Jack O’ Lantern that is. Or maybe you do know Jack. I didn’t receive a formal introduction until my daughter turned four and decided she wanted to grow her own pumpkins for Halloween. To which I replied, “Let Mommy get back to you on that.”
See, I grew up on a horse farm way out in the country. We had no neighbors for miles, and the ones we did have were more likely to shoot at a trio of Power Rangers than consider the date and the fact most burglars don’t show up in red, pink, and green spandex holding loot bags.
So when my little girl gave me her patented “Momma-I-want” look, I knew things were about to change. I learned how to grow and when to harvest pumpkins, even though we lived in an apartment at the time. And I learned that the sight of pumpkins growing in a planter was so mystical that kids from next door were compelled by forces beyond their control to pluck the unripened fruits from the vine and smash them on the pavement.
I was not amused, but I persevered. After all, I had a four-year-old hanging her Halloween hopes on me. (I also had a baby girl armed with good aim and a water pistol guarding our pumpkin-filled planter through a crack in the window above it.)
Once we finally had a good candidate for carving, I hit my next road bump. Now, even a country bumpkin like me had seen her share of jack-o-lanterns and paper luminaries. Though I’d never made either, I felt confident I could make nose and face-like holes. I had tealight candles and a carving knife. I had craft books and matches. I had a drop cloth and a recipe for baked pumpkin seeds. I was ready. It was go time. After all the hard work and study, Jack was getting O’Lanterned that night.
I called my daughter into the kitchen and she took a seat across the table from me. I lifted the knife and lined the blade up on the outline I’d carefully drawn earlier. I gave her a triumphant smile and sank the blade into the meat of the pumpkin…and she started screaming bloody murder.
It had never occurred to her how those holes got into jack-o-lanterns. She had assumed we would plant pumpkins and they would ripen into the gap-tooth grinning Jacks she saw on other people’s porches. When our only usable pumpkin turned out to be plain, she assumed all the Jacks had been smashed. So when I started to carve the little guy, she was horrified.
To make a long and painful story about how you try to do for your kids what wasn’t done for you a little shorter, I’ll close with saying our Jack that first year was a very unique gentleman. He had two My Little Pony band aids on his noggin and his eyes and smile were drawn with Crayola’s best.
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