For most of my life I lived up the block from a pumpkin farm. The guy who ran the pumpkin farm was also my bus driver all four years of high school. That’s the kind of town it was.
One October I walked down to the pumpkin farm with my mom and my older brother. They offered free hay rides to pick your own pumpkin straight from the field, but we just wandered around near the farm stand. And while wandering around, we spotted a very, very large pumpkin. And my brother approached it and tried to move it to get an idea of how heavy it was. That was when he grabbed onto the stem on top–and it immediately came off in his hand.
When it comes to pumpkins, the stems are valuable. No one wants to buy a pumpkin without its stem. Unless maybe the person just wants to cook with the pumpkin, not decorate with it. So the stem coming off the monster pumpkin was this gasp-inducing moment, followed immediately by the sounds of an angry Jamaican farm hand yelling about how that pumpkin would never sell now. Like an orphan no one wanted that would slowly rot and get tossed onto the street on its eighteenth birthday.
I felt bad for my brother. I still feel bad thinking about it now. I remember his face so vividly. It’s the same face you’d make if you accidentally dropped a crystal vase at a rich lady’s house. Shame. Embarrassment. Worry.
Yeah, it was just a pumpkin. But to my bus driver, the pumpkins were his crystal vases.