Division of Labor: Pumpkin Carver

I don’t know how I became the pumpkin carver in our family. My husband and son are the ones with the Boy Scout totin’ chips. And I’m pretty slow at slicing vegetables.

But my role as pumpkin carver, once started, became inalienable.

My husband and I moved into our first house in October 1980. I decided we needed pumpkins as seasonal decorations for the front porch. Even that decision was a step out of my comfort zone, because I’m not big on seasonal decorations. But as a new homeowner I was gung-ho to impress the neighbors.

So I bought a couple of pumpkins. And waited for my husband to carve them.

It didn’t happen.

Finally, I asked, “Are you going to carve the pumpkins?”

“No. You bought them.”

“Do you really trust me with a knife?”

He just looked at me in response.

And thus I became the pumpkin carver in our household.

I don’t recall ever carving a pumpkin before that year. I had designed the faces for the pumpkins we put out when I was in high school, but I think my father or brother always did the actual carving.

Still, I wasn’t going to back away from keeping up with the neighbors in my first month of home ownership.

I designed the face on paper. So far, so good. I had experience at that part of the job.

I got out our biggest kitchen knife and cut a circle out of the top of the first pumpkin. Slicing through the thick pumpkin hide took more muscle than I expected, but I got the top off and made the hole for the chimney, just like my dad always had.

Then I scooped out the innards. The slimy, greasy, gooey innards that looked like something that had already been eaten and partially digested. Disgusting. But I did it.

I next set about my reconstructive surgery to turn the lowly gourd into a jack o’lantern with personality. Slowly, one facial feature at a time.

That first year, I didn’t bother with eyebrows, and our pumpkins were mostly toothless. Just triangles for eyes and nose, and a slash for a mouth. We didn’t win any neighborhood prizes.

One of my better carving attempts

One of my better carving attempts

Over the years, our kids became the designers, and I was responsible for execution. I don’t think my son ever used his totin’ chip skills on a pumpkin. At least not at home.

Now that the kids are gone, I am back to creating my own critters. I’ve developed more aptitude as a carver. I can now make happy faces and sad faces. Scary faces and goofy faces. Not always the visage I planned, but most of my efforts these days have character.

Even if I don’t have a totin’ chip.

What odd tasks have become yours, by design or by default?

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  1. You’re a very talented carver, Theresa. I remember when I was young, my mom had a severe gag reflex when it came to carving pumpkins. My dad finally took over for a couple of years, but then for many years we had faceless pumpkins on our porch, as my sister and I gagged as well. 🙂

    • Jill, I have a strong gag reflex also, but I’ve trained it to ignore pumpkin innards. Because the only good way to get them out of the pumpkin is with one’s fingers. Slime and all.

  2. That’s a great post, Theresa! Russell was the carver in our household — then, oh, woe, divorce! Who thought of its impact on the Halloween holiday? Certainly not I. Luckily, by that time my kids were knife-eligible, and so they stepped up. My friend, Mary, a surgeon, is the best carver I know. She does entire scenes featuring shadows and flying witches. Like you, I am pretty happy if the eyebrows work out.

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