Ah, it’s Halloween, my favorite holiday. Is it because of all the adorable children in their precious costumes whooping and scampering through crisp fall leaves, hopped up on free candy? No, of course not. Who cares about that? It’s because this is the one day of the year when virtually no one looks at me twice in my monk’s robes. Or, if they do, it’s in wonderment and admiration: “Wow, what a great costume that guy has on! It looks so authentic. He even shaved his head!”
Now, I don’t know what image people have of monks’ lives (whatever it is, I’m sure it’s been utterly shattered by this blog) and how they occupy their evenings. Perhaps they picture a serious man with furrowed brow squinting at the ancient scripts of a musty text by a butter lamp’s flickering light. Well, maybe some monks do. But some monks don’t have teenage nieces and nephews. Last night, in exchange for some scrumptious supper prepared by my sister, I was required, quite literally, to sink elbow-deep into the arcane rituals of this pagan festival. That’s right, I carved a pumpkin.
Now, tell me, what was your childhood pumpkin-carving experience like? If your yout’ was like mine, first you scooped all the wonderfully slimy innards out and made an indentation at the bottom of the inside for a candle. Then you carved two triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and either a smiley crescent or a frowny crescent mouth. You took the triangle pieces and chopped off two or three smaller triangles. These you pinned in the crescent for fangs. The shape of your fangs and where you pinned them was about the extent of your creative flourish. You set the candle into some melted wax in the hole, lit it, clicked out the lights and had your mother marvel at your accomplishment like you were the second coming of Rodin. Said pumpkin got displayed on the front porch until either vandals smashed it in the street (in my neighborhood, the likely scenario) or the candle flame dried out the inside and caved the face in, provoking delighted “eeeuw’s”. That was Halloween. Every year.
But kids today? Oy, who can keep up with how sophisticated they are? My niece preceded our pumpkin-fest with math homework. Not only did she start asking me questions from her textbook in an inscrutable foreign tongue, but she showed me her calculator. I just burst out laughing, because of the 3000 or so keys on there, I only recognized the numbers 0-9, +, -, x, ÷, and =. Couldn’t even locate a %.
Anyway, back to Halloween, it seems that these whippersnappers can’t be content with just a goofy smiley face or a spooky frowny face on their punkins. Nowadays, apparently, it’s gotta be a creation that might get considered for the Whitney Biennial. They have these kits now with enough diagrams, instructions and tools that pumpkin carving can now double as practice for future brain surgeons; I think you actually get some college credit. And you know what? They’re totally cool. Once my curmudgeonly façade broke down (doesn’t take much) my niece and I had a major squash-sawin’ fiesta. Here we are, hard at work, and before you even ask the question my mother always asks, the answer is no, I can never make a normal face for a picture. Privilege of the youngest-born:
My niece has really blossomed into loveliness this year, hasn’t she? Yeah, well, she’s also 15 so if I hear one wolf whistle, my vows against non-violence are temporarily suspended.
Anyway, here are our finished products…
…of which some of us appear inordinately proud.
Apropos of nothing except that it also occurred last night, my nephew related a hilarious story at the dinner table. He’s a big-hearted young man who’s volunteered a lot of his time working with autistic children, and the conversation steered in that direction. Specifically, he was talking about a habit that some with autism develop, namely taking whatever catches their fancy without thinking of it as stealing. He was told about another young man who took care of an autistic child in the area named Andrew. Recently, this young man took Andrew to a local aquarium. They got quite absorbed in marveling at all the sea life until the young man looked up and…no Andrew. He looked everywhere, growing more and more frantic. Finally, Andrew appeared, completely soaked from head to toe, nonchalantly standing in an ever-growing puddle. Flooded with equal parts alarm and relief, the young man hustled the squishing Andrew out of the aquarium and into the car. They drove home, Andrew offering no explanation. Once in the house, the young man was about to help Andrew out of his soggy clothes when he noticed Andrew’s knapsack was completely bulged out and wriggling. Relief fully yielded to alarm as the young man gingerly undid the top of the knapsack. Once loose, out popped the head – my nephew swears this is true – of a full grown King Penguin!
Dinner simply ceased for at least fifteen minutes. Rarely have I laughed so hard. Every time the laughter faded, one of us would offer a new theory about how Andrew managed to nab a King Penguin and stuff it in his knapsack undetected, or we’d imitate our version of what the penguin’s face might have looked like once nabbed combined with the sound it made, or we’d recreate versions of the explanatory phone conversation the young man had to have with aquarium officials.
I really don’t have any experience with autism at all. Do any of you? Any similar stories to share?
Now, really apropos of nothing, a housekeeping note. By request, I’ve added a list at left with links to the most recent comments. As you can see, we’re still having a robust conversation precipitated by my post on Christian missionary activity in Mongolia.
Finally, if you live in the Washington, DC area and are planning to go out trick-or-treating tonight, I would recommend avoiding the “Haunted White House”. It’s being reported that today they’re handing out tricks instead of treats. Much too scary!
Back to some Mongolia stuff on Wednesday, promise.