Every year, we go to the pumpkin patch. Just like every other family with small children and a love of pumpkins.
Normally we go to this big, often crowded, rather far away farm. ‘Normally’ meaning that we’ve done so for three years and therefore, obviously it is tradition.
Three years doesn’t sound like a long time. Because it’s not. But it is long enough to take three of the same pictures in the same spot, roughly 365 days apart, and marvel at the growth and the change and the passage of time. After three years you can call it tradition in my book.
So normally, we go to this one pumpkin patch. And we’ve taken the same photo of our girl in the same spot and I stare at those photos and I see her growing up. From short, baby fine hair and chubby, little legs to cute little pigtails and wobbly, toddler feet, to long, wavy locks and even longer… well everything. And though this year I learned that there are smaller, more quaint and sweet, closer and often less crowded patches, and though smaller and less crowded and closer and more quaint and sweet are things I value, I still wanted to go to our pumpkin patch. Far away and crowded or not, it’s our home for Fall. Our place. The place where we take the pictures. And they make the best apple cider I’ve ever tasted.
This year I knew birthday season would tangle us up. And so I plotted it all out early, marking several possible pumpkin patch weekends on our calendars. Determined to let nothing get in the way of our pumpkins and our pictures.
But, one by one, the weekends slipped away. This one to more birthday planning. That one to rain. And that other one to nothing more than exhaustion.
Then came Sunday. Sunny and warm but with a chill in the air. Down to the wire, the last possible pumpkin patch day of the season.
And M was sick.
Give in to it all and let it go? Vow to do better next year? Or pack my patience and my courage along with two little humans and enough snacks to feed a small army and solo parent it to the pumpkin patch?
Tradition is my siren call.
So I packed the snacks and the two small humans and I scoped out the closer, smaller, more quaint patch.
And it was lovely.
But it wasn’t the same. No same photo in the same place. No comfy, coming home for Fall feeling. No delicious apple cider to savor for at least a week.
No feeling that we’ve upheld tradition.
It just wasn’t the same.
For him? It was good fun. Watching big sister run here and there from slide to scarecrow and even getting in on some of the action himself. It was a good afternoon for a boy who just turned one.
For her? She got her face painted and ate cotton candy and ran around through hay and pumpkins to go down slides and swing on swings and ride on a handful of small rides. On the way home she moved swiftly from excitement to exhaustion and then promptly fell asleep once we got back. It was a good afternoon for a four year old girl whose energy knows few bounds.
For them? It was memories and fun. According to them? We went to the pumpkin patch. We celebrated Fall.
And that’s what matters, isn’t it?
It’s hard, sometimes, to separate good from perfection. It’s hard to go to the smaller, closer pumpkin patch and forgo the traditions I’ve held onto because to do so feels a little like failure. It’s hard to remember that, to them, it doesn’t matter where we celebrate, as long as we do. That a day with smiles and laughter and little hands gripping pumpkins is never a failure, whether it happens at a big farm or at the pumpkin stall down the street.
Traditions only are what they are because of what we make of them. Traditions are not a date on the calendar or pin on a map. They are so much more than that. And, at the same time, so much simpler.
Traditions don’t have to be perfect with meticulous and appropriately seasonal clothes and big treks to far away places for that photo and the feeling that we’ve succeeded because we made it happen. They just need to create a feeling. A feeling that unites and brings together and forms another stitch in their childhood memories. Every year, we go to the pumpkin patch. And we go to whichever one strikes our fancy (or our schedule) that year.
How do your traditions morph and change, yet stay the same, from year to year?