Pumpkin Patch- A Fall Tradition
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.
Put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.
I simply can't imagine dwelling inside a pumpkin shell, even with all the nasty-smelling goo and seeds scraped out. But, having just returned from our annual trek to the pumpkin patch, I do have pumpkins on the brain.
How would you like to be a pumpkin farmer and open your property up for roughly 6 weeks each fall to the pumpkin-starved public? I can think of no other occupation that attracts such wide range of people to a single destination in search of ...giant gourds.
A veritable pumpkin patchwork of visitors
In our house, going to the pumpkin patch is as much a rite of fall as football games, the World Series and turning the clock back an hour. It's a family tradition.
Today being a reasonably crisp Sunday, my husband and I decided to take his parents out to buy pumpkins. They are both 87 and moving a bit slow, but love to go for rides in the country.
Because they do move so slowly, this gave me ample opportunity to drink in the cider-scented atmosphere. What I observed was a calliope of humanity as vivid as a New England maple grove.
We saw the usual two-parent families with young kids, but also multi-generational families, a couple of pierced and tatted teens, and some people who looked decidedly out of place engaging in an activity as G-rated and outdoorsy as a pumpkin patch. (More on that in a minute.)
That's a great pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
No doubt there is a personality test that sorts people based on their preference for round vs. oval pumpkins, bright orange vs. light (or albino), giant, large, small, or mini. I did notice that some people tend to pick "their" pumpkin decisively. Others take their time, sorting through the choices with rapt attention and care.
One wise grandma coached her 6-ish granddaughter, "You can have any pumpkin you want -- as long as you can carry it." Other shoppers piled wagons full to bursting. I even overheard a husband say with alarm, "No, not that one. Real pumpkins are orange, not green."
Orange & Black
I met a man who knew the Mets
Picknickers and Petting Zoos
Pumpkin patch owners are more than good gourd growers, they're smart business people. Having picnic tables encourages visitors to linger longer. You can bring your own food or buy pumpkin treats and cider/sodas (although I didn't see a single person carving their newly purchased pumpkins on-site).
I did, however, make a delightful personal connection. A family was laying their bright orange and blue NY Mets towel on the grass. I asked the little boy, "Do you like the Mets?" He nodded, "Yes." His mom piped up, "Oh yes, we've seen them many times." I then asked if they knew what was happening with the new stadium to replace Shea. Well, the dad knew all about that, as well as the new Yankee Stadium. I said, "You sound like you're from New York." He was. I said, "I am, too!" He said, "What part?" I said, "Long Island." "No kidding! Where?" I said, "Manhasset." He pointed to himself and crowed, "Great Neck!" So here we are, two displaced New Yorkers from neighboring (like the next stop over on the Long Island Railroad) towns, in the same west coast pumpkin patch, on the same day, at the same time! What are the chances?" I tell ya, there's something about the color orange that brings people together!
Everbody Love Llamas
Fom there we loaded our haul into the car and headed over to the petting zoo. Another brilliant idea! Bring adorable miniature animals to a place filled with children -- and my 87-year-old in-laws. We watched as wide-eyed kids fed the goats and admired the 6-week-old baby pony. The friendly llama even singled my father-in-law out for affection (in both directions). It was a precious moment, exactly what pumpkin patches are all about.
Here's your gourd -- get back in, please
As we got on line to check out, we noticed a woman (of indeterminate middle age) and her companion (who could have been a boyfriend or a son - hard to tell). She was twitchingly giddy with her purchase - a single, 40+ pound pumpkin. I watched her pull out a bill and her cohort disappear. The cashier declared she still owed $2.52.
Well, right then the woman sidles over and starts cozying up to my father-in-law! She pats his tummy and coos, "Oooh, you're cute! You look real healthy, too!" Uh, no. Actually, he has lymphoma and Alzheimer's. But in her state she obviously couldn't tell or didn't care. Maybe she was just being friendly, in a tweaked-out kinda way. My husband quietly added her $2.52 to our bill and we all went our separate ways, without so much as a "thank you." My father-in-law seemed to enjoy the attention, so where's the harm?
Pumped up on pumpkins
On the ride home, my husband turned to me and said, "You know, if we owned a pumpkin farm I would hire people to run the pumpkin patch every year. I'd sit in the house and count the money. I don't think I'd be able to deal with the public like this. It's too weird."
Ah, I thought to myself. But then you'd miss out on this giant slice of autumnal American Pie.