Halloween is a season made for dads. There are monsters and mayhem to make. Pumpkin carving brings together all of these culturally unacceptable themes: knives, faces, guts, and fire. That’s where dad comes in.
You begin by getting kids out of bed and making them pancakes with bacon. Make sure they clean their plates, because they will need the energy. (It’s not called the Clean Plate Club for nothing.)
While they are eating, tell them about the first Jack-O-Lantern. Make it up, they are kids! Mix together stories from Starsky and Hutch, the Illuminati, the Lost World of Atlantis, the tragedy of Agamemnon, Moon Landing conspiracies, and the tear drops of Jessica Alba. Then pray that your children repeat the story in school.
Now head to the hardware store. If there is anything that a dad can teach in his brief life, it is “right tool for the right job.” Walk right past the plastic serrated “safety knives.” You will want to browse the Knife and Cutting Element Aisle. If you have to sign an insurance waiver before entering, you are in the right place.
Buy a long knife, or short sword, for the rough cuts. A shorter knife for the fine carving. A paring knife for the detail work. You might just be justified to buy one of every knife that they have.
Don’t worry about buying scoopers. You can use mom’s nice sterling silver serving spoon from her wedding day for that.
Next the pumpkin. Dad does not buy a sad sack, mealy, shrunken, pasty-colored, crooked, thin-skinned pumpkin trucked in three months ago from that state that everyone hates (i.e. Ohio.) You buy your pumpkins from the farmer’s market.
You will want to look that farmer in the eye before you plunk your money down on that fire orange, genetic monster that you have your eye on. It must be inappropriately large, unseemly, and illogical, as are all dad decisions. Unless your muffler hits the concrete three times on the way home, you have not gotten a big enough pumpkin.
Once home, get out those knives and cut out a perfectly round cap. Give the kids a couple spoons and set them to scooping. That pumpkin needs to be scooped clean with nary a seed nor fiery fiber left.
Take the scraped out guts outside and let the kids throw it around in mom’s garden. Won’t she be surprised next year!
Now let the kids draw the Jack-O-Lantern face. When they are done, you will need to make the mouth bigger, the eyes crazier, the nose scarier. This is not a time for subtlety or being cute. This pumpkin must give nightmares to the old lady across the street.
It’s time to let the bigger kids use the knives. Teach them how to hold a knife so they don’t cut off their fingers or lacerate anyone else. Grip the table and remember to breathe while they carve. Teach them to become one with the pumpkin. Nice and smooth.
When they are done, you can clean up the cuts. Add that extra special daddy devilishness.
Place the pumpkin on your stoop. Take one of mom’s nice beeswax candles she bought in Europe and cut off the top. Put the tip of the candle into the pumpkin and light it.
Unless you have to drive to the Emergency Room to get stitches, you can step back with the kids and be amazed at the brilliance of your work.
Just know that within a couple of days, since you cut away so much pumpkin, the face will fall in. Squirrels will gnaw at the pumpkin. And the crummy teens down the street will smash it. (I know who you are!)
That is the life of a dad.