First Pumpkin

Jack-o'-lantern by Charlie O'Shields


I’ve been seeing a lot of pumpkins being drawn lately with Halloween coming up. Not wanting to be left out of this pumpkin party, I figured I would try doodlewashing one. Since it was my first time doing this with a pumpkin, I thought it was fitting to choose the first pumpkin Philippe ever carved as the subject matter.

Since Philippe lived in France his entire life, he never really celebrated Halloween, much less carved a pumpkin. Though the commercial craze has made its way there now in bits and pieces, it’s still not celebrated like it is in the United States. So it was really exciting to introduce him to the wonderful world of Halloween American Style as it was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid.

In some ways, for a kid, Halloween is even better than Christmas. You get to grab a pail or a bag and go from house to house while tons of complete strangers give you guaranteed gifts just for showing up in a costume. That’s really a major upgrade from Christmas where you have to be good all season long to get a few conditional gifts from just one stranger who puts them in your sock. And only he gets to wear the costume!

Of course, when I was a kid we were allowed to roam the neighborhood freely on the night of Halloween. As our cultural fear grows, fewer kids find themselves in this enviable position, and only get candy from people they’ve met, often out of the trunk of a car in a church parking lot. So who knows, perhaps Christmas is now trumping Halloween for them, but back in my helmet-free, lawn dart flinging youth, it was always an unforgettably wonderful night.

The best part was meeting other groups of ghouls on the street corner and getting the skinny on who was giving out the best candy. This was very important as you had to get to the candied apples before Mrs. Robinson turned out her porch light for the night. And equally important, you had to avoid the deplorable hermit woman, who was quite possibly a witch, because she was giving out toothbrushes.

With this insider information, you were able to maximize your evening while hitting as many houses as possible to get the most treats. I quickly learned that the little plastic pumpkin was insufficient and progressed to a large bag instead. One year, feeling particularly brilliant, I took a doubled up brown paper bag. Once the primary bag was full, I could simply hide it temporarily behind a bush, and take the second fresh bag to continue with my ritualized begging.

As I was describing all of these wondrous things to Philippe I realized just how ridiculous it all is. It’s truly a bizarre tradition. Strange that something built out of celebrating a harvest and honoring the dead could morph into a holiday about dressing up, destroying pumpkins, and scaring the crap out of each other. But honestly, not so surprising, because those last bits sound way more fun.

Today, I don’t go to parties and no longer dress up in a costume. Halloween has just never been as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid. Going to only one house and hoping that the treats will be good there, just loses much of the magic for me. No, I’m happy with remembering all of the childhood joys of Halloween. I know there will always be new things we’ll experience in life, but there will be little to beat the thrill of carving your first pumpkin.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
  1. Kari 7 years ago

    Okay, I have to disagree about Halloween not being fun for adults. I love Halloween even though my kids are not trick-or-treating anymore.. I love to see the costumes, especially the homemade ones. I know most don’t make their costumes but I do see some creative ones. I hope Philippe enjoyed carving! I once used a Dremel to carve three pumpkins! Super doodlewash!

    • Author

      Thanks Kari!! ❤️😃 Philippe did enjoy it! Yeah…I guess since I was more about the treats than the costumes, I never figure out how to move Halloween into adulthood! Lol But I agree that looking at homemade costumes can be very entertaining!!!

  2. Gold Standard Test 7 years ago

    Quizzical pumpkins are the best. A fabulous first jack-o-lantern – and a super fun image!

  3. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    Not being born in North America, I never quite “got” Halloween either. I like costumes and all, but even as a kid, I was never comfortable with the idea of begging for candy. And then when my kids were little, I didn’t most of the candy that were given out (I mostly prefer chocolate and I only like particular kinds of chocolate in addition), so we started a treasure hunt tradition where we stayed home and I hid several little (or a couple of big) prizes that the kids had to hunt for with poem clues that I’d written. 🙂 See, I never did march to the same drummer as others.

    Your pumpkin is hysterically adorable…kinda like you, but you’re cuter and not John Boehner-orange! 😀

    • Author

      Hahaha!! Thanks Teresa! ❤️😃I’m so happy you don’t see me as John Boehner-orange, but now that you mention it, he does sort of look like a jack-o’-lantern! Lol And oh my…we are coming over for Halloween at YOUR house!! That sounds fun!!!!

      • Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

        You are 10 years too late! We stopped doing the treasure hunt when my older son was about 9. 🙂 Maybe you and Philippe can make your own hunt? LOL!

  4. Jacob 7 years ago

    Haha, that’s such a cool pumpkin!

    I think I arrived just as we’d fully ‘borrowed’ the over-the-top Halloween festivities from you lot, but I don’t think I ever went trick or treating or did anything really. There was a time I had this urge to go as The Joker (!!) but nobody would go with me. We did carve pumpkins a couple of times, though.

    With my indifference, I’ve been surprised at my sadness that, for the past few years, there hasn’t been a single knock at the door. It is a bit of a shame, especially reading the warm memories you recall. Of course it’s, as you mention, parents being more careful, and I think kids just going to parties instead. I can remember door-knocking being constant as a child – our parents made us stay out of the living room and turned off the lights. Small wonder I’ve never gone crazy for it!

    • Author

      I would have totally gone with you if you were the Joker!! Lol That’s awesome! And yes…I live in a set of terrace houses in a community that’s either childless or retired, so not many kids coming. I used to live in a house where kids came by and it was fun to see their costumes. But since the house was still in the city, you had to stay out of the living room and turn out the lights before the 6 foot tall tricker treaters came around. 😳

      • Jacob 7 years ago

        Tsk, yer should have said so back then! It’d have been such a laugh, not for the sweets but just the trying to unsettle everyone. I’m good at that!

        Maybe next year, eh 😉

  5. I love Halloween still, even though I no longer dress up (except on the very rare occasion!!) It’s a fun, creative, no pressure (as in no big meal cooking, no present purchasing and wrapping) holiday! I hope my kids enjoy it as much as me when they are older! I am happy to report that trick-or-treating is alive and well in my neighborhood, and now that my kids are a little older they run in packs from house to house…with NO adult supervision 🙂

    • Author

      Yay!! Hehe…that actually makes me super happy! It’s like a rite of passage in childhood to go trick or treating alone! Sooo fun!! And I agree…the make a meal pressure of the other holidays makes Halloween kind of special! Hehe…thanks for sharing Deb!! ❤️😃

  6. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Here in NYC the kids trick-or-treat up and down Broadway. All the storeowners have a supply on hand and you can just stand on the street and get your fill of costumed and sugar-filled children going in and out of the delis and hair salons. Also, most large apartment buildings post sign-up sheets in the elevator, so you know which people in the building will give your children treats. And of course you can do your friends’ buildings too…
    I do miss the ritual of pumpkin carving. And roasting the pumpkin seeds!
    Nice memories from your doodlewash, Charlie.

    • Author

      That sounds like fun and very NYC! Also sounds a bit complex to coordinate! Hehe… I think I do appreciate growing up in the suburbs for the wild abandon of it all. And yes!! Roasting pumpkin seeds!! That’s the best part! ❤️😃

  7. Damita M-S 7 years ago

    I like me the pumpkin. I like Halloween just never enjoyed dressing up in costume. I’m inspired to doodlewash a pumpkin. 😜

  8. Jill Kuhn 7 years ago

    I have fond memories of begging for candy too Charlie! It was fun to dress up in costumes most of my friends and I made ourselves. 😊 Back then I loved candy. I remember one year, I got a rock wrapped in foil. I was so disappointed! I decided that I’m going to carve a pumpkin this year as I haven’t in ages… Philippe’s pumpkin looks marvelous! And you painted it hauntingly well my friend! 🎨😳🎃

    • Author

      What?! A rock wrapped in foil! That’s criminal!! You definitely need to carve a pumpkin and take pictures! ❤️😃I’m sure it will be fabulous. I couldn’t believe Philippe’s turned out so well for his first try, but he’s irritatingly talented in that way. Lol 😉

  9. Rachel Murphree 7 years ago

    Charlie, I really like how you portrayed the light inside the pumpkin in the eyes and mouth. Don’t know if you guys are thinking about having kids, but if you do, you’ll *really* realize how truly bizarre the whole custom is. the other 364 days of the year, you will teach your kids to not talk to strangers, don’t go in cars with people they don’t know, don’t take candy from strangers…but then on that one special day — all caution is thrown to the wind! Although I’m with you…I loved it as a kid!

    • Author

      We aren’t planning on kids that don’t have four legs and are furry. By which I mean dogs..not just really odd kids. 😊And that’s soooo true! Halloween flies in the face of everything parents teach you! Lol But then again, I guess that’s WHY we all loved it so much! 😉

  10. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Great pumpkin! (hats off to Schultz) Thank you for sharing your memories…very amusing.

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