It was the autumn when I was four years old and staying at my maternal grandmother’s place. There was an old hut next to her house where my grandmother used to keep her farming tools and store some vegetables from her vegetable garden.
The hut was from the time before my mother was born, and it was originally built as a temporary house for the family while their new house was being built. As a consequence, even though decades had passed by the time I was there, traces could be found from the time when the hut served as a house, such as dish shelves, tables, and what looked like a kitchen space. And on one of those tables, my grandmother often kept onions, potatoes, and other root vegetables fresh from her vegetable garden. I used to love exploring this forgotten corner of the house and discover my grandmother’s fresh vegetables among the ancient artifacts.
One day, I found a bunch of pumpkins on the table in the hut. As I watched them, I thought of the Halloween pumpkins that I had recently watched on a TV program. I brought one back in the house to find my grandmother.
“Grandma, I want to make a Halloween pumpkin with this,” I eagerly said to her as soon as I found her in the kitchen.
“A Halloween pumpkin?”
Coming from a generation that was not too familiar with the Western culture and living in the rural Japan, my grandmother had never heard of such a thing before. So, I explained to her that a Halloween pumpkin was a pumpkin with a face and inside we could light a candle.
“So, then we have to carve the pumpkin,” said my grandmother, standing up to get the necessary tools.
The two of us sat at the kitchen table with the pumpkin and started to carve out the flesh. At first, we used a spoon, but the pumpkin flesh was too hard for the spoon to cut through. So, my grandmother switched to a knife. I wanted to do it myself, but since I was too small to handle a big knife, my grandmother told me to wait and watch while she did the hard part.
In front of my eyes, my grandmother carved out the pumpkin, and to my surprise, a lot of seeds came out of it. I had never thought a pumpkin had so many seeds inside. What a difference from the picture I had had in my mind – a candle inside a pumpkin!
Once all the seeds were gone, my grandmother let me carve the face of the pumpkin. I tried my best to make it look like the face I had seen on the TV with triangular eyes and nose.
I wanted to pierce through the pumpkin skin all through so that the eyes, the nose and the mouth of my Halloween pumpkin would be connected to the inside, but it was a bit too difficult for a four-year-old. So, when it was done, even though it did look like a Halloween pumpkin, a candle couldn’t be lit inside. I was a little sad about it, but my grandmother, who didn’t know how the authentic Halloween pumpkin should look like, was very happy with our final outcome.
“There we go, your Halloween pumpkin!”
Looking at her delight, I also decided to forget about the idea of a candle inside my pumpkin and felt happy about it. My smiley Halloween pumpkin stayed on the table in the hut with other pumpkins until the end of my stay.