I come home from work to discover two hefty jack o' lanterns on the front steps. What's really spooky is that I can't find the splatter of seeds and pumpkin guts anywhere.
Ordinarily, it requires very little investigation to reconstruct the movements of the 16-year-old girls who haunt my house. Here is where they painted their toenails, over there is where they ate uncooked ramen noodles out of the bag. Here is where they plotted their next romantic conquests while drinking lattes, watching The Vampire Diaries and pretending to do their French homework. The evidence trail is never cold.
But the seasonal vegetable carving seems to have taken place somewhere off-site, which makes no sense at all. I know the jack o'lanterns are their handiwork because I recognize the shrieking expression on one as the work of Dark Polly. Polly is one of my favorite 16-year-old people on the planet because she combines the adorable perkiness of a high school cheerleader with the world view of a cranky, middle-age, high school cafeteria worker.
Her pumpkin projects PMS/pop quiz/I hate my life! with as much teenage angst as a squash can emote. But she is as unlikely as any of them to have initiated any degree of pumpkin clean-up.
I circle around to the back yard; I scan the back deck. I peek in the basement, the girl's room - and with my heart pounding - into the room of Boy, Esq., which is undefended territory while he is away at college. This is where I will find the entrails. I am sure of it.
But the boy's room is untouched - by pumpkin carving. There is a nail salon set up on his desk, but no winter vegetable parts that I can see.
I turn to Mr. Kamikaze for answers. He was home all day. Is it possible that he actually cleaned up for them?
He looks a little surprised at my query, but he recovers in time to take credit.
"There is no mess because Dad was in charge."
"Ok," I say. "But where, exactly, were you in charge?"
The girls asked if they could carve pumpkins on the back deck, he tells me. He said "no." They asked if they could carve them on the driveway. He said no again. Eventually, they settled on a spot on the edge of the front yard - practically in the street - where they sat in their Pink yoga pants and sculpted their Halloween pumpkins. I find the spot, and although we will probably have a pumpkin patch in the front yard next year, it's really kind of a Halloween miracle. No carving knives left behind, no sign of blood; only a few small bits of rind and some scattered seeds.
I would like to publicly congratulate Mr. K. on a first-rate piece of teen parenting.
I would like to but I can't, because he didn't think to take a picture. How adorable they must have been! How we would have treasured that image, especially now that we have reached those years in which the children refuse to pose for photographs other than the 15 or 16 they post each day to their Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, Vine, Facebook and other Twitter accounts. It would have looked something like this probably, only with a lot more mascara:
Small hands, big knives: Pumpkin carving in the elementary school years.
from the Teenage Girls are Adorable archives: How to get ready for school in as many steps as it takes. Part 1-Whatever.