How to Carve a Pumpkin–On the Occasion that You Need a Few Pointers

Dear Lily June,

Once upon a time, in the 1800s, Scottish Highlanders who needed a distraction from cold winds creeping under their kilts started carving faces into turnips and sticking candles inside to ward off evil spirits. Today, we find those kinds of beliefs archaic and barbaric.

Instead, we cover our cold October butts in denim, and we carve pumpkins (turnips! ha!) to ward off 1990’s alt-rock frontman Billy Corgan. If your pumpkin is sincere, and you believe, he will leave you candy.

If your pumpkin is not, he will leave a gushy pile of orange devastation in his wake. So goeth Halloween. The world is a vampire, Lily.


Parent Pro-Tip: The best way to avoid carving directly into your hands is to be sure you have a pumpkin in them first. There are many places to procure the sacred gourd, but the one your father and I chose this year was Jacobs Family Orchard in New Castle, Indiana. (All satire aside: If you are in the Midwest region and have functional taste buds, this. is. the. place. Period.)

There, we, as a family, indeed battled evil in the form of homemade apple cinnamon donuts. I’m sorry to report we all lost, as they were, like brains to zombies, utterly impossible to resist.

Unfortunately, they had some bizarre magic that caused your parents to shape-shift until we resembled, well, them. C’est la donut-loving vie. Remember us how we once were, Lily. Think of the bodies we now have as horrifying costumes worn by the young, svelte Olympians underneath.


I digress. The best way to select a pumpkin, if you’re seventeen months old, is to run around the patch pointing and shrieking “Pumba! Pumba! Pumba!” like you are Oprah as a toddler, and this is one of your favorite things. (And you get a pumpkin, and YOU get a pumpkin!)

Be sure, ultimately, to settle on the largest in the patch, one gargantuan enough that your parents will have to set it (and ours, and you) on a rolling wagon just to get it to the weighing station. If your parents don’t grunt like they’re straining an organ just to load your gourd into the family car’s trunk, you’re not thinking big enough.

Your pumpkin should be able to eat lesser pumpkins for breakfast.



Once home, your diagnosed anxious mother will start panicking about the unpasteurized apple cider she let you sip from. (Get thee behind me, E. Coli.)

That’s the perfect time to run around tossing her dirty bras or unclean dishes into the middle of your living room floor, tipping your Princess Cozy Coupe on its side (leaving one wheel eerily still spinning) then hiding, so all your mother sees is a nightmarish scene half-resembling a house on Hoarders, half invoking the devastated playground of the Terminator.

Our apartment, circa 2016

After the sight of her own living quarters has caused her to suffer a few fun-size cardiac arrests, she will be ready to stab something out of frustration. Insert pumpkin here.


Once she’s expertly hacked the shape of a ghost into her “pumba,” cutely say “Boo” just like your parents have taught you to do. That will lull them into a false sense of security, thinking the tricks of the day will all be replaced by treats.

This part, Lily June, is crucial. As your parents carry the family’s three large jack-o-lanterns (and you!) onto their apartment’s balcony to light them (not you!), be sure not to let them know that the new sliding door the rental office installed will automatically lock behind them.

Bonus points if the balcony is small enough to make airplane bathrooms look luxurious.

Double bonus points if you end the day mimicking the new word your mother, like a short-haired Rapunzel, kept calling futilely into the darkness: “Help! Help!”


Watch as your mother calls her own boss–the only person she knows within a 20 mile radius–to come rescue your entire family.

The color of your mother’s face will slowly drain, taking on vampire pallor, as she watches her boss step over the mess–including but not limited to the aforementioned dirty dishes and underwear, now possibly flecked in chunks of pumpkin goo–to let your whole family back inside.

Your mother’s face, in horror, may look like this. That’s totally normal.



Good thing her boss had the foresight to take a picture. THIS is a Halloween we’re all going to want to remember.

As if anyone could ever forget a face as bewitching as this:

Happy week to Halloween, Lily June.


Picture Credits:


13 thoughts on “How to Carve a Pumpkin–On the Occasion that You Need a Few Pointers

  1. Jesska says:

    I don’t know why they make doors like that 😦 Hopefully you can figure out a way to stop it doing it again..
    Life needs memorable situations though, even (or perhaps especially??) when they’re unappreciated at the time! I love how you write – thank you for sharing :). This written world would be a little bit greyer without you.

    (Also, your story reminds me of locking myself on a balcony a long time ago – except I didn’t have a phone with me and it wasn’t my balcony, it was the town mayor’s. Maybe I should write about it… :))

    Liked by 1 person

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