Pumpkin picking reaches mass hysteria

Blinging Pumpkins

I don’t know when pumpkin picking commanded such mass hysteria, but it has reached epidemic proportions in the latter part of October. This past weekend, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at G&M Farms in the San Francisco East Bay, and it was a glorious mob scene of parents and children. I swear the humans outnumbered the pumpkins slumbering on a vacant field. Tired zombied parents pulling their unencumbered kids and giant pumpkins collectively in dusty, red radio flyer wagons.

Bales of fun
Enjoying the corn maize labyrinth

There was no escaping the bags of sweet-smelling kettle corn, painted scarecrows, Indian corn, pony rides, and bales of hay designed into an elaborate maize labyrinth. I was half-expecting David Bowie’s Jared the Goblin King to bust out like the Kool-Aid man from the white-washed barn between us and the corn maize. But no — it was just the dads slinging kids on their shoulders while waiting in line for the next pony ride.

Activities at the pumpkin patch
Riding a wee little pony

Pumpkin season is the formal acknowledgement of fall, the precursor to the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every fourth quarter celebratory occasion. It is a rite of parental passage that is both a timeless classic and Instagrammable sensation. If you have a young child, pumpkin picking is nearly inescapable, unless you’re traveling out of the country during the month of October.

Pulling up my Instagram feed, I am duly inundated with photos of adorable babies and tots smiling with orange pumpkins in the background. Glamorous women guilelessly reposing against a backdrop of white-washed pumpkins, gourds, and chip proof manicures.

Pumpkins are as Americano as pumpkin pie, as this luscious squash is thought to have originated in North America with references dating centuries past. I am a big proponent of the fall tradition welcoming pumpkin spice with a vengeance – pumpkin spice coffee, pancakes, cereal, cakes, and popcorn. As with all holiday traditions, I am happy to go all out as I relive the magic of childhood.

Next up – Halloween.

All about the decor
Halloween decorating

We grow up too fast, don’t we?

Once upon a time, I was a child…

I look at my kids most days with a mixture of pride, amusement, and befuddlement. Sometimes I feel like a bystander watching them with soft observant eyes, comparing mental notes to my own childhood. Was I that spunky? Was I that incredibly loud? Did I have that same kind of crazy kid energy? Hmmmm….I think you know the answer.

At that age, I was watching Sesame Street and The Great Space Coaster, unpacking toys from my hallowed Happy Meals, hoarding bazooka gum wrappers to read later, and playing chase with the wily ginger-haired twins down the street. I remember taking pride in my red suspenders and bright corduroy pants, patched up at the knees with bright quilted flowers and butterflies.

I remember having a quiet, thoughtful conversation with a neighborhood friend, asking why her shoes were two sizes too big. They were careworn hand-me-downs. Her mom said she would grow into them. Looking back, I realized her mom couldn’t afford a new pair. As young kids we didn’t quite understand. It didn’t quite register until years later. Instead we laughed and played with whatever we could get our hands on, often coming home with dirt smudged on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes.

Then there was the evolution of my hair. Bowl cut graduated to pigtails graduated to ponytail graduated to spiral perm. Full stop.

Once upon a time
Little old me

Flipping through the leaves of an old family album, I would remember things with greater clarity. History condensed down to these album pages.  I pause.

When did I become my parents? Why did childhood summers seem to last forever while the last few months race by – only to remind me of my own ephemerality. When did I become so old?

My solitary moment is shattered when my toddler daughter chortles and rolls around on the floor. She’s swiffering the floor gleefully with the force of her entire body. At the very same moment, not even a yard away, my son is obsessively doing the floss. His arms swinging back and forth with metronome precision, rapid-fire style. It’s a race in a never-ending loop. Impressive. Thank you Fortnite for this mind-numbing visual.

Floss
Doing the floss

I can relate to my kids’ range of pure emotions that take them on a rollercoaster ride all in a 24-day cycle. Peals of laughter that would deafening in an echo chamber, hard stubborn expressions when the wrong sort of vegetables appear on their plates, and the saddest of disappointments when they fail at something important. I look at them through Seussian lenses, delivering the exaggerated character expressions that warrant their quizzical looks and verbal appeals of “mommmmmmmm…..”

While times have certainly changed, the fundamentals of being a kid have not. While we navigate our grownup world, we have the ability to hold on to our childhood essence for a lifetime. To play, to laugh, and to be authentic.

Play time
To play, to laugh