Just last week, as we were traveling in Vermont, we passed a house with several pumpkins sitting at the top of the steps onto the porch, next to the banister post. That sight was all it took, to hurl me back through the years, to a time when I was about seven years old and living on a potato farm owned by the Nixon family. My Dad was a route manager for one of the local dairies, so he was usually either in bed, or working throughout the weekdays. Since he would leave the house at two AM, to start the milk delivery, he would work until about three in the afternoon before returning home. He would eat, read the paper and talk to Mom and I for a little bit and then be off to bed. This made my Mom and I pretty close...kind of like a couple of friends hanging out. I remember one such afternoon, I noticed a couple of pumpkins sitting on the porch...right at the top of the steps, next to the banister post. I ran in and asked Mom where they came from and what we were gonna do with them. She said Dad brought them home for her and me to make a jack-O-lantern for Halloween. The other one was for her to cook up and make a pumpkin pie. I was ready to carve the pumpkin immediately. She said that Halloween was too far away to carve it now, because it would rot before Halloween got here. Every day I watched that pumpkin and as much as threatened it every time I past it, cautioning it...that soon I would be chopping and carving on it to create an ugly, nasty creation of ghoul or goblin for Halloween...one that would scare ol' Frankenstein himself.
Finally the day arrived and Mom and I started hacking and cutting...pulling pumpkin guts and seeds out all over the place...chopping a hole for an eye, another for a nose and a crooked ugly mouth, possessing only two teeth, which gave the entire face a sinister, ghoulish look. We immediately inserted a candle in the bottom center to supply lighting in the dark of night to advertise that we could make a monster like Frankenstein just as easy as an old jack-O-lantern! The next day while waiting for the school bus, I told all the other kids about our masterpiece pumpkin. No one seemed interested, so I just quit talking about it. The next morning after breakfast, I went out to walk the mile and a half with Mom to the bus stop and there before me on the path, was my pumpkin.....smashed into a million pieces. I was devastated!! Mom said it probably fell off the porch and broke. I was appalled that I had left it so close to the edge and it fell. When I got on the bus, I sat quietly by myself, thinking about my jack-O-lantern and how I wouldn't have one now for Halloween, which was coming in a few days. Finally the neighbor boys started talking, as if amongst them selves, laughing and clowning around...singing about the flying pumpkin that crashed and died on the ol' potato farm. I knew then that they had snuck over last night and smashed my jack-O-lantern as a prank. I told my Mom after school what they had done and that I didn't say anything to them about doing it.....after all, they were older, bigger and there were three of them. Mom said that was Okay...and we would make another one. She however told Dad to bring another two pumpkins home, which he did. She made one jack-O-lantern with me and then one by herself. She told me to go to school and mention how my pumpkin fell off the porch and broke, but that my Dad got me another one, and I could light it up when I got home from school after dark. Everyone said how bad my luck was that it fell and broke and was glad I was getting another one... That night, Mom kept my jack-O-lantern in the house and put her's out on the porch. Late in the evening, we heard a bunch of hollering and commotion on the front porch. The neighbor boys had come over to smash my pumpkin again, but hadn't counted on the pumpkin my Mom made, being full of blue, staining ink. When the one boy picked it up over his head to smash it down, the ink poured all over his head and shirt. When his parents got to our house to pick him up, they were really mad about the ink all over their son. Mom simply replied, "well, you clean up your son and his mess...I have two pumpkins destroyed and a porch covered in ink to clean....be glad I don't make you do it, make you pay for the pumpkins they smashed or that I didn't fan all you boy's asses. Now take them home and instead of being mad at me, ask them why they were here after dark and perhaps you will then explain to them about destroying people's property. The neighbors latched onto their sons and left without a word, but later called to offer to paint the porch for Mom.
Amazing huh? All of that... sent me on a trip to yesteryear...sparked by one little memory, caused by some pumpkins sitting on someone's porch. How I'd love to be able to carve a pumpkin into a jack-O-lantern with my Mom today....I guess that's what that memory is for... Oh ...how the smells and visions of fall bring back so many pleasant memories of my departed Mother and make the pain of loss a little bit easier.
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