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CREATING TRADITIONS

Cindy Maddera

I cannot carve a pumpkin without thinking of Dad. I know that I have told the story a thousand times about how Dad and I would carve a pumpkin together every year. It was such an ingrained tradition and we never carved anything fancy. This was all before pumpkin carving kits and Pinterest, back in the day when people carved their pumpkins with knives and risked slicing off digits. That's part of the fun. I did not buy us special pumpkin carving kits this year partly for this reason and partly because there are bits of carving kits of past hiding around in the back of a kitchen drawer. We didn't really ever use anything out of those kits but the scraper and even then a spoon turned out to (still) be the best tool for the job.

They got a head start on the Cabbage's pumpkin while I was folding a basket of laundry. So by the time I was elbow deep into my pumpkin, Michael was already carving away at the face the Cabbage had drawn on her pumpkin. I could hear them behind me as Michael sat at the dinning room table with the Cabbage peering over his shoulder, directing Michael's knife. Was it so long ago that this was me doing the exact same thing, peering over Dad's shoulder and directing his carving knife? I smiled as I continued scraping the inside of my pumpkin. One of the tricks of pumpkin carving that Dad taught me, was to not just thoroughly scrap the sides of the pumpkin but to also scrap the bottom of the pumpkin. This way you roll the guts into ball as you go and then all you have to do is dump the pumpkin upside and watch as all the goop falls out. It is a lot of scraping and you should expect a hand cramp somewhere in the middle of the whole process, but it is the cleanest, most efficient way to pull out the insides of a pumpkin. 

I paused to rest my cramping hand and rub my forehead with back of my sleeved arm. I looked over at Michael who was doing the finishing touches on the Cabbage's pumpkin. The Cabbage was now dancing around behind him, no longer directing or even really paying attention. I wondered if he got it, if understood what kind of memory he was building with her. He didn't have the same kind of childhood as I did. He's never talked about carving pumpkins or participating in the same kind of traditional holiday activities as I did. Sure, he went trick-or-treating, but I don't know if he's ever been to the kind of Halloween party where kids bob for apples and jump over broomsticks. Collinsville used to have a Halloween festival at the fair grounds. One activity was to toss a bunch of money into a hay bale and let a group of kids dig around in the hay collecting whatever coins they could find. This was how we learned that I am allergic to hay, but it was my favorite thing. We didn't do this every year, but every year Dad and I carved a pumpkin. Always. Even when I was old enough to do it on my own. 

Michael asked the Cabbage about next year's pumpkin, something about maybe getting a carving kit so she could carve the pumpkin on her own. She told him that she didn't want to carve the pumpkin on her own. The Cabbage told him that she wanted to help him carve the pumpkin like they did this time around. I wonder if she has taken the lead in setting a tradition. I wonder if Michael recognizes that. I wonder if he realizes that maybe one day when the Cabbage is much older, she's going to tell stories about how she and her dad used to carve a pumpkin together every year.