In hindsight, we should have worn boots. But I didn't anticipate how patchy, or muddy, the grass just outside the orchard's old farm store would be. I had skipped a few steps, instead thinking that such a damp day seemed like the perfect backdrop for carving a pumpkin while cozy inside. Had I been thinking the steps through in the correct chronological order, I would have suggested that yesterday was not the appropriate day to take the teddy bear pumpkin-hunting. I would probably have moved the rest of Audrey's "friends" from the floor of the car as well to prevent the mud-trampling they received and the "baths" that now must follow. But speaking of hindsight is for those with careers in sportscasting or history, mamas skip the analysis, trudge through the mud as it comes, and get on to more important matters like pumpkin carving.
Luckily, most things wash. Luckier still, I have what you might call an, ahem, healthy appreciation for mud. To say I was the most dirt-strewn child in my family is a little like calling Beethoven his mother's "musical" child. According to my mom's records in my baby book, I needed two baths a day as a toddler and still went to bed with dirt in my hair. Things didn't improve as I got older. Between my forays in the woods and sports in the backyard, my dirt-tracking was nothing if not honed. Fortunately for me (and Audrey to follow), I don't remember my mother ever criticizing me for getting dirty. Instead, she adopted the technique of laying down a newspaper trail from the backdoor to the bathroom each afternoon before I came in. I followed the trail, and once safely inside the bathroom cleaning up, my mother would roll up the newspapers much like cleaning up after a parakeet. So when Audrey pointed out the mud collecting on her pants, my first reaction was to tell her that it was just fine to get dirty, we'd just strip her clothes off at the garage door.
Several muddy moments later, we were home, the perfect jack-o-lantern-to-be front and center on our kitchen table. Audrey took to scooping out the insides of the pumpkin, separating the seeds from the pulp and flesh. Then we discussed the pumpkin's face, and as she directed ("Big triangles for eyes. Points down. Little circle nose. Here. One tooth. Smiling mouth."), I carved. I brought out a candle and she asked if it was the pumpkin's birthday and if we were having cake. If she was disappointed to find out that it wasn't, and we weren't, it lasted only as long as it took to get the candle lit. And then, our jack-o-lantern alive before us, we celebrated with a cup of hot chocolate. Served over pumpkin light.