I always look for opportunities to talk about community with my children. Sometimes, those conversations come up in unexpected ways, like a Halloween event.
My girls and I, along with our friend Jen, have been going to a community pumpkin carving that has become a Halloween tradition. Basically the Pumpkin Pavilion goes like this: Carve a pumpkin, leave it there. That weekend, there is a grand lighting and two nights of a park festival by the light of the pumpkins. On Sunday, if you carved a pumpkin, you can take a pumpkin.
The catch? You don’t have to take YOUR pumpkin.
Last year, we carved three pumpkins: one for Eden (then age 1 ½), one for Anika (then 4) and one for Jen (who likely doesn’t want me to post her age on my blog).
We attended the festival for two days, and the girls could not contain their excitement when they saw their handiwork—OK, my handiwork on their behalf—in the crowd of pumpkins.
Before we went to the initial carving event, I knew I had to have a talk with Anika on the prospect of not getting her pumpkin back. I told her these were pumpkins that our neighborhood carved together and they belong to all of us. Hard to say what she understood, but I had to make sure I repeated that this pumpkin might not come home with us.
Sunday morning came and we went to the park to pick up our pumpkins. I found Anika’s. Found Eden’s. Whew!! Then we looked for Jen’s, which was nowhere to be found. Anika was sad for a moment, but got over it and we chose a different pumpkin to bring to Jen.
A week later, as we were taking a walk, we saw Jen’s pumpkin at a house a few blocks from us. It was magical! Anika saw it first, and the girls jumped for joy to see our friend’s pumpkin again.
I was relieved to have such a tactile, perfect ending to the story of the missing pumpkin. While didn’t get the one we made, someone else loved it, took it home and lit it up. So even though we didn’t get to take the pumpkin, we can share it and admire it with our neighbors, even the ones we haven’t met yet.
I never thought one carved pumpkin could tell my kids that much about what it means to be a part of a something. But at that moment, by the light of that pumpkin on someone’s porch, we all felt it. The kids understood it, even if they were too young to verbalize it.
We were in this together. We were not only part of the event, but also a part of our community of neighbors. There’s no Halloween lesson better than that.