This Halloween: All guts, no whoring

I’ve never been particularly fond of Halloween. Even as a child, I found the holiday tiresome. I was pained by the process of coming up with a costume cool enough to showcase in my elementary school’s Halloween parade, and would dread the inevitable moment when my classmates would ask me what I was doing that night. My cheeks would turn bubble gum pink as I’d sheepishly admit that I was going trick-or-treating with my mom as opposed to friends, or, ideally, with those large gangs of sugar-crazed kids who’d run from house to house like they were competing to set the record for the fastest trick-or-treaters in the world. I hated those kids, hated the aggressive, greedy spirit they cast into the air. I was perfectly content to spend the evening meandering through the neighborhood with my mom before retiring home to sort my candy by type while my parents watched “The Commish.”

Today, I approach Halloween with similar indifference. I don’t dress up like a prostitute, I don’t seek out the hottest Halloween parties and I don’t binge on fun-size candy bars – or fun-size alcoholic beverages, for that matter. But there is one thing I do: I make pumpkin seeds.

When I think back to my childhood Halloweens, the most vivid memories I have aren’t of trading shy smiles for Snickers bars, they’re digging my grubby hands into a pumpkin carcass to scoop out its guts. I never got excited about the pumpkin carving itself (coming up with creative or scary jack-o-lantern faces just wasn’t my thing), but I was infinitely amused by its squishy, stringy orange interior. I’d squeal in faux horror as the slimy strands clung to my fingers, dutifully taking the time to separate the seeds into the glass bowl my mom had placed in the center of the newspaper-lined table.

Once the bowl was full my mom would take over, soaking the seeds to remove any stray gunk my brothers and I had missed and spreading them out on a cookie sheet in an even layer. I’d stand at the counter watching her toss the seeds with oil and salt before sliding them into the oven to bake. I could scarcely wait for them to be done – in my mind the pumpkin seeds were a far more exciting treat than Milk Duds or Kit Kats or the much-loathed Almond Joys.

“They have to cool!” my mom would scold me as I’d start to snatch them up mere moments after they’d emerge, still crackling from the oven. But I rarely listened. Gorging on pumpkins seeds was, and continues to be, my favorite part of Halloween. Even though I have no use for a jack-o-lantern in my one bedroom apartment that never receives any trick-or-treaters, I still buy a pumpkin every year for the sole purpose of making the salty seeds. They’re my fall kryptonite, best enjoyed still warm with a cold, fizzy Coke – just like when I was a kid.

Today, however, I’m no longer embarrassed when friends and colleagues ask me what I’m doing for Halloween. I don’t mind that I don’t have some clever costume that strategically allows me to wear an indecent amount of clothing, nor does it bother me that I’m not celebrating by seeing how much vodka-laced punch I can drink before getting the spins. I look them straight in the eye and respond with an air of confident nonchalance, “Going to buy a pumpkin, make some seeds and eat them while watching old episodes of ‘The Commish.’”