Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Pumpkin Road

After years of bottles and diapers, and then many more of tooth pulling, middle of the night fevers, school projects, birthday sleep-overs, whole bunches of school functions, college searches, moving into dorms, and the like, I could never understand the persons who get to be around my age and have grandchildren on the brain.  With a married daughter, I am the proud grandpa of a beautiful orange grand kitty, and that's enough for me right now.  She doesn't have to sleep over here when mom and dad need an evening to themselves.  I don't have to take her to the park and push her on the swings.  I don't have to go shopping when her birthday is coming up, nor for Christmas in her regard.  Why would I, or anyone, want to take on the duties and responsibilities of tending to somebody else's kid, whether or not it's blessed with a bit of one's own DNA?

The understanding all came to me in a flash a few days ago when I came upon this place and paused to take this picture.  I had intended simply to e-mail it to my girls to see if they would remember it, but as I sat there with the Piaggio's engine idling there was enough time, unfortunately, for me to feel a tug at my heartstrings in the realization that my important time as a daddy is in the past.  Oh, to be sure, my daughters and I continue to have some great times together, but there was a kind of magic that was put to bed somewhere through the years that makes me think of and feel the impact behind Thomas Wolfe's immortal, "You can't go home again."  The magic of places like this one, I imagine, is why some folks my age are hell-bent on getting their mitts on a few grandkids - to relive some of the times they enjoyed the most in raising their own children.

This was where, every year, a few weeks before Halloween, we bought our pumpkins for carving.  Then it was a farmer's stand where a kindly old woman with weathered, leathery skin and a soft voice sold late harvest veggies along with gourds, cornstalks, and, of course, the all important Halloween pumpkins.  Now, it's just a vacant shack sitting there on Eighth Street.  I don't know if either of my girls knows the actual name of the road.  To them it was just, "The pumpkin road," and if I referred to it even today as that I'm sure that each of them would know exactly where I mean.

They were special times back then, but they have passed.  Even if I had a few wee grandkids climbing up my legs in eager anticipation of being taken somewhere fun, there are some memories of my own that I could never re-create with them because the places where those memories were made are long gone or shadows of their former selves.  I could try with all my might to pretend that I am 30 years younger, but the illusion would not last very long.  What was, was.  What will be, will be, but without the pretense that I could somehow relive a portion of my life by trying to make tomorrow into what belongs to yesterday.

When I was a young schoolboy my own beloved grandfather carved some awesomely wicked pumpkins with apple cores for eyeballs and green beans for the brows, a long red pepper for a nose, two halves of a green bell pepper for ears, steel wool for hair, and I don't remember what for a mouth.  He made one for my kindergarten class and I felt like I was the king for a day in that classroom the day he brought it in.  But, never did I try to duplicate grandpa's annual creations because I knew that in doing so I would be trying to bring him back, and that ultimately I would be disappointed when he would fail to materialize. 

Maybe someday I will have those grandchildren and take them to places that will feel magical to them, and if I'm really lucky perhaps to me as well.  I will remember to love them for who they are rather then just as little cast members in some shadowbox performance in which I try to pretend that I am 30 years younger than my gray beard would prove me to be.  I will hope to create for them memories that they will cling to all their lives, maybe in passing by a familiar place on occasion and remembering, Grandpa used to bring us here, with smiles on their faces and maybe a little bit of that heaviness of heart that reminds one that life is good when we are loved and have memories that are worth keeping.

1 comment:

bobskoot said...


as we age, all we have are memories, either good or bad. In your case, GOOD. Your recollections shed a tear in my eye for my recollections of my past aren't so memorable, so I am making up for them now.

Riding the Wet Coast