Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Lesson in the Pumpkin Patch

I wrote this essay several years ago after a precious time with our family in a pumpkin patch. I hope you enjoy reading about that day, as much as I enjoyed the lesson it taught me.

Blessings, Janet

A few years ago our family headed out on a crisp, sunny day in October for our annual visit to a pumpkin patch. We’d selected a new patch that we’d heard about from friends who promised it full of great big pumpkins. When we arrived, an attendant directed us where to park in the sea of vehicles in the open field. We bumped along the uneven ground, parked, gathered children, strollers and diaper bags—everything we might need for even a brief outing.

As it turned out, this wasn’t any ordinary pumpkin patch. There were activities galore with a giant jack-o-lantern moonwalk, a maze made of bales of straw, plaster pumpkins to paint, playground equipment to crawl over, face painting and the best of all, kettle caramel corn. We bought a huge bag and stuffed handfuls into our mouths, letting kernels drop to the ground, leaving a path behind us that would compete with Hansel and Gretel's.

Now we were ready to head out to the patch the highlight of our visit—choosing pumpkins to bring home for Halloween carving. We walked out to the dirt lane where families had cued up for the next ride out to the patch. We didn’t have long to wait before we heard the chugging of a bright green tractor, a John Deere, turning up the path and hauling a straw laden cart. Everyone, adults and children alike, perked up, smiling and chattering with excitement, as if we were heading out on a world-class tour.

Soon we were nestled in the bed of straw, bumping along the rutted dirt road that led to the patch. Frightened by the noise of the tractor, our one-year-old granddaughter clung to her mother, wailing. Our grandsons, four, and two, crawled around in the straw as far as their parents’ outstretched legs allowed, oblivious to Lauren’s howls and the old John Deere putting along in front of us, triggering memories in my farm-reared husband. We passed an Alyce Chalmer eliciting more tractor stories from my husband, on its way back with another load of pumpkin toting children and parents. We all waved like old friends.

The patch was in sight now. I saw large pumpkins dotting the field. “That one would make a good jack-o-lantern,” I told my grandsons. “Or that one.” But they were more interested in the tractor than in the grand specimens I’d spotted.

When we arrived at our destination, the boys shrieked at the sight of what appeared to be an endless field of orange and gold. We helped the three grandchildren down from the flatbed trailer and watched them scatter across the field in search of the perfect pumpkin. We trailed along behind, watching them dart here and there, enjoying their energy and enthusiasm. Lauren had forgotten her fright and toddled along, holding her mother’s hand.

Four-year-old Tyler darted from pumpkin to pumpkin, checking out a good portion of the huge field in his quest, while his sister plopped down to play in the dirt. Two-year-old Drew, his eyes on his target, not on his feet, stumbled and lurched over the bumpy ground and dying vines until he reached a tall, skinny specimen. Its flesh was more apricot than orange. It had a missing stem and a lopsided base. Anyone could tell at a glance that this pumpkin was not a good candidate for a jack-‘o-lantern.

Anyone, that is, except Drew. He dropped to his knees, wrapped his arms around that pumpkin and claimed it as his. All our efforts to dissuade him with larger, rounder, deeper colored orange pumpkins didn’t sway him one bit. We went so far as to show him that his pumpkin would topple over unless it was propped, but he only smiled and said, “Mine!”

Standing there in the patch on such a perfect fall day proclaiming the artistry of our Maker, I realized Drew’s pumpkin was a lesson from God, one of those insightful times I’ve come to cherish. This was how God sees you and me. As His. How thankful I am God, like Drew, does not love us according to our shape, or the color of our skin--or even if we need bolstering to keep our lives on an even keel. He knows us inside and out, and no matter how flawed or inadequate we might be, He loves us just as we are. And I knew why. Because he formed us; died for us. It was that simple and that complex.

His mommy took Drew’s picture beside his pumpkin and his daddy ruffled his blond curls, then with a smile as wide as the great outdoors, Drew trotted along between his parents as the three of them made their way out to the road, carrying his pumpkin. Soon Tyler and Lauren had made their selections and there were smiles and shouts as we gathered at a bale of straw for family pictures with the children’s pumpkins.

In the distance I heard the tractor returning to pick us up. I knew back at the starting point there was a scale to weigh the pumpkins and determine their cost. No matter the shape, uniformity or color all the pumpkins would be valued the same. Again as our Heavenly Father values us.

“See my pumpkin, Gramma!” Drew shouted.

“Yes, I do.”

And I did. This time through his eyes. With the unconditional love of a child.


Myra Johnson said...

What a sweet story, Janet! And a wonderful reminder of God's love.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks, Myra! Rereading the story made me nostalgic. Drew is older now, but like all our grandkids, still teaching us a thing or two.


Heather said...

Great memories, Mom!
I loved sharing it again with Drew....he asked what lopsided means? hee hee.

Love you!

Janet Dean said...

Aw, what a sweetie. Tell him I'm blowing him a kiss.

Love you,

Liz Flaherty said...

Great essay, Janet, and what a lovely memory.

Janet Dean said...

Thanks Liz! We accompanied the grandkids and their moms to Halloween at the Zoo last night, a fantastic evening for making memories.

Miss you!