“Betts! We didn’t drive 300 miles for just a few pumpkins. Now go back for more.” Standing on the courthouse lawn with a box lid of glittering glass in his arms, the impeccably groomed man motioned his wife back into the faux pumpkin patch. A line of shoppers wrapped around the square impatiently waiting for us to pay so they could gain admission.
“Are you sure? We really don’t need both of these,” she fretted while fondling two purple globes with delicately curled stems. Standing behind them in the line, I kept thinking about the potential for breakage.
“Just do it! The good ones are going fast.”
As she obediently merged back into a group of women surrounding the nearest cluster of pumpkins and reached for a red and gold orb, her Gucci handbag slipped down her leather-jacketed sleeve and knocked over a glass-blown gourd. Oblivious to its near-destruction, she caught her husband’s gaze and raised the pumpkin high.
“Too traditional,” he called back. “We want something more artistic.”
All of a sudden, the orange and green pumpkin in my hands felt ordinary, just like the middle-aged woman holding it. I had only one, not a box full, and I planned to pay with cash, not plastic. “Mom would have loved this pumpkin,” I tried to reassure myself, but that was just wishful thinking.
A few years ago before Mom left the farm for good, I sat at her chrome-legged kitchen table eating bran flakes out of a Melmac bowl while she washed canning jars that were older than me. Heck, my grandmother had used the blue-green ones during the Great Depression.
Whenever I traveled, and that was a lot these days, I liked to bring my mother a small gift. “I saw this during my last trip and thought you might like it,” I explained, pushing an intricately carved walnut refrigerator magnet in her direction.
“It’s nice,” she acknowledged, glancing at the Wisconsin loon, “but what’s it for?”
Looking at her harvest gold Frigidaire, I saw two simple metal clips; one held a grocery list and the other my great nephew’s crayon drawing of a race car. Mental note to self: stop buying Mom magnets when I go on a business trip.
By afternoon the magnet lay buried under newspapers as we peeled, sliced, and layered peaches into Mason jars and covered them with sugary syrup. Thirty minutes later she lifted golden jars out of the copper boiler. “Have you considered letting your hair grow out?” she asked while setting them on newspapers to cool until each one sealed with a ping. “You looked so nice when you wore it longer.”