When I was a kid growing up in Wyoming, way back, you know, when, we would carve our pumpkins at least a couple of weeks before Halloween. Pull out that slimy, orange, pumpkin goo and splat it down on newspapers in the kitchen because it was too darn cold outside. Pick out the seeds one by one to roast a few for dad. (I now realize this was likely one of those jobs moms think of to keep kids busy—there are easier ways to separate pumpkin seeds from the guts, trust me. But it’s a secret.) Then place our candles and plunk our ugly orange masterpieces on the front doorstep.
Not only was it colder back then, the days were shorter too. So we’d get a kick out of lighting up the our Jack-a-lanterns each afternoon and leaving all of the porch lights off. Pumpkins don’t provide much illumination, so there may have been some accidents coming up our walk—ice, snow, and pitch darkness don’t blend well—but they sure looked cool.
We’d leave our Jack-o-lanterns out there until, well, until Thanksgiving, I guess. We could do this because Nature’s refrigerator lay just outside our door. They’d be hard as rocks when we finally pitched them.
Now we live in Cali, if you hadn’t noticed. And in Cali it just doesn’t get cold. Ever. Unless a balmy 60º is cold to you. So things like carved pumpkins melt into festering puddles of fetid pumpkin slime and fly larvae in moments. Really.
“Daddy, the pumpkin is melting already!” Sofia notes.
“It’s so yucky.” That’s Lukas.
Sigh. “Guys, when I was a kid…”
“Look at all the flies, Sofia!” Lukas holds Jack’s lid up. Orange juice drips down his arm. A black cloud emerges from Jack like smoke, except this cloud hovers.
“So gross! And there’re worms! Look, Daddy!” Sofia has a thing for worms, even white ones.
So this happens in California, too, just not so quickly. Takes at least a couple of days.
Well, as I continue to age, I trend more nostalgic for the good ole days. So this year our Jack-a-lanterns stayed cold. As they should.
“Why’s there a pumpkin in the freezer?”
“Just leave it alone.”
“Is there a candle in it?”
“I said just leave it alone!”
Sadly, the pumpkin didn’t make it till Thanksgiving. Some nonsense about ‘freezer space.’ Sigh.
We did, however, go trick-or-treating. The idea of dressing up and getting candy from people has taken hold in Colombia, in some circles, anyway. No chocolates, though. They melt.
Usually the gap between Halloween and Thanksgiving is the time of crisp fall days, good smells, and little holiday pressure. Sure, there’s a meal to plan—and perhaps travel—but we all know what we are going to eat. It’s just a matter of getting the ingredients and making assignments.
Now, here in Cali there is no Thanksgiving. And there’s no marketing pressure to sell stuff, so there’s not even any interest in ‘adopting’ it for the fun of it. What this means is that between Halloween and Christmas there’s, well, nothing. And this means…
“Look! Christmas decorations!” Sofia exclaims.
“Close your eyes! That’s illegal until after Thanksgiving.”
“Oh Dad… Look, Santa!”
“Yeah, Santa!” Lukas shouts. “I want that!”
“Over my dead…”
So Thanksgiving is not only a turkey massacre, it’s a key barrier to the marketing blitz of Christmas time (or should be, anyway). We should all be thankful for this.
For our part, we lived in denial for three weeks. Blinding ourselves to the growing Christmas presence. We bought our turkey (a Butterball) and prepared for Thanksgiving. We discovered baking—because how else were we going to get a pumpkin pie? Thankfully (!) we found pumpkins. We actually managed to pull together most of the key ingredients, with a couple of notable exceptions.
“The sweet potatoes…”
“Sweet potatoes? Those are white.”
“I got cranberries.”
“Cranberries? These are red raisins. You can’t spread raisins.”
“Use these, then. They’re the best we can do.”
“Gooseberries? What the…”
When you cook yellow berries with nuts and green apple, you get a yellowish-brown porridge that looks a lot like, well, like vomit.
So our sweet potatoes were white and our cranberries looked like vomit. The turkey and mashed potatoes were spot on, though. So were the rolls and pie. Once we laid out our spread, we filled our glasses (again). And then I did a bit of a Thanksgiving toast:
Blah blah blah gratitude blah blah family and friends blah blah Cheers!
And we cheered with our glasses.
Thereupon I declared our turkey buffet open: “Please, let’s eat!”
Lukas, however, objected. He held up his wine glass full of sparkling apple cider, his face flushed and eyes glazed, and declared: “But first we have to drink!” And he proceeded to drain his glass, express a great sigh of pleasure, and slam the glass down on the table. Rather startling for a three-year-old, I must say, and hopefully not prophetic.
Everything tasted great. We ate and drank too much and suffered, as per tradition. We breakfasted pumpkin pie (tastes best with morning’s coffee) and celebrated Black Friday by defying the marketers and going for a hike, with a picnic, as per tradition as well. Altogether, success.
Then Saturday morning came. We couldn’t deny it any further. So I took the blindfolds off the kids and we pulled out the tree. On to the ‘winter’ holidays and all they portend.
What are the odds we can get a white Christmas in Cali? Hmm…