As we stood in line for the hayride to the pumpkin patch, I asked my children: “what size pumpkins do you want to pick?”
My 23-month-old son shouted: “ORANGE!”
The entire line burst into laughter.
“Orange pumpkins, it is!” I hugged my sweet boy and smiled.
The kids and I were at a local farm for a special Friday Funday (my sabbath day), while my husband worked at home. October Pumpkin Patch Day was here, and we couldn’t be more excited! We had our trusty stroller, a diaper bag filled with snacks, and the kids were willingly dressed in their matching Halloween shirts (Minnie & Mickey, of course). A fun memorable day was in store … in more ways than one.
Let’s just say, the memorable part began in the parking lot when we pulled in. As I was assessing everything we needed, my son suddenly jumped out of the stroller and took off across the parking lot. Terrified, I ran “mama fast”, which is of course faster than I could possibly run at any other time. I scooped him up and brought his squirming little self back to the stroller. In the next parking spot over, another family had witnessed the incident. They were looking their Fall Harvest best, primping for a fall photo shoot in their matching flannel outfits and high heels. I smiled sheepishly at them. They rolled their eyes and snickered at me. Apparently Fall harvest glam folks have never had such a thing happen to them. We walked past them quickly, sporting our own version of pumpkin patch wear: orange Disney Halloween t-shirts, shorts (my daughter had “matched” her orange t-shirt with a pink unicorn patterned skirt); and sneakers (I was sporting my bright red Minnie Mouse sneakers). We looked properly ridiculous for Friday Funday.
Embarrassed, I shook it off as we stood in line for the hayride to the pumpkin patch and laughed about orange-sized pumpkins. When the wagon arrived, we found a corner spot and snuggled into the straw and each other. The tractor bumped us along, passing strawberry fields, apple trees, and tomato vines. My daughter was mesmerized by the beauty of the fields. My son said, “Mommy, this fun.” So when the wagon finally pulled into the pumpkin patch, we were ready to choose our very own pumpkins.
As we walked into the field, I was ready for some memorable family fun. My children, however, stood there like this:
We’d been there 30 seconds.
Apparently “we” were upset because we had gotten out of the wagon into the pumpkin patch, even though 30 second ago we wanted to get out of the wagon into the pumpkin patch.
I tried to get us excited. We’re making memories here, after all. “Look at all these pumpkins! Look at the ones just your size! Look at those huuuuge ones! Look at all these orange options! Can you believe how many orange ones there are?”
We lasted another 3 minutes. We managed to pick out 3 pumpkins. We took a few pictures. Then we turned back to pouting: “Want Wagon.” “I’m hot.” “I’m hungry.” “I’m thirsty.” “Can we go to that playground at the entrance?”
So there I was, carrying 3 large pumpkins with my hands and corralling two small ornery children with my feet. Plus, it was stinking hot. 84 degrees, searing sun, no shade. Why was it so blasted hot in mid-October in New Jersey? I added Climate Change to my list of complaints. At least, I thought (and you know I did) that we had made good clothing choices – we were not standing out in a this hot field in heels and flannel.
We climbed back into the wagon. As other families climbed back in too, my dear sweet children showed off their pumpkins like prizes: “Look what we picked out”. They hugged their pumpkins and giggled and cheered. “Pumpkins! Pumpkins!”
The shade of the wagon canopy made all the difference. The heat and sun had made us all (myself included) dehydrated and grumpy. I dug into the pack back for our water bottles, which much to my surprise were nowhere to be found. I assumed they were in the stroller by the hayride entrance, and figured we’d hydrate then.
A few folks helped us off the wagon and the tractor driver even carried our pumpkins over to our stroller, putting 2 pumpkins in the basket underneath and 1 pumpkin on a seat. I followed my now happy children over to the hay bale playground with a stroller filled with pumpkins (but no water bottles). They ran through the maze. They went down the slide. They climbed on haybales. They played the giant connect 4 game. We cooked in the hot sun.
When we went to leave, Fry-day Funday reached its peak. The 4-year-old jumped into the open stroller seat meant for her little brother. When said little brother realized all seats were taken by sister and pumpkin, he threw himself on the ground and threw a big ole tantrum. When big sister was asked to give the seat to its rightful owner, she joined the madness. I was that mom. Hot, embarrassed, thirsty, in ridiculous shoes, and at the end of my rope, I picked up one screaming kid and strapped in the other. As I pushed the stroller and pulled a kid, my children continued their dramatic scene as if the world was their stage.
Over the cries, I heard another voice: “Hey mom!” I looked up. An older woman, a stranger, was sitting on a bench nearby. She smiled kindly and called out: “Hey mama, you’re doing great. Keep on making those memories.”
The ancient writer of the book of Hebrews once encouraged us: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:1-2). An angel visited me today in the form a kind grandmotherly stranger. A stranger, who in witnessing my family’s struggle, decided to show mutual love with a kind word.
“Hey mama, you’re doing great.”
It’s possible that she may not remember her few words of kindness as she went off to pick out her own pumpkins in the searing sun. I, on the other hand, will always remember. This was a memorable day. Friday Kind-day.
My dear friend, whatever kind of day you’ve had – whatever good or bad or joyous or frustrating thing has transpired with you today – I tell you this now: Hey, you’re doing great. You are not alone. We are all in this daily grind of struggle and strife, joy and jubilation together. Our mutual love continues. Remember: behind every smiling pumpkin patch kid picture is a real life story of family folly. Remember: behind every Fall Harvest glam picture is a real life story of flannel folly. Remember: for every eye roll there are 10 angels, lifting you up with a smile, a kind word, a recognition of God in the face of everyone we meet.
Hey dear reader, you’re doing great.
PS – I found those water bottles – they were turned sideways on the driver’s seat, which I had abandoned there during my epic parking lot run. Let’s just say, I returned home with 3 pumpkins, 2 happy kids, 1 full heart … and … some very soggy pants. I’m still doing great.