How the Pumpkin Patch Photos Stole Nana's Heart


I wasn’t planning to visit my daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons for Christmas this year. Plane fare from NYC to Phoenix isn’t cheap, and I have a heavier workload right now than usual. I just didn’t see how I could spend the time and money for the trip. Also, holiday travel is never my idea of a good time what with bad weather, overbooked and overpriced flights, cranky children, and wailing babies. So I told my daughter we would just schedule a Skype session for December 25th. She sounded disappointed, but she understood.

Then she posted the Pumpkin Patch photos on Facebook. Grandparents are prone to hyperbole, but I have to tell you that three-year-old Shaler and 18-month-old Wesley are the most adorable little boys on the face of the planet. There they were in seasonally correct orange shirts sporting jack-o-lantern and ghost designs, smiling out at me as if to say “We miss you, Nana. We wish you were here.” Tears trickled down my cheeks and a flood of Halloween memories played in my mind. I could smell the piles of burning leaves in the crisp autumn air of my Michigan girlhood and feel the tingle of excitement about putting on a costume and going door to door with the neighborhood children to collect treats the likes of which I wasn’t allowed to have during the whole rest of the year. I thought, too, about the October nights when my own children were small and they would race up and down the back stairs of our New York City apartment building on Riverside Drive to make the “trick or treat” rounds on every floor. And I remembered with a certain wistfulness my era as a children’s ballet teacher. We always had “costume week” for Halloween and we free danced to “The Hall of the Mountain King.” Lately, though, with no children as a part of my daily life, my only nod to Halloween has been to put on my crystal pumpkin earrings and go about my ordinary business.

Suddenly, the equanimity with which I had been accepting my fate as a long-distance grandmother gave way to a deep sadness. I wanted to be in that Pumpkin Patch with my little Pumpkins. I wished I could see them put on their costumes for Halloween. I also longed to share the bounty with them at the Thanksgiving table. And most of all, I yearned to see the wonder in their eyes on Christmas morning.

You know where this is going, don’t you? I booked my round-trip flight and I didn’t even flinch at the cost. Then I emailed my daughter with the news. She texted me right back: “YAY! CHRISTMAS!!!” How wonderful to be loved and welcome in her home and heart. And how glad I am that those Pumpkin Patch pictures made me realize what really matters in my life.

Sondra Forsyth, Senior Editor at ThirdAge, is a National Magazine Award winner. She writes for major magazines and is the author or co-author of eleven books. She was Executive Editor at “Ladies’ Home Journal,” Features Editor at “Cosmopolitan,” and Articles Editor at “Bride’s.” A former ballerina, she is the Artistic Director of Ballet Ambassadors, an arts-in-education company in New York City.

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