Perfect Pumpkins

It was hard to pick one…they were all so perfect!

Many years ago, when my girls were only tots, someone from the same daycare they went to told us about a small farm off Blenkinsop Road where an older couple sold pumpkins every year before Halloween.  For some reason that intrigued us and we found the place and bought our pumpkins there that year, and every year after that.

The pumpkins weren’t cheaper than store bought ones, in fact they were more expensive.  But they were beautiful because they were taken care of.  They had been turned a number of times as they grew so that they weren’t as flat on one side.  They were hand washed and perfect;  once they were picked they were set out in a small garage, dozens of them, all shapes and sizes.  It was a beautiful sight to walk into the garage, into a sea of lovely, bright orange pumpkins.  We would take our time and find exactly the right ones.  Then the elderly woman, bent over with osteoporosis, (I always imagined somehow that it was because of her bending over for months turning the pumpkins before they ripened) would price them out, we’d pay for them and pile the pumpkins and ourselves into the car and head home.

As time went by, it was only the elderly woman who was there to sell them.  We never asked, but assumed that her husband was ill or had passed away.  As more time passed, it was the elderly woman and her daughter who attended the pumpkins.  Finally, it was only the daughter who came out to sell us our precious pumpkins year after year.

It’s a funny how traditions come to be;  over time the little ritual of going to the small farm every year to pick our pumpkins just became part of the fun of Halloween.  Cutting them open and taking a big whiff of that wonderful pumpkin smell, collecting the seeds for roasting later on, and carefully carving their faces–happy, scary or silly, was such a joyful thing to do.

As usual this year, the girls, who are now adults, and myself piled into the van and headed out to the little farm.  The sun was out and it was a perfect afternoon to pick our pumpkins.  Along the way we passed another, larger farm where dozens of families picked pumpkins, enjoyed hay rides and walked through a spooky barn.  Not too far down the road was our smaller, quieter pumpkin patch.

We almost missed it.  Actually, we did miss it and drove right past and had to turn around further up the road.  I realized later that we missed it because there was usually a stand with some of the pumpkins out front, and this year it wasn’t there.  We slowed down as we drove past.  “Maybe they ran out of pumpkins”, one daughter speculated.  “They’ve never run out before,” I replied, noticing that the barn was all locked up and no signs of pumpkins anywhere.  “Maybe they had to leave for a bit and locked everything up,” I offered.  Slowly, it dawned on us that maybe there would be no more pumpkins from our favourite place at all.   We grudgingly opted to go to a local grocery store and get our pumpkins there.

Of course, it just wasn’t the same.

The pumpkins were already starting to get mouldy and they certainly weren’t as beautiful as the ones we were used to.  They were unceremoniously thrown into large cardboard boxes, flies buzzing around, many of them too rotted to be of any use.

I suppose we could have gone somewhere else, like the other pumpkin patch we drove past.  But it would have somehow felt like a betrayal!  One of my daughters decided not to pick a pumpkin at all, the other one and I finally settled on two pumpkins we could live with and hauled them into the store.  Standing in line, we kept remarking about how weird it felt to get our pumpkins in such an boring and ordinary manner.

After we got home, one of my girls did a little research on the farm and found that it had been on the market and was sold last spring, which confirmed our sad realization.  It was the end of our wonderful little tradition.  All good things must come to an end.

Years ago, I included our little tradition in a song I wrote called Simple Life.  One of the verses went like this:

There is a woman, must be in her 90′s 
She sells her pumpkins every Halloween 
She’s all bent over with the weight of something 
And every year her crops’ the best I’ve seen

I actually remembered to bring the daughter a copy of the CD that song was included on one year.  It’s not that the song was about her, but I thought it would be nice to know that there was a reference to her in the song.  The chorus of the song is:

Don’t be unkind
Live a simple life
Laugh at yourself sometimes
Look at me now,
You’ll be here someday
So love a little bit along the way

It was based on the idea of that little expression “live, laugh and love”, and how simple things count the most.

We’ll never forget the simple joy of picking our pumpkins from the old couples’ farm.  Even though we never knew their names, we thank them all for giving us such a wonderful tradition to remember. Picking our pumpkins will never be the same!

A “perfect pumpkin” I carved one year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *