by Pamela Grace



I want to write about pumpkins. Something inside me impatiently fidgets and squirms waiting to write about pumpkins.

The pumpkins are lined up in double rows on the kitchen counter waiting to be cut and scraped and baked. Their rock hard exteriors will pucker and darken as the oven’s heat softens their inner flesh, readying it to become pies and soup. They will scent and warm the house while the oven transforms them from bountiful harvest to delicious ingredients.

Seeing the pumpkins on the counter, the grandchildren squeal and lick their lips as they proclaim their love of pumpkin pie. They pat and stroke them and choose their favorites by size and shape. Nate has asked for pumpkin loaf this year along with the pies, and Anabella wants pumpkin butter. I like the idea of pumpkin bread and butter.

Pumpkins are my favorite things to grow, with corn and sunflowers running a close second. Something stirs in me when the raised beds have all been prepared for planting and it’s time to head off to buy the seeds. There’s always a grandchild along for the seed buying and we giggle when we see the little packets with a carved Jack-o-Lantern on the front. While the child is excitedly predicting GIANT pumpkins, I am caressing the packet of Sugar Pie seeds and again marveling, as I do every year, that this little rattling envelope purchased on this warm spring morning will be the source of our Thanksgiving pies on a distant autumn afternoon. To me this is proof of the existence of magic.

It’s become a ritual for us to buy a packet of Ghost Pumpkin seeds every year as well. The grandchildren love the spooky thought of ghostly gourds, but no matter how lovingly they are planted and tended, we never see them come forth. While I’m weeding and watering the Jack-o-Lanterns and Sugar Pies, I think of the Ghosts growing robustly in some unseen realm and fulfilling their spectral destiny out of the range of my vision.

The pumpkins have a bed all to themselves. Once planted, the bare earth stares back blankly day after day until that special day when the fat sprouts spring out of the ground with their seed hats still attached.

Watching them grow still fascinates me. Long leggy vines that go on and on to anywhere they like. This year some of them wandered over to the corn bed and climbed the stalks. The bendable stickers on their sturdy stems don’t quite sting, but they do discourage anyone from trying to divert the growing path of these determined orbs.

The leaves grow so large that the children call them “gi-normous” and humongous and speak of garden fairies living beneath them.

When the glorious saffron yellow blossoms appear, I think of my recipes for squash blossom sautés but can never bring myself to disturb the plants’ intentions by picking them.

When the fruit is set, I watch and wonder which ones will ripen, remain attached to their stems, and swell up fat and roundy. A few will cast off their umbilical stems and stay small and hard. They’ll go into the chicken coop where the hens will diligently peck away at them until their treasure trove of smooth seeds is revealed and voraciously devoured.

The pumpkins are harvested last, long after the zukes and cukes and corn. I wait until the last possible moment because gathering them signals the end of the year’s garden. I cut them free from their now tough stems with both sadness at the end of another season, and relief at the end of the work of growing food. Loading them into the wheelbarrow, I feel satisfied and abundant.

The day after Halloween I’ll see a few pumpkins shattered in the street when I walk the dogs – sad remnants of the prior night’s raucous revelry. Our pumpkins will have two or three more days of being lovingly lauded as they sit proudly on the counter, before taking their turn in the oven. At their Thanksgiving appearance a few weeks later, I’ll remember their journey from seed to holiday pie and give thanks for the wonder of pumpkins.


submitted by Pamela Grace



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Copyright 2008 by Pamela Grace