Gourds, Gourds, Gourds: A Motely Patch

“OOOOOOOOOHHH!” Henry yells.

He beats on a smooth, brown-stemmed pumpkin like a bongo drum. Following his drum solo, he shuffles his toddler self to the next pile; his eyes widen and fists shake. Pumpkins!

Pumpkins pepper the front lawn of J.T. Moore Middle School. Adults and children meander in the patch, while traffic hums from the nearby intersection. One knee after another, Henry ascends a pile of the round, ribbed members of the squash family. I grab him before him tumbles down the orange mountain. On a scale from one to ten, Henry is operating at a 13.7 in the patch. I fear he will burst a blood vessel, but who has time to worry about blood vessels when surrounded by palates of interesting fruits? (Yep, pumpkins are technically fruits.)

Did I mention gourds? Gourds, gourds, gourds! There are more gourd varieties this year than flavors of Oreos. I WANT a goose-necked gourd. I love their curvy necks and fading green skin. If given the funds, I would purchase hundreds and design gourd sculptures in my front lawn. I would build a gourd replica of Egypt’s pyramids, a replica of the Alamo, and a gourd replica of Graceland. Since I live in Nashville, I feel obligated to create a gourd replica of our replica of the Parthenon. Question: Do you know if Nashville enforces a gourd limit per front lawn? If so, please page my beeper at 4789297.

Alright, let’s get down to business. We need a pumpkin. Actually, my wife and I desire a pumpkin, but Henry does not see things the same way. He came to the patch to play with a metal wagon; the cart reserved for customers to haul their loads. Henry eyes and circles the wagon like a sports car on a dealership lot. First things first, he squats to inspect the rubber wheels. Next, he lifts the long, black handle and leans backwards (all twenty-five pounds) to set the wagon in motion. He travels at a rate of six inches per hour across the patch.

I am confident my wife will locate an attractive pumpkin. While she searches, I feel a tractor beam pulling me towards the hybrid pumpkins (another popular patch item this year). The hybrids are so darn pretty!  Their shades of grey, blue, and red are amplified by the endless orange. Although, I can’t imagine carving a fierce face into a pastel pumpkin. Truth be told, they are a better fit for a autumn scene at Pottery Barn than your front doorstep.  Just sayin’.

Alert:  Pinterest is crashing right now because too many soccer moms are pinning pictures of hybrid pumpkins attached with craft instructions. Stop the pastel insanity!

Pumpkins, more than anything else, give Halloween its character. Purchasing, carving, and lighting them infuses the autumn with magic. The trip to the local patch with hyped-up kids to acquire a humble member of the squash family acts as a ritual. It marks time, provides meaning, and draws us closer together as families and communities. Removing their innards, squishing the slimy seeds, and designing goofy faces IS Halloween.

Note:  I can’t get this song out of my head. Pumpkin in the morning, pumpkin in the evening, pumpkin at supper time. Seriously, its lodged in my brain. I’m embarrassed to admit it. I think it was inspired by this evil Bagel Bites commercial (circa 1996).

We found a pumpkin. A beautiful, orange squash to carve and call our own. I named it Bocephus in honor of Hank Williams Jr., the legendary country music singer and mega redneck. Why? I don’t know. It felt right. Not only did we purchase a well-shaped pumpkin, but we splurged and took home a couple of hybrids, gourds, and mini-pumpkins.  They offer payment plans at our patch, so we signed up.

I want to wrap this post up with a picture of Bocephus. In the words of Cousin Eddie, its “REAL NICE.”

Bean Eatin’ Machine

The Bean Eatin’ Machine slams his palms on the plastic high chair tray. His large, blue eyes scan the ceramic bowl in my hand for the next serving.  He moans.  He kicks.  He shakes his head side-to-side. I stop to answer a text message.  He screams and launches sweet potato to the floor.

I scramble to supply black beans to his small palms, so he can shove them into his mouth causing his cheeks to protrude.  Bean after bean, he chews, swallows, and extends his right arm to call for more.  I deliver beans until he tilts his head back and appears on the verge of explosion.  Pieces of black bean skin cover his face.

Henry, aka The Bean Eatin’ Machine, gobbles black beans, white beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, and black-eyed peas.  The only bean he turns down are Garbanzo beans.

He devours beans on the airplane.  He devours beans on the subway.  He devours beans on the bus.  He devours beans in the park.  He devours beans on the busy streets.  He devours beans at the doctor.  Henry devours the beans on my plate at restaurants.  The boy risks transforming into a bean.

For Henry, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are opportunities to inhale beans, which led me to wonder how a one-year-old stomach holds so many beans.  Turns out, it can’t.  Following bean consumption, the changing table is a dangerous place to operate.  Since you probably desire to retain your previous meal, I will withhold diaper details, but know cleaning his rear requires fearless precision.

Don’t get me wrong.  Henry’s bean obsession pleases me.  Despite the toxic diapers, I remind myself we are fortunate the child eats well.  The option to use beans as a back-up plan when other food fails makes our lives easier.  A Ziploc bag full of beans travels with us wherever we go.

When the bean extravaganza unfolded in our home, I decided to visit the local Whole Foods to find new beans to rotate into Henry’s diet.  Prior to Henry’s bean obsession, I associated beans with gross, processed canned foods.  I have eaten too many beanie weenies. Yet, in the store I noticed beans on display from all over the world, including odd ones like Mung beans, Extra Large Fava beans, Giant Peruvian Lima Beans, and colorful Anasazi beans.  The uncooked, organic beans revealed the potential of exploring the legume world.

After my bean conversion in Whole Foods, my inner nerd made it a habit to frequent the Wikipedia bean article.  Did you know there are thousands of varieties of beans?  More importantly, did you know that soaking beans before cooking removes the sugar molecule that causes flatulence?  My new cookbook, Bean by Bean, informed me beans are “the single most concentrated source of plant-based protein in the world.”  It’s hard to argue against “the musical fruit.”

One of my goal’s for this year involves serving Henry every bean available in the store.  I have not shared this plan with my wife, because I know she will probably suggest I am taking things too far.  I don’t know why she would say that.  It’s not like I have an obsessive personality or anything.

Whether it is beans, baby wraps or something more serious, I am changing and growing as he changes and grows.  The first seventeen months of Henry’s life has opened me to the reality parenthood will transform me in big and small ways. Like any other relationship of depth, it involves two people influencing one another in subtle and obvious ways.  I am Henry’s teacher and he is mine.

As a first-time parent, it excites me to think about the ways my child will challenge me to expand my horizons.  Who knows what the future holds?  I’m guessing more beans.