My mother-in-law Lina has this extremely sweet tradition in which she invites my kids over to her home a few days before Halloween to carve and decorate pumpkins. Last year she discovered these nifty Mr. Potato Head-like decorations in which you can stick eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hands, legs, and accessories like mustaches and hats into your pumpkin. It’s also way less dangerous than handing my 5-year old an X-Acto knife, and since you’re not removing the pumpkin guts, there’s no mess to clean up.
This year she expanded her collection to Toy Story pieces, so Jake created Buzz and Woody pumpkins with outstretched arms and legs that made the pumpkins look like they were shouting “Hee Haw, Partner! Let’s go wrangles us some Ghouls!”
They decorated six large and two small pumpkins, and the collection sat on our living room rug all week like a miniature pumpkin patch that had been invaded by Andy’s playthings.
Tonight, my 15-year old invited a dozen of her friends over for a scary movie night, so I decided to arrange the pumpkins around the house to create a festive setting.
I went to pick up Woody, and I noticed that he had a white mustache. Funny. I didn’t remember that being one of the Mr. Potato Head accessories. It also looked very fuzzy and life-like – something you don’t see in the animated Toy Story series, much less on plastic limbs and body parts.
I touched Woody’s mustache, and it felt a little like hair, but also a little wet.
Then reality hit.
It wasn’t a mustache at all. It was a big hunk of hairy mold, which nature (or the Great Pumpkin) had strategically placed right under Woody’s large nose.
I glanced over at Buzz. He had grown a big black beard not only on his chin, but also around his sunken eye balls.
Oh my God! There was mold everywhere!
In the center of our living room pumpkin patch sat the largest pumpkin of all. A few days before, it stood about 18 inches tall and was about two feet wide. Now it was still two feet wide, but it was only about two inches tall. It had flattened like a soufflé.
I ran to get two trash bags – one to salvage the Mr. Potato Head decorations, the other to get these nasty squashed squashes out of my living room as fast as humanly possible. As I picked the pumpkins up, they disintegrated in my hands. I had an image of zombie brains as they’re turning to mush.
I managed to scoop up most of the mess, but unfortunately a huge ring of giant pumpkin goo had affixed itself to our rug. I grabbed a spatula from the kitchen and started scraping it like you would a stubborn cookie that refused to leave a cookie sheet. It refused to budge.
I explained the situation to my husband who was so happy to create a scapegoat for his sudden allergy flare up this week (he’s allergic to mold). Although he’s a Virgo, he’s not your typical clean freak, but in seconds he was rolling over the gooey circle with our rug shampooer.
So now, instead of having eight festive Toy Story pumpkins decorating our house this Halloween, we have a bag full of Woody and Buzz’s limbs, body parts and accessories, and a green bin outside with grass clipping, fruit rinds, and a thick layer of pumpkin mush.
You might think that the moral of my story is to wait to decorate your pumpkins until it’s closer to Halloween – especially when you live in sunny Southern California.
No. The moral of my story is, if you see a pumpkin decorated like Woody, and he suddenly grows a thick white mustache, be sure to snap a photo before you run to clean up the mess. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and I could have posted that single shot rather than spending 667 words talking about it.