This past Sunday my family partook of one of the most popular American holiday pasttimes…braving the pumpkin patch. Sure, this tradition centers on picking out pumpkins to be carved and/or decorated, providing beautiful backdrops for family pictures and offering a wholesome community experience but it also pays tribute to other, slightly less picturesque traits. The kind people don’t want to talk about. The kind that are on the hush-hush list. And me, being ever truthful am happy to divulge this information.
I’ll start with 1) paying exorbitant pumpkin prices for the experience of trudging out into vine-slicked fields adorned with rotting gourd carcasses, 2) constantly picking up tripping children while risking the ruination of those adorably cute but horrendously uncomfortable polka-dot rainboots, 3) starring in unflattering outdoor pictures (see below) despite numerous “don’t you take that picture” looks at the photographer and 4) being the unwilling party to the infinite breakdowns of various toddlers who should be at home taking naps and whose parents should be at home drinking large quantities of Riesling.
But, all that being said, we make the same trip every year in a desperate attempt at tradition and, well, because the kids like it so much. This year was no exception.
Once we reached our local pumpkin growers, we boarded the rickety old steps of a trailer being pulled by what at first glance appeared to be a tractor from World War 2, and headed down the windy path to find the pumpkin of our dreams.
The tractor drove us through the farm and unloaded us right in front of a field o’ pumpkins. Avery looked on excitedly, doing a little mental planning to determine the best route for finding the holy grail of Jack o’ Lanterns.
Jack, well, he had questions.
“Are these all the punkins?” he asked, looking around him at literallyhundreds of pumpkins.
“These are it, buddy,” I answered. When did this kid get such a discerning eye for quality winter squash?
“I don’t wike these kind,” he said.
“Why? They’re just your standard pumpkin, Jack.”
“I want an awive one. These are dead,” he explained.
“Jackie, they’re not dead. They’re just not attached to any vines. So we can take ’em home with us,” I said.
“Humph,” he answered, looking around. “They wook dead to me.”
Attempting to avoid a rapidly approaching bulging neck vein, I checked in with Avery, who in true perfect first child fashion had already located and claimed her pumpkin, with nary a complaint about them being dead. I love this girl.
“Nice pumpkin, Ave,” I said.
“Thanks! I think it’s the most perfect one here!” she answered with a big smile on her beautiful little face.
“I think you’re right! Any issues with it being dead?” I asked.
“Huh?” she responds.
“Exactly,” I said, shaking my head.
I looked back over at Jack who was still very unsatisfied.
“So, what do you think?” I asked.
“Um, these are all too big. I can’t even carry ’em,” he answered.
I looked around me, and had to admit he was right. There were no Jack-sized pumpkins in sight and I knew he’d been wanting a small one for weeks now. I remembered seeing a bin full of the pint-sized gourds at the weigh station where we loaded the trailer.
“Hey, Jack? They have some back at the place where we got on the trailer. Do you want to pick one out up there?”
“Hmmm…that sounds like a great idea!” he answered, excitement playing across his sweet-yet-so-frustrating face.
So back on the trailer we went, each with our own perfect pumpkin and Jack patiently awaiting his. Once we got back to the stand he rushed over to the pumpkin bin, coincidentally looking much like the one at Walmart I had steered him away from last week, the one priced at approximately half of the farm stand price. Lovely.
Eureka! The perfect Jack-sized pumpkin. We were all able to go home feeling satisfied with both our pumpkin picks and our choice to support our local farmers. And tonight, we carve. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jack will liken this part of the tradition to a brutal torture of his new best friend. Wish us luck.