A couple of weeks ago I promised my grandson, Elliot, that I'd take him to the pumpkin patch. And even though he was having a rough time last Sunday, he reminded me through his tears that I'd said we'd go to the patch, so I loaded him up in the Tin Can, and off we went to Warren Creek Farms, down in the Bottoms.
We stood in the paved area between the barns, among the chickens and tri-tip barbeque and decorative gourd displays, while I explained to this five-year-old how a pumpkin patch works.
"Elliot, you can have any pumpkin you want." His eyes got big. "You can have as many pumpkins as you want; it's up to you." Really big eyes. "But," I warned him, "If you want it, you have to carry it. I'm not going to. Got it?" I guess the answer was yes because he walked over to a line of idle utility carts, put his hand on a bright yellow one and asked, "Can we use this?"
Sigh. A mini-maxer already. "Yes, but you're pulling it." A happy smile, and off we went.
As we wandered through acres of pumpkins and sunflowers, a different grandparent might have resigned him- or herself to hauling a cart loaded with pumpkins and a tired first-grader through the farm fields. Elliot gave a couple of half-hearted tries to get me to pull the cart, but soon stopped, knowing better. I showed him how to maneuver the cart, which probably weighed more than he does—it certainly was bigger—how to turn the wheels, pull and push to get it unstuck or over bumps, to watch for other kids and carts in the way. And he cheerily pulled, pushed, and dragged the utility cart with its slowly-growing burden of pumpkins, all the way through the pumpkin patch clear to the end of the field.
"Sa, now where?"
"You ready to go back?" I was; I was already wondering if I had enough money to pay for all the pumpkins in the cart. "I'll show you something called orienteering. Check it out. Where did we start?"
"At the car."
"Okay, where did we get the cart?"
"At the barn."
"Okay, can you see the barn from here? Now, look at all these paths. Which one goes toward the barn the most?" And by stopping at every crossroads and orienteering, we slowly made our way back to the weigh scales. And by now the cart was very hard to pull over the uneven ground, and Elliot had to stop often and maneuver the cart past obstacles. Parents were shooting me dirty looks, shaking their heads at this blatent show of child abuse occuring before their eyes.
But the kid is still putting pumpkins in the cart! Even as he is getting down on his hands and knees, scrabbling at the tufts of dry grass for handholds to pull himself and the damn cart along. It was pathetic. We finally cleared the last stalks of corn and sunflower, and now have a straight shot, 100 yards down a farm road to the barn, when Elliot gets the cart stuck in the soft grass and dirt off the road, along the fenceline. He tried and tried, but could not get it unstuck.
I suggest to him that he can offload some pumpkins and try. He shoots me a look and I can see that that is not an option, so I explain, "No, put some of the pumpkins up there on the road where you want to be, to make the cart lighter so you can pull it out of the hole it's in." He's still looking doubtful, like I'm trying to part him from his bright orange load. "When you get the cart unstuck, you can put the pumpkins back in." So he begins to take the pumpkins out and walk them the 15 feet or so up to the road, one at a time. When the cart is practically empty, he finally gets it going again, pulls it up to his hoard, reloads, and heads for the barn. He's practically running now—or would be, if he weren't so tired and loaded down with produce.
We finally make it back onto concrete, and he wheels the cart up to the scales. Uh-oh, there's a ramp, and a woman who clearly is ready for us to be gone so she can close up and go home. She went to grab the cart handle from Elliot and I almost shouted, "No! He wants 'em, he's gonna do it," and I showed him how to position the cart to get it up on the scale.
Only, it's heavy, he's tired, and that ramp, man. That ramp. Elliot's again down on his hands and knees, pulling, pulling as hard as he can, but he had no grass to grab onto for purchase, so I knelt down and gave him my hand, and he pulled that goddamn cart onto the scale. Yes! I ask the kid weighing them, "How much are they? 25-cents a pound? Well, how many pounds did my grandson drag in here?"
Ninety-nine. He barely weighs enough to not need a carseat, but Elliot managed to haul 99 pounds of pumpkins in a 30? 40?-lb cart. I high-five him, tell him he did a good job. May I help him with the cart now that I've paid? "No," he says, "I can do it."
"Well, do you want me to move the car closer to the barn?" Because I'm already thinking of the bumpy field we're parked in.
"No, I want to do it."
And he did do it. He got it to the car, past the admiring looks of parents and their kids, and we loaded the pumpkins in the car. "Elliot, how many pumpkins did you get? Let's count!"
Driving back, I told him again what a good job he did. In fact, I said, I'm so proud of you I think we should do something special. "I think we should have a pumpkin-carving party, and invite everybody. What do you think?" I could see he thought it was an excellent idea.
So this Sunday we all trooped over to Elliot's house to carve pumpkins and eat mini pumpkin pies. His grandparents, his mom, his aunt, and both his uncles—all his relatives in town. (His dad was working, but was there to light them all when he got home.)
Greg and I are headed out the door now to see them all in their burning-candle glory. I love being a grandparent.