In 22 years of parenting, I’ve had a lot of pumpkins on a bunch of porches. I’ve propped infants up for adorable baby photos in pumpkin patches, and those babies are now in college. We went to fall festivals with pony rides, corn mazes, face painting and moonbounces, with all the apple cider, caramel apples and hay rides that go along with that sort of thing. And crowds. The parking, the money, the lines. The looking for that one pumpkin even though you waited too long to go and the pumpkin patch seemed full of orange from a distance but all the pumpkins were ugly on at least one side when you got up close. I never really looked forward to the whole “festival” scene.
But suddenly, with the older girls in college, my fifth and eighth graders couldn’t care less about going to the pumpkin patch fall festival farm with its overpriced admission, goat petting zoo and bean bag toss. They’d be fine with carving the already-perfect pumpkins from the grocery store. Of course, in my half-empty-nest household, these two still want to wear costumes and go trick-or-treating, thank goodness. Though it makes me realize that soon enough, I won’t even have trick-or-treaters in the house anymore. I’ll just be that lady who gives out the full size candy bars.
I remember her, from when I was a kid, in our apartment complex. She had a silver tray and she presented it to us, holding it down to our kid-height level with a friendly smile, so we could choose. Any full-size bar, and not the lame ones either like those Zagnuts. She had Reeses’, Hershey’s, Snickers, all the big players. Of course we already knew which one we’d pick, we’d had a whole year to decide. From the time I had trick or treaters at my own door (from our first newlywed apartment where three kids showed up right up to our last house, a big old haunted Victorian with 300 trick-or-treaters), I’ve always given full size candy bars out in honor of that lady back at the apartment complex, and remembering how cool that felt as a kid to get one.
The other day at the grocery store, I walked by the pumpkins, all perfect, and almost picked two up for the kids to carve in a few weeks. That morning, Facebook had sent one of its “We care about you and the memories you share” eight-years-ago photos (above) where you have to stop what you’re doing, think about how different your family looks, get tears in your eyes, and yes, think about pumpkin patches of years past. I realized as I stood looking at the shiny, non-lumpy, not-moldy-on-one-side grocery store pumpkins that for all those years I dreaded that stupid family-farm-festival crap, but that now, I don’t even have kids who care about going there any more. I’ll never again have matching-shirt-Halloween family photos like the ones Facebook so charmingly reminded me of that very morning.
I’m glad at least I still (barely) have two trick-or-treaters in the house for maybe one last year or two (maybe I’ll make them stop by the pumpkin patch to pick out a few not-perfect pumpkins really quick this year), but even those years will slip away before I know it and I’ll just be the old lady with the silver tray, smiling as she looks down at the neighborhood kids, perhaps remembering when her own were that size.