The wagon bounced down the well-worn path, winding through the dense trees. Their leaves had begun their metamorphosis from green into orange and red hues.
My arms wrapped around my son and my daughter. I would tell them that it was to keep them safe. Of course, that was a ruse. I would never miss an opportunity to hold onto them more tightly than they would allow under normal circumstances.
The hayride came to a stop. My son, ever eager and not one prone to patience, jumped down and immediately began to sprint down the amber trail. I followed him down the steps and then turned, looking up to my daughter. Much more timid, she came to the edge of the steps and then stood hesitantly for a moment. She looked at me and put out her hand. I helped her down the steps from the wagon.
“Turn around, little girl, let me get the hay off you.” She complied, and I gently shooed away the hay clinging to her.
I looked back at my wife, still holding our newborn.
“We’ll walk from here,” I told her. “It’ll be fun. And it’s really not that far.” She gave me a knowing smile and nodded.
I turned and faced the trail, a serpentine path that had been blazed by many others like me.
The colors, the trees jutting out from the ground, and the temperature; it was hard to think that it was not hand-crafted for this moment. All the other moments in all other seasons were only in preparation for this one day, to allow a short walk through the forest.
It was about a quarter mile walk to the pumpkin patch.
The beautiful orange and yellow leaves crunched their magnificent crunch as we walked gently through the winding trail.
The wind gently blew over my face, healing me of my weeks-long, maybe even months-long drone-like state; erasing the stillness and stagnation of the hot summer days.
“Look, daddy, it’s Mario!”
“Mario!”, I replied, “Yes, it is Mario, my sweet little girl.” She had found a piece of scenery that had a Mario theme. Other themes, such as farmers, spooky houses, and monsters were littered along the trail, but this one was by far her favorite. It had all the characters you would expect, including Luigi, Princess Peach, and several Toads, along with the iconic bricks and golden blocks, waiting to be punched, to offer the prizes waiting inside.
And, all too soon, I heard a cry from my children. “Come on, daddy, we found it! We found the pumpkin patch!”, they shouted. They both ran, now, as the tree line broke into a field, with bright orange pumpkins strewn across the ground.
I waited a moment as I watched them run. They ran to their high schools and to their colleges. They ran to their husband and their wife. They ran to their children and their grandchildren. And they ran to the pumpkin patch.
I rubbed my hands across my face, I hurried to catch them, and to pick one of the very best pumpkins we could find.