Smashing Pumpkins

“It’s pouring rain,” Beth announced as she opened the front door at 3:20 this afternoon. We were herding the kids out to the car so we could drive out to Potomac Vegetable Farm ( for our Halloween pumpkins.

“You’re kidding,” I said. Heavy rain had been predicted for the whole day, but so far we’d had only overcast skies and a little drizzle. June’s soccer practice went on as scheduled, a bit of good luck since it had been rained out last weekend. She even scored two goals when the kids went up against the adults, three on one. After soccer, Beth took Noah to his swim lesson and then they went shopping for Halloween costume materials. (He’s going to be a pirate ship. A direct quote: “Most people who wanted a pirate-themed costume would be a pirate, but I am going to be a pirate ship.”) Our day seemed to be humming along. I had been careful not to mention anything about going to the pumpkin patch to June in case rain developed, but with Beth and Noah on their way home at 2:45 and no rain falling, I told June we were going to a farm to pick pumpkins and she could not have been more delighted. She danced around the house crying, “”We’re going to a pumpkin farm! To get pumpkins!”

Beth and I stood at the open door, looking at the rain pelting down on the lawn and quickly conferred. It was hard to know what the weather would be like forty miles away and we had a very excited little girl on our hands. We decided to brave it. If worst came to worst, we could dash out of the car, grab four pumpkins, pose the kids in the hatch of the car for our annual picture and consider the outing finished. In years to come we’d look at the pictures and laugh, remembering the year we went to get pumpkins in a downpour.

But by the time we pulled into the parking lot, the rain had let up. There was just a light drizzle. At first Noah carried Beth’s umbrella while he inspected the pumpkins but soon decided it was too much trouble and abandoned it. I put June’s rain jacket on, but didn’t bother to zip it.

Noah and June had very different impressions of the field with its rows of pumpkins piled up on pallets before them. Noah was puzzled. Didn’t it used to be bigger? We had to skip our farm trip last year because we were all laid low by a nasty stomach bug so he hadn’t seen it in two years. It looked smaller to his eight-year-old eyes than to his six-year-old eyes, apparently.

June didn’t remember ever having come before so it was all new to her. “We’re here! We’re at the pumpkin farm! Look at all the pumpkins!” she cried.

The kids ran around between the rows of pumpkins, peeking out at each other from behind the piles. June clambered over a row, sending pumpkins rolling onto the grass. I reconstructed the pile and checked the errant pumpkins for damage. One stem had snapped off but that was it. No more climbing on pumpkins, I said. She pouted a little but got over it quickly. June and Beth and I made our selections and carried them to the red wagon. It took Noah longer to find the perfect pumpkin, but eventually we had what we came for and we headed over to the farm stand to buy a baking pumpkin for soup, and sweet potatoes and green beans and green tomatoes to fry and apples and cider pressed that very day. June was enchanted with the decorative gourds so I let her select one and then Noah had to have one, too. Noah pulled the wagon around the stand and Beth had to keep a close eye on him so he didn’t crash it into the bins of vegetables, or obstruct foot traffic or go too close to the cars in the parking lot. “Pumpkin delivery! Pumpkin delivery!” he called out as he pulled the wagon back to the car. It was raining harder now. But our mission was complete.

We stopped on the way home for dinner at the Vegetable Garden ( We got honey-fried black mushrooms, spring rolls, noodles with vegetables, veggie tempura and eggplant hot pot. It was delicious. Noah ate and ate and ate but June wasn’t too hungry and she soon grew restless. She was climbing all over the booth, trying to scale the back of it and then she was crawling under the table, wanting to play hide and seek. The waiters kept trying to take our food away before we’d finished eating. I wondered they were hurrying us out because of June’s shenanigans, but Beth thought they just wanted to clear our table before the dinner rush. Finally, I took her for a walk outside under the awning of the shopping center while Noah finished up.

As we pulled out of the parking lot onto Rockville Pike, Noah started yelling. The hatch was open! One of the pumpkins had fallen onto the busy thoroughfare! I didn’t see it, but Beth and Noah did. He said it looked like a basketball was bouncing next to the car. Beth pulled onto a side street and parked. I got out of the car and went in search of the pumpkin. It was a longer walk than I thought it would be, but finally I saw it. It had rolled into the relative safety of a bus lane and appeared to be intact. I picked it up and found a small hole with two cracks radiating from it near the bottom. I could see seeds and smell the clean scent of fresh pumpkin through the hole.

I brought the pumpkin back to the car to much rejoicing. “At least we have a head start on carving the eyes now” Noah said. (He thought the hole was higher up.) The boy is a born optimist. I felt very lucky just then, for a minimally damaged pumpkin, an outing saved more than once from the brink of disaster by my intrepid partner, enthusiastic daughter and irrepressible son.