Two weeks ago, an email circulated around soliciting volunteers for the class Halloween party at my son’s elementary school. Parents were requested to lead fifth grade-friendly activities such as the mummy wrap game, a donuts-on-a-string eating contest and a cake/pie/treat walk.
I could have volunteered for game management or baking, but instead opted for easy street: I would send in two gallons of cider. Cleary I wasn’t in the spirit of things. Perhaps I should have felt more sentimental, as this was my youngest child’s final year in elementary school. While I recognized it was my last opportunity to participate in a classroom Halloween party, I decided that now was the time to be “slacker mom” instead of super mom.
While I love paging through women’s lifestyle magazines this time of year for cute cupcake recipes and “frightful delights,” no one would ever confuse me with Martha Stewart or Rachel Ray. One-stop shopping and no-prep is my style. Why learn how to transform black licorice and gum drops into edible spiders or corn syrup and egg whites into ghostly marshmallows when there is Costco?
My lack of holiday enthusiasm was showing at home, too. Although I still had 5 days before the troops of Trick-or-Treaters would arrive at my door, I wasn’t very motivated. In past years I had created a votive-lighted path to the front porch, staked tombstones and skeletons in the grass and covered the front door in cobwebs. This year I had only one small potted fall-themed plant. It was beginning to look like a Charlie Brown Halloween. My kids noticed the absence of holiday trim and kept inquiring as to when I would be putting up decorations. I cheerfully replied that I was waiting for some “helpers” which elicited the honest response, “We just want you to do it.”
Each year, for some unsubstantiated reason, I imagine our family bathed in the soft glow of embers in the fireplace as we gather to carve pumpkins, drink fresh-pressed apple cider and enjoy the aroma of roasting pumpkin seeds. This fantasy is then followed by us singing Monster Mash as we decorate with zeal and creativity. The reality, however, resembles a frazzled solo scramble to the finish line so kids in our neighborhood realize we are dispensing candy at nightfall.
This weekend I rallied a few days ahead of schedule as I began to feel guilty that the house looked so drab compared to the artfully arranged trim of my neighbor’s homes. I dragged the orange storage bins from the closet and positioned accents of witches, skeletons and scarecrows in our entry way. Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin Head now grace an end table. There was one glaring omission from my display, however: no carved pumpkins. I was hoping to skip the tradition as the thought of all the mess was a deterrent and did not fit my notion of a simple setup and take down, but the family was pining for pumpkins.
Halloween was closing in fast when I shared my dilemma with a friend during a weekend walk. Melissa said her family had the same no-help-but-instant-gratification expectation for holiday decorating. “Last year,” she said, “the night before Halloween, I felt guilty and went to the store and bought some pumpkins. I thought for sure that when I returned someone would help, but no one did. So, I marched into the garage and grabbed my husband’s drill and put a few holes in the pumpkin so the light could show through and I was done!” Her kids were a little stunned by the untraditional art work but knew better than to complain.
I knew at that moment that 2011 would be the “year of the drill-bit pumpkin” in my house.
While I do miss the sweet days of lingering in pumpkin patches and corn mazes with my kids, a new tradition was created last night. I followed my friend’s lead and located the tool that allowed me to carve in a snap. I joined my friend with gusto, not guilt, and became a “Rosie the Riveter” carver, defiantly drilling my way through Halloween.