Post-pumpkin tractor tantrums
The pumpkin patch is full of memories. For years and years, my parents took my sister and me to the same farm stand in Waldorf. I’m old enough to now be one of those folks who sits in her rocker, talking about the quiet roads of yester- year, but it’s true: when I was growing up, Route 5 was nothing like today’s speedway. Much of Wal- dorf still felt sleepy and rural. In our pumpkin patch pictures circa the early ’90s, a long-demolished gas station still sits on the corner. The pumps are empty.
Ah, yes — the days of old. October afternoons when we would pull along a rusty Radio Flyer wag- on, walking the rows of pumpkins in search of the “best” ones. Dad coached us on finding a gourd with a good jack-o-lantern foun- dation: flat base; no signs of rot; smooth carving sur- face. We were uncharacter- istically interested in this advice, letting Mom and Dad have final approval on pumpkin choice. It felt im- portant, even sacred.
Back at home, Katie and I were predictable in our designs: I went scary; she went sweet. My sister’s jack-o-lanterns always had circular eyes and a round “O” of a mouth, like her pumpkin had just received an overdue bill and its credit had taken a hit. My pumpkin, by contrast, had a smile filled with jagged teeth and traditional triangle eyes — all carefully sculpted by Dad, of course, who was in charge of bringing our visions to life.
We rarely deviated from this template, though I remember a year we used stickers — stickers! — in place of actual carving. As a tired adult myself, I now see why my parents would have discouraged us from clutching slippery knives to saw away at objects big- ger than our heads . . . and on a weeknight, no less. But stickers? Later, being old enough to actually carve the pumpkins our- selves was a big deal. Kind of like graduating from the kids’ table at Thanksgiving — a rite of passage.
Now, you know, I’d feel more confident if anoth- er adult were in charge of the carving; I don’t feel qualified to hold a blade to a pumpkin without more coffee. The whole thing is also much messier than I remember. My husband gets very into making jacko-lanterns for our porch, while I usually take pictures and rinse off pump- kin seeds for roasting. In typical handyman fashion, Spencer does some of his work with power tools. It’s loud and fun.
But before we can carve, we have to choose. I look forward to hitting the pumpkin patch all year long. Now that Oliver is walking, I couldn’t wait to take him this year — his second autumn, and one in which he’s far more inter- ested in the world beyond his stroller and bottle.
Ollie is walking, chatter- ing, on the go. He has opin- ions and is learning how to share them — mostly in the form of throwing things but, you know, we’re working on that. Spencer and I dressed him warmly and headed into La Plata in search of our own “best” pumpkins, hit- ting a patch that was quiet
Sunday afternoon. on a
So Ollie is a new walker . . . and this patch is on a hill. I’m great at overanalyzing, obsessing and making note of details, but I can’t say “terrain” ever came up during my fall daydreaming. I assumed he would navigate it all with ease.
Like many children, Oliver has chomped his baby teeth into rich, sweet independence . . . and he just can’t let go. Ollie doesn’t want to hold your hand. Doesn’t want to sit in your lap. Doesn’t want to be held, confined or limited in any way — and espe- cially not outside. Hills are meant to be conquered! Roads wandered! Side- walks explored!
He didn’t actually roll down the hill, friends . . . but it was close.
Later that day, we went from wrestling Oliver away from haystacks and pointy pumpkin stems to physically restraining him while Spencer tried to mow the lawn. As soon as he heard the roar of the tractor, my son was fighting out of my arms and headed for the door. I don’t try to make him unhappy . . . but when I wouldn’t open the front door, the tantrum started.
Sometimes I can handle the screaming. Sometimes I cannot. And because I was exhausted, I led Ol- lie outside to investigate the noisy machinery and check out its giant wheels. I thought it would be quick and we’d retreat inside, content and calm.
I really should have known better.
It doesn’t end there, you see. Ollie wants to climb the tractor, sit in the trac- tor, steer the tractor . . . and call me crazy, but I’m just not comfortable with an 18-month-old behind the wheel.
That makes me the worst, of course.
The post-pumpkin tractor tantrum will live in infamy at the Johnson household. You really would think I broke the kid’s heart, judging by the depth of the wails and streams of tears.
Good thing it isn’t my first rodeo, and the boy is just like his mama.
Nothing a few snacks can’t cure.