The per­fect pick

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

When did pump­kin fall out of fa­vor? Not with me, of course — but it seems like the glut of fall-themed prod­ucts fea­tur­ing ev­ery­one’s once-fa­vorite gourd has be­come ma­te­rial for eye-rolling rather than ex- cite­ment. Pump­kin spice cof­fee! Pump­kin spice ice cream!

Pump­kin spice brake pads! And so on. I stay rel­a­tively un­af­fected by trends be­cause I’m too out-of-touch to know what they are. And I have no prob­lem look­ing un­cool — or “ba­sic,” as the kids say. So for me? Pump­kin spice-themed T-shirts are still to­tally OK, as are the count­less bev­er­ages and muffins and scented can­dles that cur­rently crowd store shelves.

A re­cent ex­am­ple: I do most of the gro­cery shop­ping for our fam­ily, mean­ing my hus­band gen­er­ally opens the pantry to an as­sort­ment of things he’s never seen in his life. I’m try­ing to get bet­ter about not throw­ing ran­dom items into my cart — but like a mil­len­nial pulled to the lat­est smart­phone (my­self in­cluded), I’m sucked in at words like “her­itage,” “fall” and “ar­ti­san.”

That’s how I wound up with pump­kin chipo­tle sauce, which Spencer re­cently spot­ted on a high shelf. The bot­tle is glass, af­ter all; can’t risk the kids get­ting in­ter­ested in its artis­tic la­bel. Oliver is re­cently en­am­ored with “spicy sauce” (i.e., mari­nara — a very not spicy ver­sion). “Meg.” I looked up from the liv­ing room, where I was of­fer­ing bits of cracker to Hadley.

“Re­ally?” Spencer held up the bot­tle, fix­ing me with a look of mock dis­ap­proval. (At least, I think it was mock?)

“What? It sounded good. It’s dif­fer­ent, at least.”

“Re­ally?” Spence per­sisted, and I shrugged. When have I ever claimed to be im­mune to clever mar­ket­ing?

On Sun­day, we were in pump­kin heaven — or over­load, de­pend­ing on who you ask. A trip to a lo­cal farm meant train rides, corn mazes and a very suc­cess­ful dive into a corn box. Lit­tle Hadley loved the lat­ter most of all, even let­ting Spencer “bury” her up to her neck with a look of con­tent­ment I have rarely wit­nessed in our wild girl. Oliver and my niece, Au­tumn, were more con­tent to run the toy trac­tors and ex­ca­va­tors through the ker­nels, which were soon lodged in shoes and sleeves.

Even with the balmy 88-de­gree af­ter­noon, it felt like fall. Ol­lie and I roamed the pump­kin patch in search of the per­fect gourd for our front porch. He’s three go­ing on 13, and I couldn’t help but think of the three au­tumns that pre­ceded this one.

Oliver car­ries on full con­ver­sa­tions now like we’re old pals (and we are, in fact). Though he still has a stub­born streak, Ol­lie is learn­ing to chan­nel it pro­duc­tively. He’s lis­ten­ing more, ar­gu­ing less. Han­dling big emo­tions with grow­ing ease. I’d like to think we are play­ing a big part in that.

I’m still learn­ing not to sweat the small stuff. I have my anx­ious mo­ments, and ugly mo­ments, and ones in which I could yell, “Wait! Let’s try that again!” so I can take back my huff­ing or frus­trated sigh­ing or raised voice at the small­est in­frac­tion.

But I’m hu­man. Spencer is, too. And so is Hadley, and so is Oliver. We’re all grow­ing to­gether.

Ol­lie was six months old dur­ing our first foray to the pump­kin patch, and I had al­ready built up th­ese un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions of how it would go and what we would do. Fall has al­ways been my fa­vorite sea­son, and I had the very mis­guided idea that we’d have a pic­ture-per­fect mo­ment with our new son.

That didn’t hap­pen, of course. And when it didn’t — when Ol­lie cried and wrig­gled and fussed be­cause, you know, he was a baby — I was dev­as­tated. And an­gry, ac­tu­ally. Could noth­ing ever go as I’d planned?

In time, I’ve em­braced “go­ing with the flow.” To find free­dom in it, ac­tu­ally. We plan; tod­dlers laugh. The quicker I ac­cepted that no check­list or sched­ule could be fol­lowed to the let­ter, the hap­pier I be­came.

I still have my mo­ments. My par­ents, sis­ter, brother-in-law and niece joined us on Sun­day, and I al­ways feel more stressed when I re­al­ize we’re im­pact­ing other folks’ ex­pe­ri­ence, too. But we’re fam­ily. It’s OK. I’ve given my­self per­mis­sion to let go.

And guess what? We all had fun! No ex­pec­ta­tions, no dis­ap­point­ment. I felt re­laxed, even with sweat turn­ing my hair into a frizzy mess and sun scorch­ing the tops of my feet. Even with a few melt­downs.

Af­ter much de­bate and chang­ing of minds, Oliver fi­nally picked out his fa­vorite pump­kin to bring home.

“Per­fect, Mommy,” he an­nounced, plac­ing it in the mid­dle of the porch. I wanted to move it, to reach over and turn its dirt-strewn side away from the street. To hide that im­per­fec­tion. To hide my own.

In­stead, I put a hand on his shoul­der. I tou­sled his thick hair with its un­ex­pected traces of gold.

“Per­fect,” I agreed, and fol­lowed my lit­tle boy in­side.

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