While there were many, many, many things that I never knew about becoming a mother (read: cleaning poo off baby testicles. O! the search terms that will come in), one thing I was pretty dead set upon was having some traditions in my new family. After Ben’s first visit to Santa–in a jaunty red Santa suit, I must add–I broke down and purchased a whole mess of Christmas cards, painstakingly wrote a personal message in each, and enclosed an adorable picture of my young son in what is certain to be blackmail fodder for years to come.
Before Christmas, however, came Halloween (I know. I am so SMRT). And with Halloween comes pumpkin patches.
We all loaded up young screamy Ben into the car and trundled off to get the first of many pictures of My Kid In The Pumpkins: Isn’t It Adorable (no question mark).
While I’ll tell The Internet that I live in Chicago, I don’t really. I live in a SUBURB of Chicago which has the same name as a more well known suburb of Missouri (St. Charles, ILLINOIS), and as we’re far enough away from the city proper, plentiful farmlands abound.
And several of these smaller farms run pumpkin patches in the fall to bring in some extra cash. We were delighted to go to a real! small! farm! that year and pick us out some pumpkins to carve for Ben (since at age 3 months, he shamefully had NOT mastered his Knife Skills. Obviously an unfit mother am I). Pictures were snapped and plans were made for a Brand New Tradition.
The next year, we bundled ourselves up, grabbed a toddler Ben and trundled off to the pumpkin patch again. This time, I noticed that the farm had set up a tiny little area housing some dried corn (yay?), some of those pictures that you put your head through and suddenly you’re a sexy chick in a bikini (or maybe you were before), and some dilapidated animals. Ben, sweet non-verbal Ben, indicated that he would like to look at one of the animals.
I then noticed that there was a sign indicating that entrance to this sad little area was $10 a head. And upon realizing that my one year old would not be in anyway entertained by the other “features” (I use that loosely here) for the $20 it cost to bring us both inside, I asked if I could just show him one of the animals (remember, the attention span of a toddler is comparable to that of a flea. Who presumably has a short attention span. Or at least a short LIFE span).
The frightening beast at the ticket window inhaled off a long cigarette, blew the smoke in my face and informed me that there was no way in hell I was going to get in without my hard earned cash no matter HOW old my son was.
Leaving in a slight huff, the following year we returned. And in the barn that had previously housed the scale and cash drawer for weighing and paying for the pumpkins, was now a mini-Halloween themed store. Why, for a mere $11.95 I could buy a sugar cookie mix! Quite a steal since the package boasted that they would be SPOOKY cookies! How could I say no?
Now, next to the barn stood a concession stand, where for the sweet price of $6.00 I could purchase a dixie cup of cider served up by a surly teen. I’d use it, of course, to wash down the $14.00 bag of salted popcorn that I could also buy there.
The following year we dutifully returned, a 4 year old child now in tow. A 4 year old child who was THRILLED to note that the pumpkin farm now boasted a moon bounce! And a gigantic inflatable slide! Which, for the cost of $10.00 a person, we could go on for about 30 seconds. And wait! Hay Rides! For another $20.00 a head, we could sit in some sneeze-inducing hay and be driven around the parking lot for 2! whole! laps!
Thankfully Ben didn’t notice when we quickly ushered him out of there with our pumpkins.
At age 5, we noticed that the formerly dirt road leading to the pumpkins had been surfaced, and was now swarming with all sorts of other yuppie-mobiles. The dirt and gravel parking lot now had been expanded so that a sea of SUV’s were occupying all of the spots, and in order to find a spot to park in at all, we would have to perform a maneuver I like to call “stalking” people.
You know, where you spy someone leaving and then follow them to their cars slowly and creepily inching along behind them? Yeah. And that was when we turned around–not before seeing the pony rides and small carnival rides that were now offered–and left.
While I understood that the farm had to make a bit of extra money–and I know how expensive farming can be–the small, sweet pumpkin stand had turned into a major tourist attraction. I know that to some families, this is a fun day trip, just like the county fair, but it’s just not my bag. I don’t really want to pay $3.00 a head to go through a corn maze that at least two members of my ($3.00 a head) family will hate (Alex + whomever is watching him. Because toddlers aren’t really into mazes, sad to say).
Thankfully, we stumbled upon a small family farm where you could pick your own pumpkins from the vine. THIS was more my speed. There were some family animals–2 inexplicable donkeys–but I didn’t have to pay to show either of the boys how much we really, really need to have a donkey. It was a riot, searching through the garden to look for the perfect pumpkin and we all had a blast.
The following year we returned, only to be informed that this was probably the last year we’d be able to pick our own pumpkins at that location. The family was having too hard of a time competing with the local Jewel to stay in business. I don’t need to tell you how sad we were to hear this.
Today we visited another pumpkin patch, one that I’d remembered being sort of small and homey feeling. And before I could say “KEEP DRIVING” Dave pulled into a Phamily Phun Pharm again, complete with several different inflatable creations, a crappy corn maze, and $10.00 jugs of cider.
I really wanted to have a good time going to this farm, really, I did. But my crusty old balls self couldn’t shake how annoyed I was to be spending $40.00 on some pumpkins, because I couldn’t disappoint my 7 year old son (even I have feelings. Sort of) who was in! love! with His Pumpkin. And I needed pie pumpkins for the holidays. Like next Tuesday, when I bake pumpkin bread from scratch (I cannot cook, but I can bake with the best of ‘em). That’s a holiday, right?
So, I don’t really know if it’s me or if it’s them. Because, if all the Yuppie Mobiles in the parking lot are to be believed, other people DO enjoy these sorts of things. And maybe if it was what I’d been expecting, rather than some Real Norman Rockwell farm family, I wouldn’t be so annoyed. Maybe I just need to loosen the hell up, get my credit card out, and have some damn fun.
And maybe I just will. As soon as those gol-darn kids get off my lawn!
(oh wait. Those are MY kids). Shit.