Post-pump­kin trac­tor tantrums

Maryland Independent - - Southern Maryland Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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