Deb Susan’s Pumpkins Have Adjustment Issues

I’m aware the “creepy Halloween” posts don’t technically come along for a couple of weeks, but when I think of autumn my thoughts will always turn to Halloween and my son.

I’ve always loved the time of year when pumpkins return to the markets, pumpkin seeds toast in the oven, and jack-o-lanterns can take their place on the porch without weirding out the neighbors (much…)

My childhood autumns were filled with leaf-pile jumping, Halloween carnivals, trick-or-treat dress-up, and other fantastic memories. I wanted the same for my son. I’ve taken him trick-or treating, roasted seeds, and carved more jack-o-lanterns than I can count. (Most years we do at least five pumpkins, sometimes as many as 9 or 10 on Halloween afternoon.)

But somewhere along the line, things went a bit … odd.

    It started simply – pumpkins that needed “a frowny face” or three eyes instead of two. Our family plays World of Warcraft  online, and the Halloween pumpkins featured in game had unusual faces we tried to replicate.

We’ve done everything from the barfing pumpkin to stenciled jack-o-lanterns saying “Happy Halloween.”

But last year, my son created a Halloween tour-de-force. A jack-0-lantern so bizarre that most people who saw it had something to say – and more than a few went speechless.  

His masterpiece?

A pumpkin worthy of a mystery author’s house:

(And also, probably, worthy of counseling.)

Yes, that’s a butcher knife impaled in the pumpkin … and yes, those are innards trailing down the side. I’d like to say this behavior is unusual, but the truth is … in my family … this is pretty much par for the course.

We’re not big watchers of horror movies. We don’t go in for blood and guts and gore. But when it comes to Halloween humor, our standard is “no holds barred.”

The other highlight of last year’s Halloween was the costume my son designed to hand out candy beside his murdered pumpkin.

All evening, I heard the neighbors’ children glow with excited praise for the candy he gave them:

“I got a Snickers!”

“I got M&Ms”

And then, like clockwork, my son’s voice:

“I got a rock.”

For me, autumn represents the end of a long, hot summer and the promise of days filled with laughter, creativity, and celebration.

It’s crunchy leaves, smoky air, and the chilly snap in the air that promises winter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas around the corner.

But most of all, autumn means Halloween family fun. And that – in my book – is much better than a rock.


What’s the strangest pumpkin you ever carved (or saw)? Do you have any autumn family traditions or memories of autumns past? Please click into the comments and tell me – I’d love to hear!



14 Replies to “Deb Susan’s Pumpkins Have Adjustment Issues”

  1. Your creativity runs deep! I’m a paint-a-face gal…but don’t get into Halloween anymore. The kids are big and I get no trick or treaters. I’m coming to your house!!

    1. I love face painting! My son used to want his face painted all the time – not just around Halloween either. One time I told him no and he came back fifteen minutes later (after a silence that I should have known was a warning) having painted his face with magic markers.

      Our trick-or-treaters decreased for a while but they seem to be coming back in larger numbers now.The kids are little, so I’m wondering whether it’s our generation (most of whom had kids later) renewing the tradition. I hope so! I love seeing all the kids in their costumes.

  2. We don’t get trick or treaters up here, and I miss them. The kids have always had costumes, until they got too big. One year, my eldest wanted to go as a snowman. Not being the sort of woman who sews things, we made a snowman sandwich board out of poster board, painted his face white and stuck a carrot nose on him. That’s probably my favorite of the costumes. This year – with one at college and the other turned 17, I don’t know what we’ll do. Pretty sure I’ll carve at least one jack-o-lantern to sit lonely on the porch though, because the kid in me still needs to play.

    1. What a fantastic idea for a costume! It sounds adorable. I love the creativity kids put into choosing costumes. It’s hard when they grow up and don’t want to be the little snowmen anymore. I was startled when my son wanted to dress up last year – he hadn’t wanted to since he was 12. He’s 17 now, and the picture does a bad job of showing scale but that was a six-foot Charlie Brown ghost – and barefoot to boot. It was hilarious. He’s not dressing up this year, but he does want to carve pumpkins, so at least we’ll have that fun!

      You should definitely carve at least one. No point missing out on all the fun!

  3. This is my first Halloween in a proper house (I’ve been in apartments and condos before this), so I’ve been tempted to buy and carve a pumpkin and set it out front! Haven’t quite gotten around to it yet, though… Also, we live on a busy street without sidewalks, so my guess is that we won’t get any trick-or-treaters :(. As a kid, we got a decent number at our house, and my mom would put up decorations, etc. Maybe if I put out some pumpkins or decorations, I’ll actually get some trick-or-treaters? If I build it, will they come?

    1. You should definitely carve a pumpkin! And if you do, make sure you have at least a couple of bags of candy. Even without sidewalks you may be surprised how many kids go trick or treating in the early hours. Do you have a lot of children in the neighborhood? If so, I’d expect some trick or treaters if the lights are on and the pumpkin is lit.

  4. As children, we had a tradition: the dreaded elf costume! My sisters and I still joke about it.

    My mom was a tall, willowy thing, and she had this elf costume that was leftover from her partying days. Short (and I mean short!) green skirt, a jingle-bell belt, a spritely little cap also with a jingle bell, etcetera. She pulled that sucker out year after year, starting with me since I was the oldest. I wore it three years straight, until, thankfully, I outgrew it around the waist in about 2nd grade. (I’m not willowy. Hah!) Then it went to my middle sister, then to my youngest sister. The Halloween pictures in our family album are hilarious–and there’s that danged costume again!

    How’s this for a memorable jack o-lantern: A big pumpkin carved with an I’m-in-pain look, and then a smaller pumpkin attached (somehow; can’t remember how) to the side of its head and carved with an evil-entity expression–as if growing out of the big pumpkin.

    I have my own personal Halloween ritual: Buy a bag of candy early in the month just in case all the good stuff runs out of the stores (yeah, right), tell myself of course I won’t eat it, eat it, start again…:-)

    1. Lisa, what great stories. The elf costume cracks me up. I can just imagine your joy – and your sister’s despair – when the time came to pass it down.

      That Jack-o-lantern sounds hilarious. Like the chest-bursters in Alien, pumpkin-style. What an awesome idea.

      My husband shares your Halloween candy ritual. Every year he comes home from the market in early October with a couple of bags of candy – “one for us and one for the trick-or-treaters” – and somehow all that candy seems to disappear (sometimes more than once) before the 31st!

  5. We carve some seriously creative pumpkins. One year, my husband carved a willow tree (and it REALLY looked like one) with a noose hanging from a branch. Another, we placed two pumpkins side by side, one with a horror-stricken face, the other with the letters IRS carved into it. Last year we had a pumpkin with a carved tractor for my son, and a princess pony for my daughter…the list goes on and on. I love love Halloween and fall! And yes, the family fun is MUCH better than a rock. 🙂

    1. I want to see photos of those pumpkins! They sound really fantastic. Your husband must be an amazing pumpkin carver, and I bet your kids love seeing all his creations.

  6. We just carved pumpkins last weekend with our friend who is living here after moving from Australia. Let’s just say she is fascinated by all this. She tried to use a stencil to make a witch on a broom and she got a little confused about what to cut and what to leave and in a matter of minutes, the whole side of her pumpkin collapsed. So, she simply turned it around and cut out some eyes, nose and a mouth. It was the process that made her have fun.

    1. What a great story – that must have been hilarious. It sounds like a great afternoon, even if the pumpkin did have a bit of an issue. Those stencils can be confusing, too – I’ve done the same thing more than once, even with practice! Thanks for sharing – and I wish you and your new Australian friend a Happy Halloween!

  7. Susan, I love the creativity in your story and your son sounds like a hoot. We didn’t do a lot of pumpkin carving in our house – I think my mother was terrified of the mess to her kitchen.

  8. Great story & website, Susan! Have I missed the book signing? I’ve been without the internet or cell phone for over a week, so have been out of touch! It’s really scary just how much I’ve grown to depend on the internet & cell service! I’ve never felt so disconnected in my life! I hope the signing goes/went well!

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