There used to be mountains of them.
Orange moons. We drove there, to that place of fallen leaves and delicious windy cold October. It was far away, but then our house on the mountain was far away from everything. We'd arrive, straining against our seatbelts, and fall out of the car with overwhelming eagerness.
First, there must be a wheelbarrow, to carry our four final choices. Mom's, Dad's, sister's, mine. But we took our time. Not for us, the first four pumpkins on the first row. There were things to see!
There were people made of all kinds of gourds, not just the orange kind. Their heads were always pumpkins, though, and they had scary or happy faces painted on them with bright colors, fall colors. Their arms and legs were made of knobbly gourds, green and light yellow. We were a little afraid of them, but they never moved...
Then there was the crisp, rustling cornhusk maze, small and easy to navigate, but a labyrinth of mystery for us, for our feet in small white sneakers. Daddy called to us in the maze, and we followed his voice, and then there was his bearded face at the end.
The sky was always so blue.
We sat in the big red wooden fire engine, next to pumpkin firemen. Then, we walked among the mountains of yet-blank-faced jack-o-lanterns, looking for the perfect one for this year. Mine were always tall and thin, while my sister wanted short and fat ones. To each her own pumpkin.
When they were nestled together in the wheelbarrow, like our own family, except orange and silent, we took them to the store and paid. Then there were other wonderful things, like sweet wax whistles you could blow tunes into and then chew into bits like gum. We kept these until halloween, savoring each bite, crippling the wax pumpkin music a little more with each mouthful. There were also wax lips. We put them on, and made Mom laugh. Then we ate them. (more "gum".)
To home then, and place them on our blue front porch, waiting agonizingly until the day of the carving. Then, anxious decisions. A clown? A monster? No matter what, they always seemed wonderful and wonderfully scary, from the road, as we trick-or-treated into the distance.
Not for us, the commercialism of candy and store-bought costumes. Halloween was pure, and wonderful, and trick-or-treat was about the costumes and the dark and the buggy porch lights. When it got late, Daddy pulled us in a creaky wagon, so we didn't have to walk. Small legs, and heavy bags of sweets.
So I got older.
But I still remember all of it. Scooping the guts of a pumpkin out, slimy, slippery, into a gigantic metal bowl in the middle of the table. The wonderful hollow sound of a spoon against the inside of an empty pumpkin. Scrape, scrape. You know it too.
We made them into glowing, alive occupants of the front porch. They smiled and flickered mysteriously. Mom put candles in them with kitchen tongs, so she wouldn't burn hands or forearms. These pumpkins were full of halloween. I still remember how mine always felt, in my hands. Cool, smooth. Exciting.
Yes, so I got older. And everyone else seems to have forgotten. Gone is the process of choosing a personal, special pumpkin for your very own. They just seem to appear on the kitchen table one day, and we dutifully carve them, pretending to love it as we used to. Daddy carves his like this:
; - )
and goes back to his computer. Where is the mischevious demon? His chair is empty, and we're alone, wishing he was there, like he used to be.
Mom buys pumpkins from Wal-Mart, and I am shocked. "They are cheaper there," she says. I cry orange tears for my lost glowing friends, and touch these trashy faceless things from the "everything" store. They seem dead. Were they next to the dog biscuits and the Windex?
Where is the dark, candlelit halloween that used to seep into my fingers from this smooth orange skin?
How can I carve a soulless pumpkin?