“So do you guys roast the seeds afterward?” the checkout clerk asked as I paid for our three pumpkins.
“Huh?” It took me a minute. “Oh. No, not really. You see, we don’t carve these up. We …” The confession felt odd for a moment, like admitting to a secret fanship of Justin Bieber. “We paint them.”
The clerk blinked.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before.” She smiled. “I like that.”
No, that’s not a misprint. For three or four Halloweens now, we’ve celebrated as though Linus had discovered Jackson Pollock. Our disabled ward Missy is the artist-in-chief, smearing blues and browns and whites across the natural orange canvas until the mighty holiday symbol looks … well, distinctly out of its gourd.
My wife Heather and I love the results, with all the usual oohs and ahs and pictures to Facebook. What’s harder to explain is how we started doing this in the first place. It really comes down to two things: a weak stomach and a Halloween hesitancy.
The stomach is mine. As a kid, my family used to carve pumpkins – nothing elaborate, just the fun of the usual gap-toothed grin. And then, one Halloween, I had a stomach bug.
Just for the record: when you’re already presenting previous meals to the porcelain altar, the smell of fresh pumpkin guts is less than enticing. Well, that’s not quite true. It certainly enticed me to do one thing.
I have never been able to smell a pumpkin’s insides since without starting to revisit that moment.
The hesitancy is – or rather, was – Missy’s. When we first moved in to take care of her, she loved holidays with two significant exceptions. She hated the sudden explosions of the Fourth of July (and still does). And she didn’t care for Halloween.
We couldn’t quite figure out why, unless it just weirded her out to have so many people walking around in fake faces and strange clothes. (A similar objection could be made to Election Day, come to think of it.) A newfound love of Harry Potter finally reeled her in – this is the second straight year she’s enthusiastically dressed up as the boy wizard for the season – but the hook was first set by the chance to wield a paintbrush.
Missy loves to paint. With abandon. It can be a quiet Saturday or the midst of a flood, on anything handy – sketch pads and computer paper are a favorite, but she’s even decorated plastic bags before if they got in the way. The style is abstract in the extreme, though images sometimes seem to appear: a large “M,” say, or green and blue shapes that looked a little like our old parakeets on a branch.
Pumpkins were a great new medium for her and one that still hasn’t worn off. It’s egg coloring on the grand scale, with no need to hide the results afterward. (Hmmm … is that what the Great Pumpkin does?)
With a few simple strokes, she found her way back into the holiday. And she pulled us with her.
Maybe that’s the secret to more than just Halloween. You have to find your own way of celebrating life, your own approach to times and events that others might observe or ignore. And when you do, it will be what keeps the time fresh to you, however odd it might seem to the neighbors.
And with enough enthusiasm, you might even pull them along with you.
So no, no roasted pumpkin seeds from our endeavors. Just bright color, great energy and a lot of fun.
That’s a neat trick. And quite a treat.