This is EXACTLY how my Dad used to carve pumpkins!!.
Halloween at my Father’s house (my Mom long since deceased) was every bit as “Halloweeny” when I was an adult as it was when I was a kid.
With all his own children long gone and grown up, he still decorated the house in the most ornate spooky cut outs he had made himself.
He said he could never find the kind of decorations he liked, they were “too commercial and cheap looking” he’d say. So he just went ahead and made his own. And yes, they were (and still are) some of the most intricately designed and original Halloween decorations I’ve ever seen.
His pumpkins (he even carved the little tiny ones and gave them to the neighbour kids) always glowed a little brighter than the other ones’ in the neighbourhood, whether it their perfect roundness, or the “toothy grin”, I never was sure…but this is what they looked like, alright. Exactly what they looked liked.
Halloween was (oddly enough) very much a holiday for my Dad & I. A special night that just sort of…happened, somehow… I just always seemed to be dropping in early in the evening and after a few years we found ourselves with a tradition on our hands that we both secretly (well there are four kids in the family, no favouritism now) really enjoyed.
Every year I would appear at the back door to a kitchen filled with pumpkins (punnies he called them) of all sizes, burnt fall leaves piled on the kitchen table, a collection of “Halloweeny” things; a small beany baby-ish Halloween black cat, a skull candle, with a small axe sticking out the top (my Dad had poured red wax down the side for even more effect), and of course, those gorgoeus homemade decorations, hanging from the ceiling…
My old man hosted one of those Halloween homes that all the kids want to visit, a big warm toothy pumpkin carved, lit up and smiling from its perch at the top of the old brick stairs, welcoming kids to that big black door, with the brass lion door knocker. It must have looked pretty intimidating on a dark night…
But the door would open to carefully laid out rows of chocolate bars, in order, on a large tray for Kids to choose from themselves, like canapés at a reception. And he always had change for the UNICEF boxes. And not pennies, no my Dad served up QUARTERS and LOONIES. The change was always in a small dish to one side of the tray, a tiny (but very real) carved pumpkin, with a small half cut birthday candle inside also took up space on the tray. This Halloween tray was then presented very formally to the kids when they came to the door, a vast assortment of chocolate bars offered up, often quite literally right under their noses… it was, as the saying goes “quite the spread” and very much reflected in the wide eyes that tried to take it all in.
Each year it was the same routine, order Chinese food, play crib and answer the door to choruses of “Trick or Treat!” Usually a holiday of socializing with friends for most people my age, this soon became my favourite and preferred way of spending Halloween.
A few years before my Pa passed away, he very formally handed me a manila envelope containing all those precious homemade Halloween decorations. Swearing me to secrecy from my siblings, he told me that it had always been “our little holiday”, and it seemed fitting that I should have them. You know the old question “if you had to leave your home because of a fire, what would you take?” I think I would be the one standing outside with an envelope filled with black cut-outs of witches, cats and a white skeleton in a huge cape with a carefully painted shamrock over his crotch….
We never did one of those Halloween nights together again. Age caught up with my old man. But I can still picture myself there like it was yesterday; Enjoying a great meal with Dad, egging each other on in crib, all while being constantly interrupted to answer the door to marvel at the next batch of “cutie patooties” dressed up, smiling and ready to “accept candy from strangers”. And always, a big round glowing pumpkin (just like this one pictured here) standing guard, welcoming the Halloween spirit to those who managed to trek up those steep steps on wee little legs.
Every Halloween I am reminded of those simple evenings with my Dad, and how a holiday candy task became the most wonderful of traditions between a parent and his middle daughter. The house, the man and consequently those evenings are long gone now, and I miss them terribly. But then I will see a pumpkin just like this one. Just like how my Dad used to carve them. This is what they looked like, all right. Exactly what they looked liked.
Happy Halloween Everyone and I Love You Dad