Billy reached in and grabbed another handful of the stringy orange guts. He carefully lifted his small, slimy fist back through the opening and dumped the gooey treasure onto the newspapers covering the kitchen table.
“Look, Mommy. Look at all the ones I got this time!” his blue eyes sparkling with delight.
“Good job!” Janet responded.
Janet continued sorting through the clumps of pumpkin, picking out all the seeds. Roasting pumpkin seeds had always been a family tradition when she was growing up. As a child, it never officially felt like fall until the day arrived each year when her family would make the seasonal trip to Mr. Jenkins pumpkin patch. Janet and her younger brother, Ben, each got to pick out their very own to bring home.
Their autumn excursion took place each October in the small town of Wilson. It had always been one of Janet’s favorite days of the year, second only to Christmas. The day would begin as the smell of apples and cinnamon drifted from the kitchen and down the hall into Janet’s bedroom. The irresistible smell of her mother’s apple-cinnamon pancakes always seemed to indicate the beginning of a fun day for the Fletcher family. The aroma was heavenly, and would grow even more pleasant once it mingled with the fresh air blowing in through the open bedroom window.
It seemed like the entire town would show up at the Jenkins farm each year to celebrate the change in seasons. The noticeably cooler afternoon air brought everyone and everything to life. The progression of colors day after day was like watching a season-long fireworks display, exploding colors, gradually becoming more and more intense, until finally, the stunning, much anticipated grand finale. A line of trees, bursting in varying shades of red, orange and yellow encircled the Jenkins farm, the grand finale only a few short days away.
The Jenkins had been hosting this tradition for so long that everyone in town referred to it as the fall festival at Grandpa Jenkins Place. Technically speaking, it was certainly not at all like the festivals you might find in bigger, more populated areas. But, to the children of Wilson, the hay maze, the countless cups of warm apple cider and homemade cookies fresh from Mrs. Jenkins oven was enough to turn any ordinary day into a celebration.
The Jenkins grandchildren would show up for the day as well. Janet always had fun hanging out with William, who was just a couple years older. He was so funny and always made Janet and the other kids laugh until they were in pain. One year, Janet remembered laughing so hard at one of his jokes that cider came straight out her nose, which of course, just made her laugh even harder. For Janet, the afternoon always passed much too quickly. Fun days like this always ended sooner than expected. When it was time, Mr. Jenkins would ring the old cow bell hanging on the wooden fence by the barn. All the children knew what that meant…time for the hay ride to the other end of farm. It was pumpkin pickin’ time!
Janet smiled as she watched Billy reach back into the pumpkin for another handful of seeds, funny how things turn out. When Mr. Jenkins became ill many years later, his grandson William moved to Wilson and took over his grandfather’s farm. It was then he and Janet began dating. Never in a million years did Janet think she would ever end up a farmer’s wife. But, she had a weakness for boys who made her laugh.
Janet glanced up as the screen door opened. William smiled and walked over to the kitchen table, glancing at the huge pile of seeds his son had retrieved.
“Looks like you hit the jackpot with that pumpkin,” he commented, tousling Billy’s sandy thick hair. William gave Janet’s shoulder a gentle squeeze as he sat down in the chair next to her and exhaled deeply.
“Whew…I have no idea how Granddad did that for so many years,” a tired, content smile on his face.
“I know what you mean,” Janet replied as she rested her hand on his arm. “I think you did a great job, Mr. Jenkins.”
“Well, thank you very much, Mrs. Jenkins” he said as he leaned over and kissed her cheek. “We got any of that cider left?” he added, a playful look forming on his face.