Crafty Southern Pumpkins

October 19, 2019


Autumn in the South - Leslie Anne Tarabella

I’d like to take a moment to honor the Southern woman who invented the fake foam pumpkin. I’m sure it was a woman, because men see no need to run around every October plopping pumpkins on every horizontal surface, and I ‘m sure she was Southern because we’re the only region of the country where a real pumpkin can rot to a gooey mess before you can say, “Boo, y’all.” 

Northern ladies taunt us by displaying real pumpkins on their porches that stay crisp and beautiful in their chilly autumn days, although, I’ve heard they buy fake cotton . . . have mercy, can you imagine such a thing?

We charming belles, on the other hand, still have our air conditioners blowing full blast, and our scorching autumn days often result in horrifying displays of decorating-gone-bad. 

Autumn in the South -Leslie Anne Tarabella

One warm October, long before I knew better, I carved a Jack O Lantern with my Kindergarten students, who excitedly helped scoop out the veggie innards and watched as I skillfully carved the triangle eyes.

At the end of the day, we left our cheerful Jack O Lantern on the rug beside my story time rocking chair, turned off the air conditioner and locked the door for the weekend. On Monday morning, I stepped into the room and thought someone had been murdered amongst the building blocks. The smell was overwhelming. Even to this day, after having raised two boys, I don’t recall ever smelling anything worse. 

I’ll spare you the gory details, but I had to bake the school custodian three pans of brownies before he spoke to me again.

The new foam pumpkins can be carved and sculpted like the real thing with no messy innards. Covered in glitter, painted or decoupaged, our favorite autumn gourd will now last forever.

But like a freshly cut Christmas tree, and flowers from the garden, there’s just something wonderful about the real thing. The fresh smell of a newly carved pumpkin, even the slime, is somehow fragrantly cozy. 

Being torn between practicality and crafty euphoria, I had to 

weigh my options. After consulting with the Committee for the Preservation for Loveliness, I decided to risk tackiness and use fake pumpkins and gourds for the first few weeks of October, then, when the temperatures finally drop, swap the foam version out for the real thing.  

I make the switch between faux and real in the middle of the night so the neighbors won’t suspect any decorating impropriety. I even figured out how to dry the stem from the real pumpkin and hot glue it on the fake pumpkin the next year. Wow! I heard you gasp at that flash of crafty genius — you’re welcome. 

Faking a Southern Autumn requires great effort, which is okay, because Southern ladies understand how great effort results in great beauty (thus explaining the 47 bottles of hair products and 15 tubes of mascara in our bathrooms). We take a deep breath, light apple spice candles and sprinkle fake leaves and pumpkins all over the house. It’s worth the effort and is great practice for the fake snowmen who are just a few weeks away. 

This story first appeared on and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.

**Don’t forget to click over and follow along on my Autumn in the South Pinterest page! Over 300 beautiful images of Autumn!

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