Country Mouse City Mouse 10-18-10
Whether a pumpkin grown on a large commercial pumpkin farm where the annual pilgrimage to the patch have GPS coordinates for visitors and the proverbial hayride, or the pumpkin that sprouted in the city because someone threw last year’s rotted mess onto the compost pile, the indignities suffered by said pumpkin are endless. We gut them, carve out their eyes, roast their innards and set afire their bodies. For those who aren’t into hunting their own and field-dressing their pumpkins (probably those city folks), there are processed cans full of pumpkin guts ready to eat. Lately, the new fad with the humble pumpkin is to lob them airborne only to cheer in delirium over the complete annihilation of the orange orb as it splatters undignified-like to its grave.
Now, Linus from the Peanuts revered the pumpkin. He held vigil in his pumpkin patch waiting for the “Great Pumpkin” while his buddies were out carousing for candy. Only a true believer in the power of a pumpkin would forego a corn syrup high to wait for the Honorable Pumpkin with only his blanket for a companion.
And what ever happened to earning your right to carve a pumpkin? It was a painstaking process that required brains and brawn to carve up the pumpkin. First, the selection of the pumpkin was essential. I don’t remember the type of pumpkin patch-Disney Lands they have today. Finding a pumpkin that didn’t have one of its sides deformed was an art. None of this hyper-hybridized-anti-bacterial-no-seeds-long-shelf-life pumpkin stuff. Then, you planned your attack on paper. Would there be triangle eyes this year? Goofy faces? Serious and mean looking? I suppose it depended on the hormonal development of the carver at the time. After recreating your schematic onto the flesh of the pumpkin, you checked your tools; large spoon, small spoon, bigger spoon, and knife. Let the carnage begin! Who in this day and age gives their kids knives? Nowadays you find these “color-coordinated pumpkin carving kits” with rounded corners and a disclaimer from the manufacturer that if you can’t recreate the intricate pattern for the Taj Mahal on to your pumpkin, you don’t get your money back and you’re probably pumpkin-carving-impaired. True pumpkin carvers had KNIVES and you earned every Band-Aid!
Living out in the country meant that pumpkin carving days were over. Not that we completely stopped but since no one ever came to the door for trick or treat and not too many people would drive by in awe of our artistry, the business of pumpkin carving lacked gusto. My dad, who covered himself in a plastic bag for his traditional costume as a “bag of garbage,” schlepped us into town for the candy-begging crusade. Eventually even that petered out. It looked as though the power of the pumpkin had diminished.
Getting older and dating while living out in the country meant that I had a built-in litmus test as to those of the male species had the most devotion. If they truly wanted me, they drove the miles to get to me. But only one knew the power of the pumpkin. One year, 26 years ago, sitting on my parents’ backyard deck, was a pumpkin carved with the words “Je t’aime” (sophisticated city-speak “I love you”). And it appeared the year after that and the year after that. Taking his time and energy to not only carve the pumpkin with his message to me but driving it way out to the country to deliver it anonymously despite the fact I was dating someone else, was a sign that this guy was not only crazy but he passed the litmus test too. The power of a pumpkin being so strong, I married this crazy guy.
Perhaps this year, as one contemplates whether to carve Lady Gaga or the Eiffel Tower on their perfectly shaped, genetically engineered, seedless pumpkin, they pause and reflect that there may be more to this vining vegetable: That deep inside its intestinal fortitude there lives the Power of the Pumpkin? Maybe, but let the carnage begin!