Have you ever taken a small child to the pumpkin patch? If you haven’t, you need to volunteer
to do that. It is a treat.
I have had the honor of going to our local corn maze with my great-grandchild and all the assorted family members that accompany her. We are like her entourage. She is still basically a baby, but she has an entourage. And she strolls around like a queen holding court. We don’t mind. We are her adoring subjects.
The corn maze where we go is quite a lot more than just a cornfield and a place to buy a few
pumpkins for carving. It is an industry.
The place is an actual farm with all the assorted barns and outbuildings, corrals, and fields. The
assortment of animals makes for a great makeshift petting zoo. The vocalizations of chickens,
ducks, and geese fill the air. Cows, horses, and donkeys congregate in the various fields to greet
the guests as they meander around the grounds. If the animals deign to let you touch them in a
quick pat, you should feel duly honored. They are sharing their space with you and they are not
certain they like it!
There are little food stands under the trees, selling hot dogs and cotton candy and cold drinks.
Inside the barn, rows and rows of booths have been set up so local artisans may hawk their
wares. There is everything from hand-painted country scenes on barnwood to stenciled hand
towels to homemade foodstuffs. The array seems endless. The fall scents of candles fill the air
with smells of candied apple, mulled cider, and pumpkin spice.
Outside, near the food stands, there are picnic tables arranged in the shade so the weary may rest
while drinking a cold lemonade. Or just sit to rest. Nearby is a stack of straw bales, artfully
decorated with colorful potted mums and unusual pumpkins, set up as a backdrop for picture
taking. We take advantage of this readymade set.
Because small children cannot be expected to maneuver through the rather extensive and
involved corn maze, a little train, pulled by a small tractor, has been assembled so they may ride
through a portion of the field. The baby is set in one small “car” and one of the adults dutifully
climbs in just behind her, so as to keep a watchful eye on our little princess. We all take pictures
with our phones to commemorate the moment. This tour of the field will last a few minutes, so I
meander off to take in the sights.
For the adults, there is a wagon pulled by a team of horses that will convey us around the
perimeter of the corn maze and show off points of interest on the farm. I decide this is a good
way to cheat at walking the maze and climb up into the bed of the wagon and take a seat on the
rough boards that run down each side and serve as benches. I am soon joined by a group of
children ranging in ages from around 5 to twelve.
The little girl sitting next to me is the youngest and has probably been foisted off on the older
children to look after. They ignore her. As the wagon jerks into motion, she instinctively reaches for my hand, as if to steady herself or, perhaps, for reassurance. She looks up at me
sheepishly, but I let her hold my hand and she begins to relax and listen to the commentary from
the driver. She has questions but quietly asks me rather than the driver. Before long, we are in
deep conversation as if we are old friends. By the end of the ride, I realize that she has snuggled
right up against me and is still holding my hand. I guess I look and feel to her like the
grandmother I am. Her caretakers seem not to notice.
When the wagon came slowly to a stop, we all began to disembark. The little girl told me
goodbye and ran after her companions, who seemed to pay no heed to her at all. I quickly found
my family and, as I approached, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between these two
small girls. The little stranger, left in the care of older siblings that seemed to not even notice
her, virtually ignoring her, and mine, surrounded by adoring adults that were there to serve her
I think of this little girl now and then and wonder if this was just a one-off day. Did she have
loving and doting parents who were shopping inside the barn at the crafts booths? Had she been
left in the care of her siblings for this one activity and were reunited soon afterward? Or was
she, like so many children, left to her own devices all too regularly? How often did she take the
hand of someone she had never before met for reassurance? Or speak to a total stranger because
no one else paid her any attention? I prefer to believe in the more positive twist of this story. That
her parents met her and enthusiastically asked about her adventure. Then they all picked out
pumpkins to take home to carve and took lots of happy pictures. I hope it is true. Because that is
what we do with our little princess.
Have you ever had an experience that seems imprinted in your mind that just won’t let go?
Hopefully, it is a good one.