Joco Opinion

November 8, 2013

Stacey Hatton - Autumn makes me think of Dad

A lovestruck boy and his pumpkin changed the flavor of autumn.

Don’t you love it when autumn blows in and paints her bright colors across the trees and fields?

When I was a young child, my father read from a poetry book that had belonged to him as a child titled “The Tall Book of Make-Believe.” One of my favorite poems was by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Land of Counterpane,” where a boy was struck ill and lying in bed. He would play with toy soldiers on his multi-colored patchwork quilt and create great tales where he was a giant among the trees and houses.

Whenever I was too sick for school, I envisioned lining up my toys on a similar quilt. I never felt like building towns and fighting battles, but the poem would make me smile.

During my early years of grade school my dad would drive us to a real pumpkin patch to select our favorite pumpkin. This was supposed to be a fun and relaxing time. However, since we only had enough money for one pumpkin and each family member was passionate about which was the perfect pumpkin, three people always returned home miffed that the wrong pumpkin was purchased.

My father, who is strangely artistic for a banker, could carve a pumpkin with the finesse of Michelangelo carving David — minus the nakedness and embarrassing parts for the children. Mother said the kids couldn’t use the knife for safety reasons, but it was the 70s and everyone threw their kids in front seat of the car unbuckled, so I think my dad didn’t want to relinquish the carving duties.

Then my mother, who should have been born in the Depression because she doesn’t like to waste a morsel, saved all the seeds from that Halloween masterpiece and cooked them up to perfection. I’m surprised she didn’t save the pulp to moisturize our feet or something just as odd. I remember thinking those roasted seeds were a delicacy.

Until the summer of 1985.

The word around school was a boy in my high school German class was smitten with me. And to show his undying love, he and friends decorated my light yellow Dodge Dart with a pumpkin — going about 50 mph past my curb-side parked car.

Now if they had chosen to christen my car with a carved Jack-o’-lantern at that speed, they might have had other results. If they covered my car in 30 pumpkins and drove off, that would have been funny. But their orange orb spiraled through the front windshield, cracked the back window and then exploded.

My white interior now had orange stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and pulp, seeds and glass shards were everywhere else. I don’t remember my dad doing anything to the boy. Maybe he figured he was so stupid, his life was going to catch up with him soon enough. But I do remember my dad silently drove the two of us — sitting on black trash bags — to our family mechanic in my orange, hairy wind tunnel.

The mechanic looked at my car and said, “What happened here?”

My dad tossed him the keys, strolled into the garage, and announced over his shoulder, “Boy problems.”

Still to this day, I can’t eat pumpkin seeds. That former delicacy triggers a gag reflex. And carving the pumpkin? No, we can leave that to the dad of our family.

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