Thursday, December 3, 2015


Way back in October, for a bit of family-rated Halloween fun, we had Kids # 1 #2 around to carve jack-o'lanterns. It was the first time carving for both of them. Halloween is a relatively new import to Chile. Children's costume parties and lots of candy are definitely a thing, but the less candy-conscious elements of the holiday haven't arrived yet. This year, however, for the two weeks before Halloween, the Jumbo Supermarket chain was selling big orange American pumpkins.

            Over in the candy section of the supermarket, hunting through Haribo mixed assortments for the ones with lots of licorice, I became aware of a sotto-voce conversation behind me.
            "You ask."
            "No, you ask."
            "Are you supposed to eat them?"
            "How would I know?"
            "Ask her, then."
            "You ask!"
            I turned around. Behind me, a family of four were bending over my cart prodding bemusedly at the pumpkins.
            "You want to know what the pumpkins are for?" (A dim reply, but one has to break into a conversation somehow.)
"They're all over the supermarket!"
            I explained.  With a google-image search even, and they thought it was pretty neat.  They thought it might be better done in autumn, the way the north-Americans did it, but the candle part sounded lovely. Last I saw of them, they were making a straight line for a big stack of pumpkins in the fruit-and-veg department.

            I hope they have as much fun as we did.  Kid #1 is 9 now, and taking life very seriously indeed.  All afternoon, she diligently scraped and drew and carved, but it was Kid #2 (age 6)  who really grasped the possibilities.
            He put the top of the pumpkin on his head and wore it as a hat, and offered it to his sister who thought it was disgusting- "There-is-nobody-as-gross as-you-anywhere! On the whole planet."
            So he dipped his hands into the big bowl of orange pumpkin guts, he came up dripping. "Raaarrrggghhhh!"
            His sister scooted back from the table and yelled.

            "Get away from me! You get away from me right now!  Mom - make him go away! He are so disgusting, take it away!"
            Looking thoughtful, Kid #2 wiped the worst of it on the seat of his trousers, and with an air of innocence that would do credit to a baby rabbit, he turned to his sister and held out a hand.
            This time, she made it halfway across the room. "Make him stop make him stop I can't bear it make him go away why is he even here I can't work like this take it away take it away take it away!
           "Kid #2 lifted his face up to mine.  He was suffused with happiness - there was so much of it that it was almost too much. He kicked a chair leg to relieve his feelings and crawled under the table and sat there for a while, sighing deeply.

Stickiness and screaming aside, both Kids #1 and #2 reckoned that carving pumpkins was pretty good fun, but it was when we added candles that the afternoon reached it apotheosis.

            In the bedroom, we closed the door and drew the blackout curtains. I lit two tea lights and lowered them into the pumpkins - 
            and magic happened.
           A slow, quiet magic that rose up with the candles and spread out until the room was filled from ceiling to floor - 
            The children were enchanted.  It was their magic; magic they'd made themselves with their own hands. It's something you only see in children: the unquestioned acceptance of wonder.  There's no looking for the wires behind the illusion, just a simple, absolute yes, an utter absorption in the moment.  In the darkness, they sat and they watched, and they sat and they watched -
            That was magic too.

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