Apparently, in Bud's mind, the first day of school signals the official start of Pumpkin Season, and each day last week when I picked him up at school he asked if I had a pumpkin waiting for him in the car. (I'd surprised him with one early in his Kindergarten career and, like his beloved elephants, Bud never forgets.) After the first day of school we tried to find one at the local supermarket but were told we were too early. Bud settled for Twizzlers instead.
But he didn't stop asking for a pumpkin. One of his summer projects had been lovingly caring for the pumpkin plant that he'd started as a seedling in his Kindergarten classroom, and that bloomed during the summer:
Unfortunately, thanks to our woodland neighbors who have taken to snacking in our yard, I don't think this particular plant is going to yield any fruit. Bud doesn't seem at all disappointed. To him, pumpkins aren't something that you grow in the yard; they're something you buy at supermarkets and farm stands. So once the air got crisp, the Macintosh apples showed up in the refrigerator, and I started bundling him off to school in the morning, he knew it was time to start trumpeting the arrival of pumpkin season. Each time he spotted a leaf on the ground he picked it up and announced: "The leaves are falling! Time to get a pumpkin!" Each day on the way to school he said, "Summer's over. Now it's fall. Let's get a pumpkin!"
So, I promised him that on Saturday we would set out in search of a pumpkin. September second is early, I reasoned, but the state fairs have already begun, and you can't have a state fair without pumpkins. They had to be out there somewhere. We kissed Daddy goodbye in the morning and set out, telling him that if we weren't home by dark it was because we'd continued driving north and were searching for pumpkins somewhere in Canada.
I wasn't far off.
Bud set the early agenda, and we scoured his favorite local farm stand with no luck. I ventured further north visiting every roadside farm stand and grocer's market I could find, but they were all pumpkin-free. Bud briefly toyed with the idea of picking up a watermelon instead. "Maybe this watermelon will turn into a pumpkin!" he said. I appreciated his optimism, but I just couldn't bear to give him any more false hope, so we carried on.
We traveled into the next state to visit a big open-air farmer's market that I was sure would pay off. It was pumpkinless. While we were in the neighborhood, Bud suggested that we visit a nearby children's museum, which seemed like a great alternative and a possible way to salvage the day. We spent a couple of hours hiking on their lovely, well-groomed trails through the woods and having a wonderful fresh-air-and-exercise afternoon. When we finally flopped back into the car, happy and tired, Bud said, "Now let's go get a pumpkin, Mom!"
And we were off again.
After coming up empty at the next supermarket we tried I told Bud that I was afraid we might just be too early. I suggested that we try to find a toy pumpkin instead. He agreed, and we headed to a nearby party store that was full of Halloween decorations - but no toy pumpkin that would fit the bill.
Bud was a good sport. No tears, no tantrums; not even a heavy sigh. But I was crushed on his behalf. We made the long drive home quietly, both of us lost in our own thoughts.
And then: success.
Fifteen minutes from home, as we drove by a little home-grown vegetable shack in someone's driveway I spotted a box with telltale stems sticking out the top. I pulled over and made a u-turn in the road.
"What are you doing, Mom?" Bud asked.
"Wait till you see," I said.
We pulled into the driveway and Bud saw them immediately. "Pumpkins!" he shouted. "You did it, Mom!"
I have never felt more like a hero.
Bud chose a pumpkin, for which we paid a single dollar, and he carried it home on his lap. It sat next to him through dinner, waited patiently at the sink while he had a bath, then spent the night sleeping on his bedside table until it was time to join him for breakfast in the morning. All weekend, the pumpkin has been Bud's constant companion, riding with us in the car, joining in on every adventure.
Today Bud took the pumpkin outside to decorate it, just as the Teletubbies' pumpkin is decorated in the live-action classic The Magic Pumpkin. It was just dashing:
This evening, Nana and Papa arrived at the house. They'd known that we'd planned on undertaking The Great Pumpkin Hunt on Saturday, but had not heard the outcome. So, just in case, they brought along two more pumpkins.
Bud was beside himself with joy. All three pumpkins had a merry reunion on the kitchen table while Bud, unable to contain his delight for another moment leaped into the middle of the room, threw his arms in the air and shouted,
"HAPPY PUMPKIN SEASON, EVERYONE!!!"
Let the celebration begin!