Clueless in America. Chapter 19

19. Pumpkin Head

It was lunchtime. Hmm, yet more yummy cold ribs swimming in barbecue sauce. We spent the afternoon doing the same thing that perhaps millions of Americans were doing all over the country…. no, not working, not drinking coffee, not driving and not eating burgers. Nope, we carved pumpkins! I knew Americans carved pumpkins, but for some reason it never dawned on me that this meant sitting for hours drawing toothy grins and bulging eyes and then debating over what exactly is the best implement to use to cut them open. I am told that there is a whole industry focused on the carving of pumpkins.

Our host introduced the theme with the line ‘You’re an artist Kel, you can carve the pumpkins’. This was the third time that my host had truly scared me. The first was asking me if I wanted a Halloween costume and as you may recall the second was the introduction of the ribs.

But even if I was an artist, I had treated the pumpkins with the same kind of disdain that I treat billboards using pornography to sell cars or computers. I had ignored them and consequently I had no idea what needed to be drawn on them. So after some inwardly stern and outwardly humorous conversation, our host capitulated and drew the toothy faces, leaving me somewhat intriguingly to indulge myself in the carving. For the uninitiated, carving pumpkins is wonderfully relaxing and fulfilling. As soon as I pierced the flesh with my knife, I was a convert. All I had to do was follow the line that our host had drawn with my knife. But that artist side of me screamed out from nowhere. Suddenly it was like I was painting an old city building. I wanted every cut to be perfect. I wanted round corners where they needed to be round and square corners where they needed to be square. Pumpkin carving was exorcising my enmity for Halloween. My carved pumpkin looked cool, I even kept a photo of it. Sharon was asked to draw something on one and then I was to cut it out. Sharon drew a big heart on hers. Perhaps she understands to see someone’s heart can be quite the scary affair. It was my labour of love to carve it out, and then to make Sharon’s scary pumpkin even scarier our host pierced the flesh with the head, arms and legs of Frankenstein. This was quite a profound move on behalf of our host, because it did look scary. It looked like the monster of Halloween had reached into the belly of Frankenstein and stolen his heart. Our friend’s doorstep clearly portrayed the message that if you mix with the Halloween monster, then you too will become a heartless beast. But this heartless kid-terrifying trick back-fired as soon as the lights went off. As is the tradition, as soon as it got dark our pumpkin heads were scalped and candles replaced their brains. Now the hole that was Frankenstein’s heart, emanated a soft beautiful other-worldly orange glow. The addition of a single candle transformed a callous Frankenstein into a soft peaceful Virgin Mary, though still somewhat of the pumpkin fetish, but nonetheless the Virgin herself. Of course Sharon didn’t plan this, but in my mind’s eye she had inadvertently created a Catholic icon of a pumpkin. This needed to be left at the front door, so that all the Mexican kids could flock around and leave their candy as an offering to the Virgin Pumpkin. Then we could sit at home all night, listening to the radio and not need to tire ourselves fighting with hordes of kids in front of stranger neighbours competing for cheap sugar and additive packed candy. We’re not silly you know!

Anyhow I could speak a lot longer on the subject of pumpkins, but for the sake of your sanity I will put my carving knife down.

Well the kids came home from school and the battle between parents and children began. Isn’t it amazing with kids, that when it comes to eating candy there is no ‘off switch’. They will simply eat until they explode and at that, a rather techno-coloured explosion. No matter how long their mother bats for them(67) they will never truly learn this lesson. I mean at a certain age they may cease their techno-coloured-candy-induced-yawning. But in reality many of them will simply transfer their addiction from candy to alcohol. Binge candy eating at Halloween, birthdays and Christmas will transfer itself to binge drinking at similar adult festivals. No longer will you hear lovely parents saying, ‘Johnny, don’t eat so much candy or you will be sick’. It will change to stressed out parents screaming, ‘Johnny stop drinking so much and vomiting all over the place, you are embarrassing yourself and us’. I am not sure what the post-alcohol binge is, maybe it is good food or cool possessions, I don’t know.

So the kids came home looking like monsters, ate looking like monsters and eagerly left looking like monsters. Well maybe we need to check our definition of monster. Do The Hulk, Batman and Hannah Montana fit the title of monster? Each child was presented with something that I had never seen before and had never dreamed that I would ever see. Gosh, even Star Trek and the Old Testament prophets combined had never seen this one coming. Each of them left carrying a scalped plastic pumpkin. The pumpkins were of the female South-East Asian variety. I know this because of the size of the ear-rings that they wore. It seemed that the top of their ears had been pierced, that black straps had been attached and ran over the rim of their scalped heads, not only joining the ears together, but also producing a rather convenient handle. And just to add insult to the injury someone had drawn another of those pathetic toothy grins and a sad set of eyes between the tormented ears.  And the pus flows from the pimple once again.

These kids were not only young kids, Christian kids, but they were the Pastor’s kids. I will talk more about this later. But on the agenda this evening for them was a little staged trick-or-treating, a much anticipated visit to a hallelujah party, a little local trick-or-treating and no doubt a few hours bouncing off the walls, some loving parental discipline and an eventual collapse into the techno-coloured dream-world of a sugar-high and over tired sleep.

Our first stop, and yes we were along for the ride, was to visit a friend or at least someone who operated in that blurred space of friend/good parishioner/person, whom my friends pastor. Most pastors have large chunks of their congregations in this box which is sad for us pastors.

Anyhow we arrive at the house of someone called Miss So and So, put any first name in there and you have the right picture. I found it fascinating that she was given the title Miss, for indeed she shares her house with her husband and in my culture Mrs followed by a last name would be much more acceptable. I had seen on the American tele, kids using this formal polite way of addressing people, but like yellow school buses and red fire hydrants, I never expected to actually witness it when in the country.

But at Miss So and So’s, the purpose of the scalped ear-ringed plastic pumpkin heads was revealed. They were buckets in which to store trick-or-treat candy. Clearly I am naïve, for I presumed that their pockets would have been big enough. Americans are generous and Miss So and So’s love language was gift giving and the scalped pumpkin heads were full before we left ten minutes later. Next stop was the hallelujah party.

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

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Ta (Kiwi for thank you)

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