This year, I accidentally grew fourteen white miniature pumpkins in the pachysandra underneath my bay window. I didn’t plant them, or even water the vines; once I recognized the the leaves, shaped like small green paws, as belonging some sort of pumpkin or squash, I protected them from marauding wildlife with a small patch of plastic netting. But once the vines reached five feet, then twenty, nearly all the way from the front step to the driveway, they were on their own—and they exploded into wide orange flowers, welcoming bees and sprouting tiny green globes that sank beneath the pachysandra as they ripened into perfect little pumpkins.
I pulled the dying vines this week, dredging pumpkins from a sea of green; my daughter stood, delighted, as more and more of them emerged, clinging to the dried remnants of each long stretch of the desiccated tendrils. These days, when she counts, she has a tendency to skip to “eleven,” a number that she seems to relish, but she came to a pretty close estimate as we pulled a few stray pumpkins from hidden spots beneath the window.
The gardens now are hot and parched, scraggly with neglected annuals that are clinging to the last unseasonable heat, a reminder of the tropical climes where they should be living longer lives. I find myself thinking, without unreasonable fondness, of the cover that snow will bring; before you know it, these sins of under-watering and non-weeding will all lie dormant and hidden til the spring, when they will renew themselves in tender, neat sprouts.
“Sometimes you have to let these things go”—sound advice from my mother, the one from whom I inherited both this desire to plant and this tendency to feel too much for gardens lost and neglected. Because of her, I read pumpkins leaves as well as pages: twin literacies that now unfurl before my daughter’s curious eyes.