“It’s too early to pick out pumpkins,” Filibuster groused. “I’m busy.”
“Yeah,” V added. “It’s hardly fall, anyway.”
“It’s a nice day,” my husband said. “Besides, if we go early in the season, we’ll avoid all the crazies. Let’s go.”
We piled in the car and drove to the patch we went to last year. I remembered it as a modest patch; hidden away from the crowds with only a few touristy items here and there: a flyer advertising a haunted house somewhere nearby; a goat and a cow you could pet; owners who would talk with you; a field you could actually walk into.
“Form two lines,” I read aloud as my husband pulled into the patch. “I don’t remember that.” I continued reading. “Two dollars to park.”
My husband pulled next to a white Volvo and switched off the car. “I don’t see anyone collecting money. Let’s go, guys.” In the distance, we saw an enormous bouncing castle where screaming kids jumped up and down and parents stood clapping excitedly.
“Where’s the field?” Filibuster asked. I knew she wanted to scope the place out for the biggest pumpkin.
“It was over there last year but…I don’t remember that building.” My husband pointed and squinted at the signs. “Hay ride tickets this line; Haunted house tickets this line; Combo tickets this line.” He turned to me: “Where’s the line to pick pumpkins?”
I shrugged. There was a gigantic plastic pumpkin next to me. Two kids crawled onto it and their mother snapped a picture. A group of kids ran in front of the stalls, reaching in to pet the cows and the sheep and the pigs. A bored-looking employee sat next to a display of wilted mums for sale. “I’ll go ask.”
There was a hearse parked upon the grass. “Excuse me,” I said, giving the hearse as wide a berth as I could. “Where do we go to get the pumpkins?”
“You don’t want a hay ride?” She looked up from the magazine in her lap and blinked.
“No. We just want pumpkins.”
“Then you’ll have to get them here.” She pointed to a sad pile of pumpkins behind her.
“But we want to pick them ourselves.”
“You have to take the wagon to the field.”
“But it’s just over…”
My husband came up to me. “Do you believe it? You have to pay two dollars a person to be driven to the pumpkin patch so you can pick out a pumpkin to buy. Let’s go.”
As soon as I got home, I picked up the telephone and called the patch we went to years ago; the patch where a son grew pumpkins for his college fund. For the past several years, they haven’t had pumpkins, but desperate times…
“Do you have pumpkins this year?”
“Do you have hay rides?”
“See you next week.”
* * *
Despite what V says, it is fall and, while it is my favorite season, fall makes me grumpy lately. Because fall is standardized test season. ‘Round here, we call the test Spend A lot of Treasure. To get into college, you’ve got to have at least one standardized test under your belt. Two is better. Many go for three. In addition to the main test, there are subject tests, each with an additional price tag: tests in math and science; reading and government; history and English. There are books to prepare you for each test. There are classes to prepare you for the tests. There are flashcards and tutors and computer programs all designed to prepare you for the tests, something I’d thought high school was supposed to do.
And then, when the scores come through, there are the costs of sending off those scores to the colleges not part of the original purchase price.
With Filibuster last year we played the game: We bought the book and signed her up for a prep class and had run the gamut of tests. “Why are we doing this?” I remember asking her, as I typed my credit card number into the computer yet another time.
“A hundred point difference can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection, Mom. And if I increase my score, I can get into the honors college. I can get a scholarship, Mom. I just need a hundred points more.”
I signed, and entered the expiration date on my credit card.
Last year between AP tests and AP books and standardized tests and preparation for those tests, I figure we spent seven hundred dollars.
That’s three hundred and fifty hayrides.
“Are you signing me up for a prep class this year, Mom?” V asked the other day.
I went online; looked at the company that offered the one Filibuster took last year. “Four hundred dollars!” I exclaimed.
“What?” My husband came over to look at the computer screen over my shoulder. “No way. What happened?”
“There’s a new component this year,” I read. “Something about reducing test-taking jitters.” I turned and looked at him. “What do you think?”
“Sounds like taking a hayride to pick a pumpkin to me,” he said, frowning.
Next year at this time, all of this will be behind us and fall will be just fall and we’ll have several years before we have to go through this with Squints.
But this February, when I order my seeds?
I’m ordering pumpkins.
And maybe I’ll get a wagon, too.
Labels: Buying Locally, College, Consumption, Country life, Daughters, Family, Sons