My mom's favorite season was autumn and her favorite holiday was Halloween.
It probably didn't hurt that her birthday was in late October.
But she loved Autumn.
She loved the colors.
She loved that crisp snap in the air.
She loved driving through the east end of Long Island's North Fork,
seeing the corn stalks and visiting all the farm stands.
And she loved to go pumpkin picking.
...but probably not the way you're thinking.
Let me explain.
Back when I was a kid...around 10 or 11, my friends and I played a game
every October called "Pumpkin Picking".
It was actually more of a contest then a game.
The rules were simple.
We would get together at night and walk around the neighborhood stealing other people's pumpkins. Whoever got the most pumpkins, won.
Sometimes, for extra points, we would steal their Halloween decorations as well.
Now let me go on record as acknowledging that this was probably not the best use of my time. And, I fully admit that what we did was probably, in a sense, more or less wrong.
However, before you judge too harshly, keep in mind that it was the Halloween season and that we were kids. Now taking those two factors into consideration, you have to admit that it could have been worse.
We weren't setting fires and we weren't going after people with cans of Nair.
We were just...picking up pumpkins that happened to be on people's steps.
And by the way, we NEVER took Jack O'Lanterns.
First, it was against the rules.
And secondly, it defeated the purpose because after we had our pumpkins,
we would usually all get together and carve them ourselves.
Now, for me, the best part of Pumpkin Picking, was that my mom was FULLY aware
of what we were doing. She liked to pretend that she didn't know.
But she knew.
Trust me. She knew.
Sometimes she would even put in requests.
"See if you can find an oval shaped pumpkin. Or a gourd. I love gourds".
Besides, where else was a 12 year old getting dozens of pumpkins,
if not from other people's front steps?
Fast forward a few years...
I'm now an adult ( more or less ) and living on eastern Long Island.
It's my mom's birthday.
I ask her what she would like to do.
"Lets go out to the farm stands, get some roasted corn and go pumpkin picking", she says. Sounds good to me. So me, my mom and my wife all get in my car and we head further east. Specifically to a place called Stakey's Pumpkin Farm.
Home of the world's friendliest pumpkins!
For those that don't know, Stakey's is THE place on Long Island for pumpkins.
Not only do you pick them yourself straight off the vine,
but you can buy them 3 different ways.
1. Either individually, charged by the pound.
2. $40 bucks for as much as you can carry in your arms (without droping them)
3. $65 bucks for as many as you can fit in a wheelbarrow.
We usually go with option 2, but today we were going with the wheelbarrow.
Overloading it with as many pumpkins, gourds and winter squash as we could
manage. Orange, green, yellow, red...we had all our autumn colors covered and then some.
After loading our haul into my car, my mom turns to me and says,
"This was nice, but I want to go pumpkin picking".
I say, "What do you think we just did?"
She replies, "We bought pumpkins. I can buy pumpkins at the supermarket.
I want to pick pumpkins. You know...like you used to when you were a kid".
I look at her quizzically. With my head slightly cocked to the side.
Much in the way my dog looks at me when I open a bag of potato chips.
"And I also need some new Halloween decorations", she adds.
Not knowing if she's kidding around or being serious, I just kind of laugh it off.
We make our way to a little café for lunch, then to a few farmstands and
then back to my house for some birthday cake and presents.
After some coffee and conversation, we make plans to meet up again
for dinner the following Thursday night. After which we say our goodbyes,
my mom gets up and leaves.
That Thursday I come to her house to pick her up.
We go out, grab some dinner and head to her house.
On the way back she tells me to make a left and then a right down some side streets and deep into a residential neighborhood. She says she has something to show me.
We pull up in front of a house that is decorated top to bottom for Halloween.
The kind of house that makes the local newspaper for the owners dedication and commitment to the holiday. This place has it all. Lights, zombies, inflatable ghosts, a front lawn cemetary and pumpkins. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of pumpkins.
I look over at my mom and I see it.
I see that damn sly smile of hers and I immediately know why we're here.
"Oh no..No no no", I say. "I'm too old for this"!
"Oh Come on. Just one. Don't be such a fag", she says and yes,
that is EXACTLY what she said. Don't be such a fag.
In fact, she made a point of emphasising the word "such"...as if I were
already a fag and by not doing this I would be that much more of a fag.
A faggy fag, I suppose. Possibly the faggest of fags. I'm not sure.
Now, I don't know about you and your family, but when my mom calls you a fag, that's a throw down that you do not back away from. That's your cue to nut up or shut up and trust me, with Carol, shutting up was not an option.
"Hurry Up!", she continues to needle.
"Fine", I mutter and I creep out, up to the front of the house, grab two pumpkins from the front step and RUN MY ASS OFF BACK TO THE CAR!
All the while, Carol is yelling at the top of her lungs "Don't forget some decorations"!
I completely ignore her, much to her dismay, throw the pumpkins in the back seat, jump in the front and tore up so much asphalt peeling out of that neighborhood, I'm sure I left dents in the road.
I don't know what happened...
The night started out peacefully enough with a mother and son going to dinner and somehow deteriorated into the Mel Brooks version of Smokey and the Bandit.
This is just what happened when you hung around with Carol.
Pumpkin picking will never be the same.