31 October 2005

Memory Lane Monday

My very favorite part of Halloween has always been the jack o'lanterns. I love them. I loved helping my dad pick out the pumpkins when I was little. He always carved. Always. There was quite a ceremony involved. First we had to help design. There wasn't much to that back in those days. You know ... two triangle eyes, a triangle nose and mouth with some teeth. The design elements were in the placement of the teeth and deciding on squares or triangles for teeth. That was kind of ... it. Then out came the knives and the sharpener. First we had to sing while he sharpened, "shirah ... shirah ... smoked meat for dinner." Don't ask ... that's just what you sing when you sharpen a knife in my house (when I was growing up anyway). Then that first stab, deep into the meat, top down, making sure to cut out a little triangle so you always know how to put the top back on. Very careful and methodical. Then the eyes. Then the nose. And finally the mouth. We all (my two brothers and I) sat in a semi-circle in chairs, while my dad kneeled on the floor of the kitchen to do this. I suspect this was to keep us out of harm's way. And he would talk to us and laugh and peer at us over his glasses, with one eyebrow up.

Then when they were all three done, Mom would produce the candles. I still can't get candles to stand up in a pumpkin the way my mom could. She had the touch. We tested them in the kitchen, got the candles just so. Then all three marched our pumpkins out to the front porch and found our positions. And ... the grand lighting. And stand back and look. Who has bigger grins? Children or pumpkins?

It was quite a rite of passage, albeit unspoken, when we were finally old enough, responsible enough, strong enough to carve our own pumpkins. To not sit in the ring anymore. Old enough to join my dad on the floor with the knives. What joy to take that first stab myself and feel the bite of the knife into pumpkin flesh. Ahhh ... and make the design elements my own. To finally understand why it can't have a curvy mouth, but maybe I can make it? Maybe I can.

For years I looked forward to the day when my children would sit in a ring while I carved the pumpkins. And today for the first time ... we did. They helped me decide what kind of eyes and nose and yes, a curvy mouth (because ... I can!). They sat with me while I took that first bite with the knife and carved the special little triangle in the top. While I carved out first eyes, then nose, then curvy mouth.

Now ... who has bigger grins? Children or pumpkins? Or Mom?


Blogger Liz said...

You gave me a pretty big grin, too. My dad always cut the pumpkin, too.

I love the curvey smile -- I need to take lessons for next year!

10/31/2005 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

So, who was the one to pull all the yucky, gicky stuff out? Can I assume kids on this one?

11/01/2005 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger aBhantiarna Solas said...

Nooo ... LightGirl wouldn't touch the stuff and declared that it "STINKS!" LightBoy wasn't strong enough, so he "helped" dad pull the goo out while I cut the lid out of the second one.

11/01/2005 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger kate said...

I love it! Great story.

11/01/2005 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Wonderfully written, Sonja. For a second, I saw your Dad's expression as he looked up at his kids. Beautiful.

11/01/2005 09:34:00 PM  

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