I’m not sure if my wife ever felt gore for gourds or thrilled at slaying squash any more than the rest of us, but some pious pumpkins made it their solemn pledge to make our kind “pay” for our melon mutilation. Last Halloween in 2013 we received the wrath of the Great Pumpkin.
It was a mottled kind of October sky; not really deciding if it was in the mood to storm or just brood about overhead, in a cumulus sulking. We had purchased WAY too many pumpkins, with delusions of grandeur on our minds and visions of Michelangelo’s greatest relief ever to grace a grimacing gourd.
“Let’s go carve the pumpkins out in the courtyard” I heard her say.
This should have given me pause. I was well aware of the hoards of children in our neighborhood that would descend upon us faster than Libby to a Label, and what better way to attract roving children then by brandishing globular, sunset colored, Cucurbita pepos and sharp knives? Kids were compelled from all over the courtyard, with the spell binding charms of “shiny and sharp” and beckoned to the forbidden scent of “dangers my mother would not want me to have”.
I had bought about 3 versions of the cheap plastic pumpkin carving kits: you know the ones with the colorful display patterns that ensnare a young and naïve squash sculptor? Each kit contains exactly one tiny scoop that might scoop out a pumpkin if the contents were raisins, one tiny “saw”, one marker that drew on pumpkins and wiped off on your hand, and 4 versions of hopes and dreams in carving you will never achieve. Be that as it may, these were safe carving tools that generally worked just fine. Not good enough for our sacrificial lamb; aka, my wife.
My beloved carefully sharpened the kitchen knife set that could cut through shoes as neatly as chopping up lettuce. Brandishing her instruments of gourdly torture, she triumphantly set out to the courtyard to carve her pumpkin. All the children showed up immediately and wanted to grab for the illicit tools.
“No. Those are for the adults. They are too dangerous for you.”
Our daughter, who was not terribly eager to push the matter, grabbed her two-bit saw of the Lilliputians and started carving her pumpkin. I started fumbling with my marker, losing track of whatever vision I had started with, and settling on something far more attainable: smiley face. My beloved wife started in on her masterpiece. She deftly removed the lid of the pumpkin, making a round incision that bordered on “surgical” and started cleaning out the insides.
Slop! Squish! Flump! Went the guts and squishy innards of our slain squash spread out over the newspaper.
“Can you carve the top to mine? I can’t do it.” Some random child who picked up one of our pumpkins asked.
“Sure.” She said, fingers dripping with orange innards. And like carving with a trout, the knife slipped through her fingers, slitting her pinky into two fleshy blooms, severing two tendons. Faster than you could say “YAAAARGH!” she closed her fingers into a tight fist and said evenly “Yeah, we gotta go now.”
Grabbing a towel, she wrapped her hand before any blood or grotesquery could be witnessed. Let me note here, I am both a world class “panicker” and “fainter of blood”, but my wife was so calm and collected, it allowed me the mindset to grab all the knives and start herding the instruments of death away from the children. They looked up quite bewildered, as if to say “Why are you taking them away from us? We didn’t do anything.”
In lock step precision, the three of us headed to the car to the ER, as if we had trained for this our entire lives. Once at the hospital, she took out her phone and asked me to take photos so she could show our Facebook friends and family of her cool new injury. I tried to hold back a hurl in order to steady the camera phone. She was going to be fine. Our daughter was not as thrilled about the blood-letting ordeal and felt much more comfortable in the waiting room where we waited.
True empathetic lesbian friends of ours text us right away in desperate concern over which digit she injured. (It’s called “priorities” ladies!) We joked about having the doctor adding extra attachments, and at this point, I knew we had just gone through our very first “crisis” as a family.
It is crucial in the bonding of a family to face a tough situation together: medical emergency, natural disaster, lost luggage at an airport while stranded overnight in LAX. Some situation where you have no control or necessary expertise in this area, but you all need each other to make it through. When we were sitting in the waiting room, I realized this was our family moment. We had been through lots of ups and downs with each other, but this required full attention of each family member, and dedication to the unity of the family unit to make it through. Our daughter also had to see us in a crisis and to also know that we were going to handle this just fine. She didn’t need to worry and could trust us to work together as a team to make it through.
This turned out to be a good practice run. In the course of the following year, my wife has now had 4 surgeries for this one pinky of pumpkin-paring predicament, one close call with STAPH infection, bore the brunt of ENDLESS Pumpkin carving jokes (which she took very well) and now has a permanent “fancy” finger whenever she drinks or eats. The downside is her righteous heavy metal Dark Lord horns look downright off putting, and her Hawaiian “Shaka” might get us beat up.
We are professionals now. I have her Sponge Block for proper propping, with arm holes to hold her stuffed hand and stray sea creatures. I know the drill to get animal crackers, chicken soup, and sprite during the first day coming out of anesthesia and how to dress her and help her bathe for the next 12 days.
If we can get through this as a family, helping each other through the rough stuff (as she has helped me through my health challenges this year) we can get through whatever CRASH, BOOM, BAM can throw at us. On Veteran’s Day weekend I sprained my ankle which swelled up like a Christmas Ham. We are quite a pair!