Fall of 2013
Several times now, my husband and I have grown pumpkins in the long flower bed which runs along the front of our house. The southwestern exposure makes it the perfect location! We did it again this summer. Don’t you envy our green thumbs? Don’t you think we are the coolest people ever? Not only did we defy tradition and plant them in the front yard, we strategically threaded the lush leaves and brilliant orange blossoms between the blue and pink perennials to create a work of art. Close your eyes and picture it!
Can you see it? Good! Now let me admit my deceit.
Each year we buy (or grow!) at least one pumpkin to put on the front stoop for Halloween. We usually forget to carve it. That isn’t a problem. It’s so cheerful sitting there that it doesn’t really matter. But then we just forget it’s there at all. Until a putrid stench brings to our attention the fact that it has liquefied into a skin-covered bag of slime pudding. The solution: Kick it into the flower bed…and forget about it.
One warm day several months ago, I noticed a darling little tendril creeping out of the flower bed and onto the sun-warmed sidewalk. At this moment, I understood Wilbur’s excitement at the hatching of Charlotte’s babies. I tenderly turned it and pointed it back into the flower bed. It continued to grow steadily.
At some point, my husband began making diplomatic comments about the difficulty of mowing around the vine. My (notice I have become possessive) little runner was picking up speed. It had sent its suckering tentacles out onto the lawn in a reconnaissance mission which was soon followed by a full-blown invasion. Not wanting to cause a fuss but unwilling to sacrifice the vine, I repositioned the growth so that it fit within the footprint of the flower bed.
My devotion was starting to resemble a gambling addiction. I checked for baby pumpkins daily. I rationalized the smothering death of our perennials with the thought that the next time I looked, I would surely find the start of a pumpkin.
My husband is a patient man; however, it was clear that my project was starting to kill off large swaths of lawn. I had been reshaping this explosion so that it followed the contours of the bed, but it had long since billowed out of bounds. Mature and understanding couples’ therapist that I am, I admitted my burgeoning affair. The vine had to go! Just as I was poised to start yanking, I discovered my Beloved had given birth to two darling offspring.
I compromised. I removed parts of the plant “downstream” from the pumpkins. Would this buy me enough time to harvest them? I knew I needed counseling when I started neglecting my hygiene in order to spend more time searching for new buds. I dispatched them in short order. I had to save the plant’s vital energies for my wards! My husband has had years to figure out he married a madwoman, so I guess my compromise was sufficient. He didn’t say anything further.
Soon we had a couple of vibrant orange pumpkins sitting on our kitchen table. Please understand “couple” in the literal sense. I sent my husband and daughters a wedding invitation with a photo of the happy pair posed side by side in front of a pale turquoise wall. What a lovely color combination. I swooned!
The groom was taller and thinner with a slim, curving stem. I called him Earl. A few weeks younger, the bride was short and round with a thicker, stubbier nub. I named her Maybonne. I conducted the ceremony and pronounced them man and wife.
When I went to rip out the vine a few days later, I found a surprise addition to the family. I christened him Junior and placed him by his parents. Day after day, I sat at the kitchen table enjoying their companionship.
At about the time the table started to feel a bit cramped, the weather began to show the first inklings of Fall. I decided to put Junior out to decorate the front stoop. He looks great out there! Unfortunately for him, history foretells a rotten end.
The chill in the air got me started thinking about chili, stews, and squash. Squash…
I surveyed Earl and Maybonne with glassy eyes as I recalled the delicious oven-roasted Kabocha we had eaten a few years back.
Earl ended up on the dinner table, wearing olive oil and herbs. He also volunteered for a mighty fine pie. Maybonne watched, traumatized, but otherwise intact. Until the arrival of the power company newsletter. Which just happened to feature a recipe for chicken pumpkin stew.
I wanted to remember the happy pair so I saved their engagement photo and made it my phone wallpaper. Here they are on our kitchen table in 2013.