Here’s a favorite family story about moving on, moving past, and moving fast.
When I was pregnant with my third child (nine years ago), my family drove to Connecticut to meet my mother, my sister, and my sister’s family at a Buell’s Orchard, a UPick apple and pumpkin destination in Eastford, CT.
We paid for the bags and headed towards the McIntosh trail. The day was lovely—sunny, cool, crisp. Our bags filled quickly and grew heavy. Before long, we were heading to deposit our apple stash in the trunks of cars. It was time to head to the pumpkin patch.
As I packed my car, a hay wagon pulled up in front of the orchard store and then pulled away before I could gather my crew together. We wanted the full UPick experience, so I was ready when the next truck pulled up a few moments later.
“Come on everyone.. Hurry up and jump on this wagon!” I yelled across the parking lot.
My sister, her two daughters, my mother and my two daughters all followed me and hopped on the flat aluminum wagon attached to an old truck cab. We leaned back against the side rails of and made room for others. Soon the wagon was full.
In a moment, the truck was driving down the road. Overly sun-warmed from our orchard hike, I enjoyed the cool breeze as the truck pulled past the groves of apple trees: first the McIntosh, then the red delicious, next the Granny Smith trees, some pear trees, a lane of peaches. Finally, I looked ahead and saw the orange pumpkins dotting the field to the left of our truck. We got ourselves prepared to get off the truck . . .
. . . and it went right on past the first pumpkin patch, the second patch, the third. Suddenly, pumpkins were no longer visible anywhere. The trees and brush alongside the road started to get thicker. And the truck picked up speed.
The truck’s increasing speed turned the cool breeze into a biting wind. My daughters’ teeth started to chatter and I pulled them close to share my body heat.
The truck pulled into an intersection. Then, to my dismay, it turned onto the highway. Now the truck was flying along at 60 mph. My mother, sister, and I looked at each other in bewilderment, but we were the only people who seemed dismayed by the kidnapping of a rather typical autumn orchard crowd of parents, teens, and young children.
“Where’s the pumpkin patch?” we yelled in unison, so the other riders could hear us over the roar of the wind and the engine.
“What pumpkin patch?” the woman next to me yelled back.
“The pumpkin patch where you can pick out pumpkins!” I shouted.
“This truck isn’t going to a pumpkin patch!” the woman yelled again. “We’re going back to the campground!”
My mother, sister, and I looked at each other in surprise. We had no idea how far we were going or where. Our gloveless fingers started to stiffen in the cold. The only thing we could do was ride it out.
After half-an-hour on the highway, the truck pulled onto an exit ramp and turned onto a dirt road that led to the campground store.
“We need to call the guys,” I said to my sister. “Have them come and get us.”
Of course, as usually is the case in such moments, my mother had left her phone in the car, my phone was out of charge, and my sister’s couldn’t catch a signal.
Fortunately, the driver was heading back to the orchard after a quick coffee break, so we warmed ourselves with styrofoam cups of camp-store hot chocolate and prepared for the return trip.
The youngest children in our group, dressed in jeans and tee-shirts, began to climb reluctantly on the back of the truck when the driver invited them to join him in the cab. The girls eagerly accepted the offer, despite the reality of sitting with a stranger, something neither child usually liked to do. Recalling the cold wind on the highway, we thanked the driver and let the girls get in front.
The drive back to the orchard was equally cold for the adults—and the teenagers—on the trip. Typically, my niece and younger daughter reveled in their comfort. They turned backward in their seats to smile coyly at us and stuck out their tongues at their older sisters.
My nose, my fingertips, even the third child in my belly were frozen by the time the trunk exited the highway and turned onto the road to the orchard. Soon, trees flaming with orange leaves once again flew by, the spaces between them widening gradually until we saw an array of pumpkins spread across the fields.
The truck gradually slowed as it passed the second patch, then the third, until it came to a full stop in front of the orchard store, pulling up right next to the farm’s hayride sign.
We hopped off the wagon and watched a new group of passengers climb on, while the music of trunk doors slamming shut on bags of apples played in the background.
As we headed to the line for cider donuts, a blur of denim and plaid raced by me.
“Come guys! The hayride’s here!” a woman yelled, carrying a small boy and climbing after him onto the back of the truck. Before I had a chance to warn her, the truck was on its way again.