11:18:09 pm on
Saturday 20 Jul 2019

Foster Kids and Pumpkins
AJ Robinson

What can you say of Halloween? Well, it’s the time for Trick or Treating and it’s when you get to carve a pumpkin. My candy collecting days are long over, I think they lasted through my middle teen years; after that, it was strictly parties.


I was an early carver.

When it came to the carving, I got started early. I carved plenty of pumpkins with my mother.

Each year, we tried to come up with something different and, mind you, this was in the days before all the fancy carving knives and stuff people have now. We pretty much just used a steak knife and a big spoon. Over the years, as I went from home to college, back to home and then off on my own, there were years when I couldn’t carve a pumpkin.

That changed once I became a dad. We started Alexa, my daughter, on the carving early. We took her out for candy before she could even walk. We tried to make Halloween fun each year.

Now, with Alexa grown and on her own, Jo Ann, that’s my wife, and I put carving and collecting Halloween candy aside for a few years. Of course, we always made a point of having plenty of candy ready for the kids that came to our door. This year, we had something a little different.

For Halloween 2018, we got together with friends to have a pumpkin carving party. Our foster son Antonio was a big part of our party as were two other foster children, Rachel and Serena. Here is the big difference, for 2018, not one of the kids had ever carved a pumpkin.


Some foster children don’t come from homes.

Mind you, they are eleven, thirteen and sixteen, respectively, which makes the notion they had never carved a pumpkin quite amazing. Still, this is not something that is remotely surprising when you work with foster children. One of the things Jo Ann and I learned, in the foster class, is that some of these children come from truly deprived homes.

In fact, some foster children have never lived in a home. Our instructors and caseworkers have told us of children who have lived their entire lives on the streets living under bridges, in packing crates and even out in the woods. Jo Ann has friends who did foster care and the first child they got had no idea how to use a bathroom or that he didn’t need to hoard food in his room.

Thus, our kids announcing that they’d never carved a pumpkin didn’t come as much of a surprise to us. Hence, the idea to have a little carving party. We bought several pumpkins, set up a nice big table in the backyard and got the carving tools.

Everyone had to carve her or his own pumpkin; everyone did quite the different type of face. We didn’t just carve faces; we shared fun time. We had snacks and drinks and relaxed and chatted, and the kids were just kids, which is how things should be.

The table had pumpkin guts spewed just about everywhere. It was a thorough mess, but we didn’t mind. The kids had a great time, each of them left with a silly looking pumpkin and a smile; most important of all, everyone left with great memories.


Daily survival precludes pumpkin carving.

Those of us who come from intact families that have grown up middle class or even lower class often do not truly understand what it means to struggle just to survive every day. The foster kids do. They often grow up far too fast; unable to enjoy a simple joy of childhood is pure gold for them. I look forward to the next joy we’re able to share with them.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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