Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gourds I Have Known

When I was just a few months shy of my second birthday, my family moved from the house we had lived in since my birth to a brand spanking new home built just a few blocks away. The only thing that I cared to bring with me as we travelled to our new home was the Jack O' Lantern that had sat on our front steps since Hallowe'en. We moved in February. As I stooped to pick my round orange friend up from the exact spot on our front porch on which he had sat for over three months, I learned a harsh lesson about bonding with something perishable. He disintegrated into chalky nothingness while I disintegrated into tears. My parents tell this story even today and as they tell it they laugh and laugh. There is nothing funny about this story. For even though I had learned such a harsh lesson at such a young age, I never learned from it. I would continue to grow emotionally attached to every pumpkin that ever graced our front stoop over the next few years despite the painful knowledge of the fact that no matter how early in the fall the first frost came to freeze my friends into rot-proof winter stasis, sooner or later spring would come and with it a killing thaw. Ashes to ashes, mush to mush. Every year of my early life I would relive the final act of 'Old Yeller' on an annual basis. Only I didn't have to shoot my pets, just scoop them up with a shovel and toss them onto the compost heap.

I think my early pumpkin love explains my later pumpkin bucket love. I was just tired of all the pain and heartache and forced myself to transfer my affections to something less transient. Vegetables are fleeting, plastic is forever. And yes, I know that pumpkins are actually fruit.

As I promised at the end of my Hallowe'en costume post (or perhaps you might feel that 'threatened' is a better word) I'm going back to the family photo album well to present some pics of some of my earliest, if not most loyal, bestest friends... my Jack O' Lanterns.

Here are the three earliest Jack's my mother ever thought to take a picture of... and three jollier looking fellows you will never find on this green earth. In the first picture it would appear as if I'm attempting to communicate with these pulpy gents by way of sign language. I think I'm saying 'donkey.' In the second photo I seem to have given up any attempt at opening up a dialogue and have instead decided to lob the gourds directly at the camera in my near-famous Headless Horseman impression. Note that the pumpkin on the far right of the first photo is nowhere to be seen in the second. I cannot remember, but only hope, that my mother was good at ducking.

Next year's pumpkin bears a striking resemblance to one of the previous year's. Same simple triangle features and big grinning mouth. This fellow does seem to be victim to some sort of tooth decay, though.

Astute observers will note the same footy pajamas as in the earlier Fred Flintstone photo.

Now this was the year of years... the first year my mother let me carve the Jack O' Lanterns all by myself! I was so excited that I plopped myself right down in the center of the table to perform my duties. This is the same position that I have since taken up every year when pumpkin carving time rolls around. And every year the tables buckle just a little bit more...

Side note- shortly after this picture was taken my father decided to disguise that exposed fuse box by building a small cupboard in that corner. That small cupboard ended up being so big and so deep, that in order to get to the fuse box a full grown man of average size had to stand on a chair on his very tip toes, stick the entire upper half of his body into the cupboard and then stretch as far as he could in order to get the tips of his fingers to brush against the switches. My father had no time for measurements!

The completed pumpkins are not that bad for a first try, although I really think that I could have wiped off some of the marker lines!

I like these two fellows a lot. The one one the left with his big round face and his nose hole cut out so large that the rest of the head is threatening to cave into it and the one on the right with his drunken lopsided-ness and dopey smile. And the pumpkins are cute, too. Ha!

This picture is noteworthy primarily for it's glimpse at fast food pumpkin decorating history. That pumpkin on the far right is decked out in Fry Guy (at the time called 'Goblins') glory courtesy of McDonald's, a sheet of restaurant giveaway Fry Guy features reproduced on lifelike paper stock and one half of an apple cut squarely down the middle. Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head may be pimping the pumpkin deco at every discount department store in the USA but Ronald and friends were doing it up back when Mr. P still had a three pipe a day habit.

And that's the last of my childhood Jack O' Lantern pics. My mother was never as interested in them as she was in the other standard photo-ops of childhood- birthday cakes, school plays and first hickeys. It's a shame too, 'cause for a while there I was talking her into buying six or seven pumpkins every year and scattering them all over the yard, hiding some of them away under bushes and up in tree branches and other places where most people would never even notice them. It was all about the ambiance baby!

Before we leave, Plastic Jack wanted to share his favorite Jack O' Lantern with you as well. It's an interesting looking fellow that he calls "Big Daddy" for some reason. He has cute little horns on the side of his head. I think he's supposed to be a cow!

PJ wants to know if Big Daddy can come stay with us for a few days... that little fella has such a big imagination! I'm playing along with him for now, but when I asked him what sort of food I should buy for Big Daddy's visit PJ just asked me how many puppies the SPCA would let you adopt at one time... I have no idea where that came from!


Max the drunken severed head said...

A really fun post...and I'm sober! Therefore, this compliment is twice as meaningful, Mr. PP!

Sparkle Plenty said...

STEVEN A.!!!!! You have outdone yourself, and dang you're funny! May October ne'er end. What's that? Only 31 days and a handful of them left, at that? Curse you, Red Baron!

(I'm assuming you abstain from eating pumpkin pie?)

P.S. I have the awful, creepy feeling that at the end of the month this is going to turn into plasticjacksfirepit.blogspot.com, and yes I know that you don't know what I'm talking about. :-)

Steven A. said...

It's good to know you haven't been drinking, Max. I know how alcohol goes straight to your head.

Sparkle, darling... it's always Hallowe'en around these parts! And Jack's been trying to open up his own Blogger account for weeks, but everytime he tries to enter his secret password my computer crashes... apparently Windows is not compatible with ancient Kandarian.

Rozum said...

Great post, Steven. I almost never think to photograph my jack o'lanterns. I used to photograph them at night, when only their carved features would show, but these shots would always get overlooked at the phot developing place as being all black, error photos. Somewhere there's a batch of negatives containing never printed jack o'lantern faces.