My son is two years old, and some change. Some parents would call him 28 months. Other parents would say he’s “still in diapers”. I call him wise.
He’s also getting the knack for celebrating holidays. While we were making our second jack o’lantern (the first was eaten by pesky squirrels only minutes after it was left on the front porch), he started asking the question. The question when you are a toddler: Why?
I started to cut a ring around the stem.
So that we can remove the top, I said.
It’s the only way to get the stuff out of the pumpkin, I said. Actually, it’s not the only way, but it’s the best way. Or maybe not the best way, but it’s the way we do it.
I started to scoop out the seeds with my hands. My son declined to help and made a gross face.
Why what, son?, I replied.
Why am I scooping out the seeds, or why are there seeds?, I asked.
Yeah, why dada?
I’m scooping out the seeds so that we can make space for the candle that we will place inside the pumpkin. The pumpkin has seeds because that’s how it makes more pumpkins.
Why does it make more pumpkins?, I said.
Yeah, why more pumpkins?
The pumpkin’s job is to grow big and then share its seeds, I said. Maybe an animal eats the pumpkin and then poops out the seeds somewhere else. Or maybe the pumpkin just rots there are on the ground and the seeds plant themselves in the soil.
Well, that way new baby plants will sprout out of the seed and grow long on the top of the ground, I explained. Then, new baby pumpkins will start to grow on the plants.
Why do the new baby pumpkins grow on the plants?, I asked.
Yeah, why baby pumpkins?
Because… well, because the pumpkin plants want to keep doing their job, which is to make more pumpkins, I said.
Why do they do their job dada?
Um… I suppose the plants, and uh, the seed for that matter, have an instinct to reproduce, I said. Or, not an instinct exactly, because plants aren’t like animals. But, anyway, they just really want to keep making more of themselves.
Why do they make more?
Well, now that you ask, I’m not sure if they necessarily want to make more, in the way that we want to say, read a book, I said. But they do it anyway.
I guess it’s just their nature, I said.
Because that’s what makes them…them, I said.
Because, that’s the suchness of the thing, I said. Come to think of it, the word “dada” is a Sanskrit word that means “suchness”. It’s kind of hard to explain. But pumpkin seeds have a suchness, just like the plant has a suchness, just like the pumpkin has a suchness. Just like you have a suchness, son.
Actually son, I really don’t know, I said.
Oh, you don’t know.
And we looked into each other’s eyes, nodded a little, and continued working on the jack o’lantern.