Pumpkin Patch Strategies
How do you pick a pumpkin for Halloween when you live in the city? Sure there are plenty of them for sale—even across the street—but a pumpkin is not something you pick up along with milk and eggs at the grocery store. It's something you pick out, at the farm where it grew, in a painstaking way. It's an afternoon activity with the far off smell of burning wood and nearby smell of hot mulled cider. Each possible future Jack O' Lantern has its own personality and you need time to consider the merits and possible drawbacks. There is the misshapen one you muse over because it is endearing with its long skinny neck and flat sides. There's the giant one too big to pick up even and when you try to your dad shakes his head no from where he's perched leaning against a tractor covered in hay. There is the one that's just so little and sweet and calls out to you even though there won't be enough room to carve on it. And the one your mom holds up that's perfectly round and will make a great face. You spot a big bruise on the back but she says that won't matter, you won't see that part. Maybe. You'll remember where it is, but you're still looking. The sun is already slanted even though it's mid-afternoon and maybe a few minutes into the search you take a break for a cup of hot cider and ask for a cinnamon donut to go with it, but it's too close to dinner, you're told, cider is enough.
The mums are all in full bloom, that deep maroon red, orange, yellow and it's a little chillier than you thought it would be but you can only tell this from how red everyone else's faces look because you yourself are warm enough in your sweatshirt, back to bobbing and weaving among the orange rows. When you find the perfect one you just know it in your gut, you don't go back to any of the maybe's, that's just it. Imperfections and all, bruises, flat back, missing stem, whatever. Later you will scoop out the insides and cook the seeds with lots of salt and direct your dad how to make the triangle eyes and giant front teeth. But for now you're happy just to carry the chosen pumpkin back to the car, ready to sit down, hands covered with dirt and the feeling almost like you yourself had been out in there in the fields with the actual farmers, working out there since dawn, digging, hauling, piling, plowing, bringing in the season's harvest, hoping for a few weeks at least before the first frost. The car is warm and you realize only then how cold you are. You shiver a little and smile to yourself in the backseat, holding onto your pumpkin, looking out the window, waiting to get home.