Picture Perfect Horror Story


I remember thinking that the pumpkin had to be carved just right – my vision was that it would be perfect and therefore everything else would be ok. I labored over the template for hours, making tiny cuts into the flesh of the pumpkin, doing my best to make sure it was an exact match. The more I focused on this project, the less I could think about the last few months. The bruises on my neck had faded; it no longer hurt to turn my head. My children were happy. These were the things I needed to focus on. I could hear him moving inside the house and braced myself, knowing that while this attack wouldn’t be physical it would be just as difficult to withstand. “What kind of idiot can’t even carve a pumpkin without directions?” I sighed, careful not to be too loud and in my head thought “This kind of idiot obviously.” I turned to face him, this contorted and angry man, the father of my children…my husband.

In my extreme focus on the pumpkin – honestly, had any one pumpkin ever been subjected to such critical scrutiny? I snapped off the end of a paring knife…. a $200 knife that we had recently purchased. If he were to see the damaged cutlery, it would set off an entire new cascade of angry recriminations and odds are, one of the kids would have heard his meltdown. Thinking fast, I shoved the broken knife into the pumpkin and tossed the piece that had broken off into the bushes. What followed was a tirade of epic proportions. My ability to function as an adult, my parenting skills and of course my qualifications as a wife were called into question and I was berated for about half an hour as I continued my pumpkin project.

Every year on Halloween I was drawn to more and more involved pumpkin carving projects until the year that I realized that my marriage was over. I wish that I could say that this was within a year or so of the day I broke the knife, but it was well over a decade later when I would finally find my voice and my confidence again. Looking back over the pictures of past Halloweens, it’s easy to see the focus I put into my pumpkin projects, and it would become a tradition that my children and I enjoyed together. This is the silver lining of living in an awful marriage; I put all of my energy and attention into my children. For them, those early Halloweens are happy memories filled with candy, costumes, pumpkins and fun. Now that the kids are mostly grown and haven’t trick-or-treated in years, but I still remember those early Halloween adventures whenever we see a particularly cute pumpkin.

Now, I’m almost seven years free of that toxic relationship and haven’t carved a pumpkin in even longer. I recovered my self-confidence, realized that I’m not actually a complete failure at everything, and have built my children and myself a happy life. As a reminder of how far I’ve come, I still have the broken knife.

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