Autumn has arrived. The leaves are changing; people are breaking out their sweaters, apple cider and getting cozy in front or a roaring fire. At least that’s what Facebook tells me you people up North are doing. Nothing like that is happening down here in Florida. We don’t get to experience the transition from summer to fall, it’s always summer here. The only way I know that fall is upon us is because the decorators in the mall have added a pumpkin and a turkey to the flip-flop display in the shoe department and some of my neighbors thought it would be cute to put bales of hay and a scarecrow next to their swimming pools. Yeah, the only time the leaves on the palm trees turn brown and plummet to the ground here…is when we’re going through a drought.
I’m not complaining; while it would be nice to have a change in temperature, I know that what lies directly behind fall in the season schedule is winter. I’m not a huge fan of winter. Yes, I’d like to be able to put on a fashionable coat and fluffy hat to frolic around a snowy hill for a day or two, but freezing my ass off every morning to go out to the driveway and retrieve the paper doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’m also not keen on the idea of snot pouring down my face as I trudge, waist deep in snow, through a parking lot or having to hurriedly remove 18 layers of clothing so I can shimmy off my undies and pee. No, no thank you, I’ll stay here and my son can learn about the seasons the way I did, through television.
Although, I was born in Ohio, my parents moved the family to Florida when I was two. I have never made a snow angel or busted my lip open during an unfortunate sledding accident. I have no idea how to treat frost bite or properly shovel a sidewalk. I’ve never seen a snow-blower or caught snowflakes on my tongue. I know those of you raised in cooler environments must feel pretty sorry for me, please don’t. I turned out just fine not having these experiences. While you were building snowmen and losing your mittens in the powder, I was erecting sandcastles on the beach. When Spring Break rolled around and you and your Frat Brothers and Sorority Sisters were trying to think of a way to get your parents to finance a seven day drunk-fest in sunny Fort Lauderdale, without having to tell them where you were actually going; I was rolling out of bed and driving 15 minutes to the east. The only packing I had to do for my time at the shore was my beach bag. I never had to worry about losing my luggage or endure a crappy 5 hour layover. My only travel woes were red-lights and full parking lots. Beach days during Spring Break were quite economical, as there was always some nice boy from Nebraska willing to buy me a beverage or two on his parent’s credit card. Gee, I missed out on a lot.
This past weekend, my son and I took a trip to the local pumpkin patch. Ok, it’s not really a pumpkin patch; it’s a parking lot next to a Catholic Church. In a few weeks the pumpkin patch will strangely transform into a winter wonderland; and the same volunteers that were hawking gourds this week, will be trying to sell you a hideously flocked fir tree, next week. But this is the natural progression here and if you don’t know any differently, it doesn’t really seem that weird.
I’m not sure if pumpkins can actually be grown here. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that the only place they could be cultivated locally is on the asphalt, adjacent to a place of worship, because that’s the only place I’ve ever seen them. I try to give my little nugget a taste of the seasons any time I can, hoping that he will be able to hold his own should he ever be surrounded by Northerner’s and the conversation turns to something alien, like autumn or winter.
We wandered around the rows and rows of orange vegetables for what seemed like an eternity. He has inherited his mother’s decision making abilities, meaning until he’s pressed for time, he won’t make up his mind. “These are too orwange” he’d declare in his own little language after staring a few pumpkins that looked promising. “This one’s too big, I want something smaller and not so bumpy” he said, after considering a few more. The sun was starting to set, and I needed to speed up the selection process. I presented him with three pumpkins that were not too orwange, bumpy or large. “Nah, I don’t think any of these are speaking to me” he pontificated. “They don’t speak to you? You’re four. What do you mean they don’t speak to you?” I asked, laughing. “You know what I mean, they just don’t have it” he corrected me, not the least bit amused by my questioning. At this point I made a mental note to change the channel when Dancing with the Stars or Project Runway came on, he must have been picking up this mumbo-jumbo from there, because I certainly am not evolved enough to use terminology like that. “Over there, I want dat one” he jumped up and down excitedly. I couldn’t see exactly what he was talking about; they all looked the same to me. I encouraged him to run to the pumpkin that he connected with on a spiritual level. When he picked it up, it was just as orange, bumpy and large as the last 1000 gourds we had painstakingly inspected, but I didn’t dare say anything. I just wanted to get the hell out of there; the smell of rotting pumpkin flesh was making me ill and I was pretty sure I’d unintentionally been photographed, standing behind other people’s children making a stupid face as they posed on pumpkins, more than a few times. We paid for our pumpkins and left.
“What are we going to carve your pumpkin to look like, honey?” I asked as we drove home. “Wendell. Mom, his name is Wendell?” my son whispered, seriously. “Uh…what?” I said, momentarily confused. “I’ve named the pumpkin. I’m calling him Wendell” he said a little louder. “Oh, ok buddy. Well, what do you want to make Wendell look like?” I was expecting him to say a puppy or Elmo…but no, Wendell, I learned, would not be going under the knife. Evidently, my son and the pumpkin…er…Wendell, had a deeper relationship than I was initially led to believe. I started to worry about my son’s mental health and attachment to this inanimate object, when I reminded myself that he is four and prone to doing all kinds of crazy things. When I was his age I had an imaginary sister named Lisa. Lisa had an imaginary sister named Steve. Steve and I were not related; I would become incensed when anyone suggested that I was akin to that bitch. Since my make-believe family drama didn’t land me on a couch, talking about my feelings and looking at ink dots on paper, I decided not to read into it too much and I changed the subject.
By the time we arrived home, the relationship between Wendell and my son had cooled. Wendell had been dropped a few times and his stem had detached from his body. I repaired Wendell’s injuries with super glue and set him on the counter. My son had decided that it would probably be more fun to slice him up then it would be to go on with the charade of being friends. I was relieved, until he said that he wanted Wendell to be carved to look like “Lightening McQueen”. I’m pretty handy with a knife, but I’m not a magician. I suggested the puppy motif, but my son had his heart set on the race car. I got on the internet and desperately searched for a free pattern in the image of Mr. McQueen. I found one, but wasn’t sure Wendell was large enough to properly display the image “Well, it’s worth a try” I thought and went to work trying to please my son.
“What ever happened to two triangles and a jagged mouth?” I thought, as I shoveled Wendell’s slimy guts out on to a sheet of newspaper. “I wanna help smoop (smoop is how he says scoop) the goop” my son declared, holding a little plastic spoon. He nudged me out of the way and attempted to scoop the stringy innards or “goop” as he called it, onto the table. That got boring after a few minutes and he decided it was far more entertaining to pick out the seeds and press them to his forehead. For a second I thought about stopping this behavior, but changed my mind when I realized that if he was busy bedazzling his face with pumpkin seeds, I would be able to concentrate on the carving.
I realized I would not be able to create a pumpkin masterpiece with a few knives and elbow grease…so I asked my father if I could borrow his Dremmel. A Dremmel, if you are not familiar with this term, is basically a small, handheld filing tool. I believe it is mostly used for intricate wood carving, but we use ours to trim the dog’s nails. The Dremmel only succeeded in covering me in fine, powdery, wet film of pumpkin skin. The battery died shortly after I completed Lightening’s second eyebrow. I was determined to get this carving done, so I went back to the knives. After about two hours of work, I was finished with my carving. The end result doesn’t look anything like my son’s favorite cartoon character. I glued some tires from an old, broken truck to Wendell’s sides, and apologized to the pumpkin for not being able to make him the best looking gourd on the block. My son didn’t seem to notice my errors in artistry; he was just thrilled Wendell had wheels and immediately began to push him around, making car noises. I probably could have saved myself hours of labor if I carved a couple of triangles, a jagged, toothy smile and glued car parts to the sides. I’ll have to remember that trick for next year.