For as long as I can remember, pumpkins, those shiny globes of Atumnal joy, have been one of my favorite parts of this season. When the first pumpkins would show up in roadside stands and super markets, gleaming orange and white under natural light or fluorescent, my heart would beat a little faster. There they were, heralding in the season of crisp evenings, colorful leaves, hot apple cider and trips to orchards, corn fields and pumpkin patches.
Those trips to the pumpkin patches were the thing I looked most forward to all year long. My family would all pull on their sweatshirts and scarves and pile into the car to head out to one of the local patches. Once we got there, we were greeted by brisk breezes wafting the smell of kettle corn and caramel apples our way. We'd climb aboard the tractor pulled hay cart and bumble up the dirt trails leading from the parking field, country store and concession stand away in the trees. Often times the people driving the tractor would tell us about the farm or treat us to some seasonal folk lore and legends.
Once the ride was over, the best part started; the hunt for the perfect pumpkin. I'd search high and low, wandering through tangled vines and over ditches looking for the one I'd bring home to turn into my one and only Jack-O-Lantern. Often times, I'd find one far too large to carry and would con my dad, despite his earlier admonishment that I had to find one I could pick up, into lugging it around for me. Once we were all set, it was onto the next wagon down to pay and grab a nip of warm cider and a fresh baked doughnut before piling back in the car to bring our treasures home.
Once there, my mom would lay out layers of newspaper on the table and give each of us a marker to draw our design onto our pumpkin. This usually took a while as we all waffled over making a face or a scene - a very difficult task, you know! Eventually, we'd get it hammered out and drawn on and mom would 'cut open the pumpkins heads!' so we could get in there and scoop out their cold, seedy brain. My brother and sister always loved this part. Me? I wanted to get on to the carving and the eating of the seeds. They could mush pumpkin brains around in their hands and toss it at each other all night long, but I had serious business to get to!
Eventually, the pumpkins would be clean and mom would carve them - or when we got older - we'd carve them. And then, finally, the magic happened! We'd put them all on the kitchen table, turn off all the lights and light the candles. There are still few joys that make me smile harder than seeing my perfect pumpkin come to life with the golden flicker of a candle. We'd leave them burning until bed time and then light them every night through Hallowe'en.
These jacks were done by myself, my husband and my sister a few years ago.
At a hair shy of 30, these traditions are still the ones I most cling to and cherish. The trip to the pumpkin patch remains one of my favorite things to do throughout the entire year, I look so forward to it and when I do go, it is just once and we spend a good chunk of time there. Everyone who knows me knows how special these trips are to me, so much so in fact, that a pumpkin patch is where my husband proposed to me five years ago; down on his knee in the tall grass amidst those magical gourds. I can honestly say, as I've gotten older, those trips and the ritual of carving haven't lost a single speck of their magic!
Speaking of Magic, here is a wee jack-o-lantern charm that I whipped up to use when I light my candles:
Jack 'O Lantern Light the way,
For the spirits and the Fae,
Ward off those that mean us harm,
With this candle I seal this charm.
(light the candle)