A Special Type of Pumpkinship

October 12, 2010 – Somewhere along the way, the wrinkles of my brain smoothed to the point that instead of abstract concepts being represented in my thoughts as a complex interrelation of experience, observation, knowledge, and creativity, I get only simple images. Take emotions, for example. Anger? That's a gorilla. Sadness? The ocean. And happiness? Well, that's a gigantic orange pumpkin.

I'm actually okay with that latter simplification, because there's some practical value involved. It remains a fact of my life that I can't be sad in any room where there’s a pumpkin. It’s just impossible. I might as well breathe water through my nostrils or take Leonardo DiCaprio seriously as a dramatic actor (for goodness’ sake, he still looks 12 years old).

Even the aforementioned gorilla anger is problematic. In order to have a decent fight with my wife around this time of year, we have to find a pumpkin-less room (“Not in front of the pumpkins, Dear.”), which in Fall pretty much means the bathroom or the front seat of the car.

For the past few years, we've gotten our pumpkins from a farm called Mack's Apples in Londonderry, NH. Mack’s is kind of a legendary place in these parts. It was started in the early 1700s, spans some 400 acres of idyllic property, and features dozens of varieties of apple, among other types of produce. It’s even had the President of the United States of America speak there.

Although it’s open most of the year, Fall is a particularly excellent time to go. After all, having the best apples is a big step toward having the best candy apples and best apple cider, which they have at their farm market, an old building full of all kinds of freshly picked fruit, treats and other purchasables.

And then there’s the pumpkins.

In addition to their 100 acres of apple orchards, Mack’s has some 30 acres of pumpkin fields, many of which are pick-your-own. You know what, though? I’ve never made it to the pick-your-own part. It’s one of my biggest Fall failings.

I’ve been out of the habit of going to pumpkin fields to personally sever my own gourd from its vine for a long time. Just one bad experience waiting for the Great Pumpkin will do that to a person, I guess. I do feel pretty bad about that and hope to remedy it before my daughter is old enough to judge me.

At Mack’s, though, I kind of have an excuse for why I don’t make it past their farm market. Pulling into the parking lot in the Fall, the first thing you see is mounds and piles and bins of bright orange globes just sitting there waiting to be hefted and thumped and juggled. By the time I’ve gone through those, I’ve invariably found the pumpkin that I want to give Pinocchio life to before dragging it out onto the porch to rot like a murder victim.

My process for picking a pumpkin is less like I'm choosing one of them, and more like I'm desperately seeking acceptance from them. Do you like me? How about you? You? Finally one takes pity on me, and I hoist it onto my shoulder, grab a couple candy apples and some random terrifying-looking gourd whose only purpose for coming out of the ground is to be used as a harvest decoration, and head for home, our pumpkins tied to the roof of our car. Sometimes we get our seasons confused.

Of course, all that searching and fretting ends up being pretty irrelevant. No matter what pumpkin you get, you'll love it by the time it's in your house, scratches, dents, warts, flat places, and all. It’s your pumpkin, after all, and that makes it kin…pump-(sigh)-kin. In fact, for the next few weeks the order of affection for I and my wife will be: pumpkin, baby, cat, flat-screen, each other.

My wife usually likes her pumpkins tall, while I always go with a more squat shape, which works out pretty well because they look good together and we don’t get pumpkin jealousy issues corrupting our marriage. Normally, I also choose one large enough to make Peter Peter proud, but this year I went with a more manageable size. Still, we got some real beauties this year. Can't wait to mutilate them.