The perfect pick
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 excitement. 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).
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.