, pack dirt into their open wounds, and poop in their brother's pillowcase. But cleaning out a pumpkin goes too far for today's BOYS. Boys will no longer be boys.

Seems like a lot of work...
And I agree with them. The inside of a pumpkin is a hellish place that is better off left to nature. If pumpkins were truly meant to be gutted, all anyone would do is cut the lid off, flip it over, and let the seeds and strings slide into the trash can. Or, for the truly sadistic, onto a newspaper (daddy, what's a newspaper?) so we can separate the seeds from the strings, then cook the seeds what with them, exactly?

But instead, the crap inside a pumpkin maybe trickles out but mostly just sticks fast to the side, grasping for dear life, forcing us to use perfectly fine eating utensils to hollow out a space for these faces, maps of the Baltic, or whatever we're carving in them for "fun." And it's always good to have a special utensil on hand that specializes in pumpkin-gutting. But if you live in this house, it will be lost before November. Or it will break in half at first contact.

This is where kids don't understand the impact of their actions. Several weeks ago, as we visited the pumpkin patch, picking our own pumpkins, contributing to the ever-burgeoning "let other people pay for the privilege of doing your job" industry (seriously, apple and pumpkin farmers have to be just laughing at us each fall), we go get the biggest, heaviest, fullest pumpkins we can find because Dad has never thrown out his back. When we announced the conception of our third child, the phrase we heard most often (ahead of "Congratulations!") was "zone defense." We survive most of the time, but this is one instance when we could have used a third, surrogate parent... either to carry the third pumpkin or the third kid or help us negotiate a twisted network of vines before our biceps ripped apart or our hernias arrived.

Unfortunately, at home one pumpkin never made jack-o'lantern status. An unseasonably warm October meant the garage was not the usual cool, dry place where we could house three pumpkins -- not to mention over 10,000 apples -- without some deterioration. One way to ensure a smooth exit of a pumpkin's insides to the outside is to wholly rot the thing out, then pick it up like an injured baby bird, only to have the guts predictably spill all over your dress pants, shoes, and, somehow, your car as you take the Lord's name in vain. And the whole garage smells like pumpkin stomach acid...which isn't latest flavor at Starbucks, though it could be. Luckily, we somehow managed to accumulate several "back up" pumpkins from who knows where, so our 2-year-old never noticed his prized squash died a very real, palpable death. Very palpable.

Now, faced with the daunting task of cleaning out these rotunda-sized plants, kids were regretting their decisions to pick huge pumpkins and were also regretting their choice in dads, since theirs ran to the sink 16 times during the process to clean this menacing, orange, flesh-eating gunk off his wrists. Luckily, their mother isn't as selectively OCD, and she helped finish the job, mostly because she wanted the process to end before midnight.

So, who in the family should go in there and get the guts out? The dad? The kids? The mom? What do we do with those seeds? Is pumpkin-carving still necessary to a successful Halloween? There are still many unanswered questions to this odd-but-still-not-as-odd-as-a-fictional-rabbit-hiding-decorative-eggs-that-house-candy holiday tradition. Does anyone have any answers? Or are we still going to do this because that's what we did last year? Cause next year we can just pick watermelons or something. Less mess, right?

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