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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Even the most dreaded traditions can be worth it in the end

The Ditto family pumpkin photo makes the hassle of Halloween worth it.  (Julia Ditto)
The Ditto family pumpkin photo makes the hassle of Halloween worth it. (Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto The Spokesman-Review

I write in a gratitude journal every weekday morning. This is something I’ve done since the early days of the pandemic, when uncertainty filled my days, along with children who had been let out of school indefinitely and were therefore left to roam my house like inmates escaped from an insane asylum. I needed something besides chocolate and Netflix to get me through, and so I turned to gratitude.

Most of my entries are short (“I’m so thankful it’s finally raining!”) and some are long (like when our cows escaped and a neighbor came to rescue us from our breathtaking incompetence). Either way, in my gratitude journal is usually how I start my day.

Last week, I noticed that I had written basically the same thing two days in a row: “I’m so thankful that Halloween is finally over and we can move on to Thanksgiving and Christmas!”

Halloween is fine and all, but once the weather snaps cold, I am ready for mulled cider and tasteful fall decor, not skeletons and haunted zombie mazes. And in my opinion, Halloween is a lot of work and craziness for not much payoff. Decorate my house with spider webs and dump out costumes all over the basement floor so we can eat ourselves sick and my kids can be hyper monsters for a few days? No thanks.

I was so burned out on Halloween this year that I considered blowing off our long-standing tradition of carving pumpkins. Usually, we do this at least a few nights before Halloween. But this year, because of crazy schedules and family visiting from out of town, the only time we could find to carve pumpkins was the night before Halloween, after an exhausting day where we had hosted 30 people for a family dinner.

“What if I offered to pay my kids $100 if they’d agree to skip pumpkin carving this year?” I wondered aloud while all the adults were sitting around talking after the family dinner.

“I think they’d act like they really wanted to carve pumpkins until you offered even more,” said one particularly cunning brother-in-law.

And I knew he was right. Besides, even though I was tired, I wasn’t $100-worth tired. I needed a different level of bribe – not necessarily monetary, but something that would be highly motivating nonetheless. Once all the extended family left after dinner, I sat my kids down.

“I have an idea,” I started, carefully watching their faces for any sign of cracking. “What if, instead of carving pumpkins tonight, we just leave the pumpkins as-is on the front porch and instead we get to watch a movie every single night this week?”

The response was mixed. Jane was 100% on board. George was indifferent. Henry seemed reluctantly intrigued. But Emmett and Hyrum looked completely crestfallen. And that was all it took.

“Never mind!” I said, instantly taking back my sacrilegious suggestion. “We’ll carve pumpkins and it will be great! Let’s cover the table with old newspaper and get to it!”

I stifled internal sobs as I pulled out the random knives and scrapers we use each year for this very activity. Kid after kid brought in their giant pumpkins – picked weeks earlier from the crowded fields of Greenbluff – and set them on the newspaper-clad table.

Logan started washing up all the dinner dishes as Hyrum picked up a knife and aimed it toward the top of his pumpkin.

“Whoa buddy,” I said, deftly grabbing the knife away from him like the little-boy weapons specialist that I am. “You’re still not quite old enough to do this yourself. Let me help you.”

I began carving out the top of the pumpkin, shooting Logan desperate S.O.S. glances while he manned his post at the kitchen sink. Finally, he noticed.

“Do you want to trade?” he asked, hands dripping with dish water.

“Absolutely,” I replied, jumping up from the pumpkin carving table without a second thought.

For the next 45 minutes, Logan and the kids carved faces of varying degrees of scariness into their pumpkins. And when everyone paraded their pumpkins out onto the front porch for our annual candle-lit pumpkin picture, I was glad we had soldiered through. There may not be a lot of payoff for me at Halloween, but that moment on the porch is one of them.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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