Jack-O-Lanterns and the Beauty of Temporary Art

Jack o lantern

Easter has its eggs.

Christmas has its sugar cookies.

Halloween has its Jack-O-Lanterns.

All are perishable materials that have potential to go rotten all too quickly. They are holiday treasures that wild rodents would feast on if given the chance. They are mere decorations that take effort and planning to execute, only to be tossed out once they start to smell.

I love it.

I love how fleeting these three are, and that the opportunity to partake in these traditions comes and goes so quickly. Even if you’re a planner, you cannot do these six months ahead of time. If you are a procrastinator you absolutely have a hard and fast deadline for completion. Since I can be both simultaneously, this tiny window of opportunity keeps me in the moment.

The knowledge that these creations will be eaten or thrown away so soon also has the power (however temporary) to stop me from being a perfectionist. I am considerably less worried about making mistakes when I know my artwork isn’t meant to last. I take chances. I take risks. I have fun. I make mistakes and it isn’t the end of the world. The rest of the year crafting -essays, costumes, turkey dinners- can bring out the worst in me. I become a wreck when I miss a detail or when an innocent bystander has gently pointed out a flaw. There have been tears and wailing and gnashing of teeth. The kids have picked up on it. By nature and nurture they are doomed to be perfectionists, too. At least these few guaranteed times a year I can model something different for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I do put a lot of effort into these creations. I spend a lot of time meticulously layering colors and tape to make an Easter egg that looks like a strawberry. For a skunk-inspired Jack-O-Lantern, I made the kids model their best “I smell something nasty” faces. I take time and I put thought into it, but if frosting smudges together, or dye isn’t quite the right shade, or if an idea I thought was clever doesn’t pan out (one year I tried to make a pumpkin who was horrified that his brother pumpkin had been made into a pie and had to explain it to everyone) it doesn’t matter. It will not stand to haunt me for the rest of my days, and it isn’t the only time I’ll ever be allowed to try something new. There is always next year.

And for once (or technically, at least three times a year) I am so not worried about how my stuff is turning out that I can really enjoy what the boys and my husband are making. I am not just watching them make art as a spectator or a member of their audience. I am not trying to carve out quiet time away from them so I can finally concentrate on what I’m doing. We are making things together as a family. The best part, we’re having fun

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