Someone once wrote “Never say no to any invitation or experience. You never know where it may lead.”
Well, being willing to do this has been a challenge for me ever since I read those words years ago. My comfort zone is often my comfy chair and my kitchen, so accepting an invitation to go see The Platters perform, or to buy season tickets for the enthusiastic local hockey team, or whatever, just feels like so much trouble. I think of the brand-new trashy novel I just bought and I can’t wait to get into it.
So recently I made a small commitment to get out of my comfort zone and do something I have never done in my life, believe it or not. My Red Hat group decided to have a full sit-down Thanksgiving Dinner at our Queen’s house (Queen Bee she calls herself) and then follow it up with a pumpkin carving contest.
I have never had any interest in pumpkins, except for the tinned kind that you add to high-fat pie crust and top with whipped cream. I can carve my way into that, all right. But not to appear a party pooper, I said, “Hey, count me in.”
Then I began to fret. What was I thinking?? The dinner I can handle but the pumpkin carving?? That’s for kids. I’d be no good at it. I picured myself coming in last, everybody laughing at my boring carved-out face with two big teeth, the kind you see everywhere at Hallowe’en. What kind of knife do you use? How would I get the insides out of the pumpkin? Was it bone-hard like trying to cut a raw squash?
Then I realized the insides would be all soft and seedy for the most part, quite easy really. Maybe it was worth a shot.
Sitting at my neighbor’s kitchen table, I bemoaned my hasty decision, only to find my friend’s husband was quivering with excitement at the thought of carving a face.
“I’ll do the face for you, I’m really good at it,” he said eagerly. “Just bring it over here when you buy it and I’ll use a felt pen and put the face on, then you just follow my drawing. It’ll win for sure. I’m good at this stuff.”
“He’s good at it, you’ll see,” his wife promised me.
So now there are three of us involved in this commitment. The party is growing. Then this morning I was having a buffet Sunday morning breakfast at La Dolce Vita, where the smorgs are legendary, with another neighbor, only to find yet another fan of the Great Pumpkin.
“Oh, you’re kidding,” she said, putting aside her knife and fork (which rarely happens during a meal). “A pumpkin carving contest? This is your Red Hat group? Wow, maybe I should join. I love stuff like that. Do you think they’d let me in?”
“Well,” I said, through a mouthful of pork ribs and bacon, “I’m sure they’d love to have you. I have to warn you though, this group has a pretty raunchy sense of humour. You have to be pretty well unshockable.”
“I’m in,” she said. “Maybe I can phone the Queen this afternoon and get an invite to the Dinner. What do you think? Only of course I was going to start my diet tomorrow. But there’s always another day, right?”
I gave her Queen Bee’s phone number, feeling dazed. The pumpkin party was growing by the minute. It had started with me not wanting anything to do with this pumpkin thing and now I had a growing pumpkin-fan family building steadily by the day.
This gave me pause to stop and remember that old saying about never say no to any new experience.
Look at that, I thought to myself. I was brave enough to say OK I’ll do this thing, and now I have a whole crowd involved in it.
When I brought the medium-sized pumpkin over to my neighbor’s house and sat drinking extremely good coffee while he got to work with his famous felt pen, I thought about it some more. At the table with us were their daughter, just arrived from Qualicum with her husband, their daughter and son-in-law and brand new baby granddaughter, and everyone was putting their two bits’ worth into the creation of this award-winning pumpkin face. Which, apparently, you’re best to carve with a big steak knife with a serrated edge. My education had been sorely neglected.
Dina got out a bottle of wine (they had just all had lunch, there’s always food going on in my world somewhere) and the party really got going. Soon arguments were erupting over the issue of how many teeth. And eyebrows. MaryAnne, their daughter, wanted to put little curls all around the face to let the candle shine through.
Candle?? I thought. OK, now I have to get a candle. What next? The depths of my ignorance were really starting to show. Apparently you put a lit candle in this thing. Then I remembered seeing them on front doorsteps over the years, lit from within, by of course, a candle. I had never thought much about it. I’m not too bright sometimes, but we’ll keep that a secret.
All of which just goes to show: When you decide to be a good sport and put your ego aside and try something new (even if you know you won’t be that good at it) you can make life happy for a lot of other people. You can make new friends and you can make old friends like you even better. It’s worth taking the chance.
However, I think, next year I may actually try to win on my own talents and go buy a stencil for the face. After all, they’ll never know I didn’t really do it myself. My little secret.
Oh, P.S. Just to let you know, I won second prize with my pumpkin, even though I wrecked a couple of things with my clumsy carving techniques. Next year, I will go to the Dollar Store and buy a pumpkin carving kit. Ya never stop learning…