apple-pickingThis weekend I’m planning a daytrip with a few other parents to a local farm for some pumpkin and apple picking. Like delivering my baby, I look back each year with rose-colored glasses. What a great tradition. I love the hay wagon ride! Kids excitedly staring out into a sea of orange gourds. The smell of sweet apples. Squeals of joy.

Every now and then though I get flashbacks. The bee that sneaked in my straw and stung my tongue. The years of sweltering weather. Sweat dripping as I lug an oversized pumpkin through a field of prickly vines. The hay pieces up your shorts in places that no one but your significant other and doctor should go. Losing your son in the massive hay castle. And then losing him again. And maybe once more…with feeling. The shrieks. Oh the high-pitched shrieks.

“Can I get a candy apple?”

“Can we get some cider?”

“That popcorn smells really good.”

The sugar crash comes just in time to be a quarter of the way through a corn maze. It’s like a crazy game of survivor. Take the wrong turn and you’re screwed. “I’m so tired!” Another dead end. “Do you even know where you’re going?” Nope. Wonder if Waze (a GPS app) works in here. First one out alive wins. The state of your children—not critical to the game.

In these moments, I think “Why didn’t I just buy 10 pumpkins at Safeway and scatter them in hay around the yard?” Pop in a bag of microwave popcorn. Get a gallon of apple cider and bring the elementary school gang over.

But these thoughts are fleeting. Yes, there are occasional meltdowns. Sometimes we go so late there are no apples left. We’re all exhausted by the end of the day.

The other images I see, however, are Ethan in a pool of corn kernels, kicking them up in glee. Cousins painting pumpkins together, staring just two inches away to see if they were dry yet. (They weren’t.) My ex laying on the grass, flipping nearly 2-year-old Ethan upside down, touching their foreheads together as they both laughed out loud. Watching Ethan and his buddy, Mara, chase each other through a wooden train. Jamming my head inside a cardboard cutout of a cow and mooing. Because York.

There’s my dad picking up Ethan to reach the special apple he wanted. Then each of my brothers doing the same because there’s more than one special apple. My family corralling the troops the first year I thought I had to go to a farm alone with Ethan. Not so. All 9 of us made our way to PA.

And then there was this conversation from 5 years ago that went something like this:

Some random guy asked for my number at the grocery store.
Mark: “Oh, what did you say?”
Uh, that, um, uh, I was taken? (Yes, I said it like a question.)
Mark: “Okay cool.”

We had been casually dating about three months, but it was the talk. Short and sweet.

So this weekend I’m going to forget the Safeway pumpkin plan. Although don’t get me wrong, there will be pumpkin beer in the fridge at home for later. You know, just in case.