Sometimes, if my camera is not nearby, I take a mental snapshot in the hope I might remember.
Through the Point d’Esprit lace of my bedroom window curtains, I could see them, four stair-step children hauling our biggest Radio Flyer wagon to the pasture behind the house. Our oldest son was lugging the wagon by its handle, and hunched around the sides and the back were his two younger sisters and his little brother, helping him push the wagon with all the elementary-sized strength they could muster.
And in that wagon was a pile…nay, a mountain!…of pumpkins leftover from fall decor and activities, some with painted faces, some covered in stickers, and some perfectly plain and orange and beautiful.
The children had been given simple instructions…
“Put every pumpkin you can find in the wagon and haul them out back to the tall grass, please. We need to clear off the porch so we can pull out the Christmas decorations!”
I thought it would take them ten minutes, tops.
But children can turn any common old chore into a story, and as I watched them tromping merrily across the yard, the Oklahoma wind whipping even the shortest of their hairs wildly about, there was an aura of magic around them.
There always is.
It’s why I watch them through the windows, I think.
And while I worked at the dusting chore in front of me, the minutes before me plain and fixed and ticking, ticking, always ticking, they were operating in an imaginative who-knows-where, “time” a word in the dictionary, “responsibility” a burdenless concept.
They stopped before the tall grass like I had instructed them and, each hoisting a heavy pumpkin into their arms, lined up into a row, the difference in their ages not even a thing to be considered; pumpkin disposal is a team sport, after all, and when siblings spend their days together, a team is exactly what they become. And, though I couldn’t hear them, I knew by their movement when the countdown began: “One…two…THREE!!!…”
Four pumpkins hurtled through the air, and four children delightedly watched them land in various places, hair still whipping, smiles on their faces, life in their bodies.
And this spontaneous fun, centered around past-ripened pumpkins, went on for an hour.
More pumpkins went hurtling. More pumpkins were hauled from the porch. Tossed pumpkins were fetched and rethrown. Rotting pumpkins were abandoned as they ran from them, gagging and pointing and laughing.
“What could they be thinking and feeling right now?” I wondered as I peeked at them, the dustrag hanging from my hand, my own imagination now at work.
Big brother might be feeling like a warrior, hurling targets for weapon practice. Big sister might be imagining fairy godmothers, and carriages springing up from the ground, and what she would wear to the ball. Little sister might be dreaming of the volunteer pumpkin patch that could appear next year and the giant pumpkin that she would most certainly live in with her cat. And little brother was probably just reveling in the fact that he is big now, big enough to hang with the big kids, and big enough to throw a pumpkin.
I moved on to the kitchen with its cluttered counter-tops, calculating how much time I had before supper….
but there was a smile on my face.
The magic had reached me.
I remember my own childhood at home, turning ordinary tasks into games, finding wonder in my work. The days stretched ahead of me like millennia, and everything in the little world that surrounded our house was a playground, not a swing or a slide in sight. And it was mine to discover.
None of us can give our children everything. Money can be scarce, resources can be limited, and convictions about what we do and how we fill up our days can be strong.
But we can give them pumpkins… and then we can give them time.
Time to be home. Time to be little. Time to be free. Time to be outside without grown-ups hovering about. Time to explore what God has made. Time to befriend their siblings. Time to turn a chore into something magical. Time to dream.
And while they dream, we can get on with the dusting, readying the house for their next adventure.