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October 28, 2012
VANCOUVER, BC, Oct. 28,2012/ Troy Media/ – Shockingly, it’s almost time to call it quits; at least for a while. With my daughter 2,800 miles away at university and my son threatening to join her next year, it is highly unlikely that I’ll schlep the 30 miles out to Langley by myself just to select a Halloween pumpkin.
Of course skeptics would question the concept of traveling such a distance to get a ‘fluff’ item that could be picked up for one third the cost just five minutes away. They’d be missing the point. It’s not about the pumpkin. It’s about tradition, connection, and community.
You see, I’ve been visiting the same pumpkin farm for over 20 years. The first visit happened quite by chance. In 1989 my fiance and I were tootling about the Fraser Valley on a quiet Sunday afternoon when we spotted a small sign advertising pumpkins for sale. Curious to see the farm and in need of a pumpkin, we pulled off the quiet country lane onto a long, leafy driveway that snaked through an orange hued field.
Expecting a manned rustic produce hut, we were surprised to encounter a lonely wooden table. The display on offer was humble: a handful of pumpkins and an empty mayonnaise jar. Hovering overhead was a crudely printed sign advising customers to ‘pay whatever you think they’re worth.’ We quickly selected the largest of the bunch, scrummaged for coins and headed for home.
I admit that I didn’t give much consideration to subsequent jack o’lantern acquisitions until the birth of our first child in 1994. Of the mindset that ‘you’re never too young to enjoy Halloween’ I delightedly accepted our good friends’ invitation to join them and their two young children on their annual family visit to an ‘authentic pumpkin patch.’ On arrival, we were amused to learn it was the very same farm.
However, it wasn’t the same farm. Not by a long shot. It had undergone a massive Halloween makeover. The roadside pumpkin field had been moved; a muddy parking lot in its place. Patrons no longer selected candidates from a table. Instead, they munched on hotdogs and freshly popped popcorn whilst queuing patiently for the next available hay wagon to transport them to the distant pumpkin fields. A well-stocked children’s petting zoo and a barn bursting with suckling piglets and enormous lethargic sows completed the transformation.
It was obviously a labour of love. The farm, owned by a local vet and his wife, was less about the commercial and more about community. This was underscored by his cheerful manning of the tractor that pulled the wagon and her efficient running of the ticket booth. Other tasks were joyfully undertaken by employees consisting mainly of family members and close friends.
Our two families were hooked. Admittedly, our first visits were enjoyed by only the parents and the preschool son. I’m fairly confident our babies must have been more than a tad perplexed to suffer a long hot car ride only to be plunked down onto a cold, sodden field surrounded by muddy orange balls larger than them. However, as they grew and became mobile their participation changed. Soon they were zooming about like silly asses chasing the goats and tormenting the geese and ducks in the petting zoo and throwing tufts of hay at each other in the barn and on the wagon became the norm.
Once they reached elementary school age our children took more of an interest in the actual procurement of their pumpkins and our time in the field markedly lengthened. Finding ‘the perfect one’ was now paramount. Not once did a wagon driver complain or rush us. As a result, we always returned to the hot chocolate, cookies and coffee that awaited us at the car with a warm feeling of satisfaction, joy and belonging.
Over the next 16 years, we worked hard to schedule an October day that worked for the seven of us. As our children grew and life got decidedly more complicated, we saw less and less of each other. It was special to have this one day of the year where we could all connect and spend time together. Looking back, I realize that our annual visits to the pumpkin patch forged the strong bond that sustained our friendship.
This weekend only two of us are able to go. The fact that my grade 12 son, currently ‘Mr. Social,’ wants to accompany his mom to the pumpkin patch speaks volumes about the importance of tradition, connection and community.
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