The vine appeared almost overnight and where no vine had ever been before, in the little patch of ground filled with delicate alyssum plants just outside my kitchen window.
I eyed it suspiciously.
The power-hungry squash vine had already taken over one side of the yard. Had it somehow broken through the line of defense that the lawn and patio provided in its quest for universal domination? I looked over at the wily squash plant who played it cool, close to the ground, doing its best to like just another innocent gourd.
I considered the new green vine with its vibrant blossoms. Squash or no squash, it certainly wanted to live, to travel and to bloom. I understood completely and let it be.
Soon it was obvious that this was not a squash plant, but a pumpkin that had popped up. This puzzled me since there has never been pumpkin plant in the back yard, or even a pumpkin on the patio for years.
I watched it over the weeks. Only one blossom developed, slowly changing from green, to yellow, until finally a heavy orange moon rested there amid the white stars of alyssum.
A few weeks ago, my friend Lori was visiting me from the Virgin Islands. As we sat on the patio, I told her the story of the pumpkin and suddenly, I realized that the seed must have come from a homemade bird seed star that she sent me at Christmas time. It had hung in a branch from a fichus tree not far from the spot where the pumpkin had grown. We sat looking at the pumpkin, smiling and simultaneously toasted it with our iced teas, neither one of us really knowing why. It just felt like the thing to do.
The pumpkin is now on my table, Lori has returned to the Virgin Islands, and I have returned to a very busy school semester.
The other day I was working my way through my school e-mail account—most of it mundane work-related stuff--when I came across a note from a past student, thanking me for my help a few years back. She told me she had learned so much in my class and from me and wanted me to know she appreciated it. As I read the e-mail in which she filled me in on her current life, (attending a university, getting ready to graduate) I was embarrassed that I did not immediately recognize the name. (In fact, it took me a couple of days to remember who she was.) When I was done with the e-mail, I sat back, grateful for her words, but also grateful that I had apparently done my best when she was in my class.
I have many students who are the first in their families to attend college, so I spend some time at the start of every semester, motivating them to overcome some of the obstacles life will put in their path on their way to their diplomas. Usually I tell them if they stick with it they’ll be rewarded with better jobs and more money.
This year, however, I am telling them about my pumpkin.
I tell them how that singular seed fell from a gift from a friend, was blown by the wind, and was probably buried by a cat’s paw as she sat in the dirt, looking up, making a (no doubt nefarious) wish on the birdseed star. In the dark earth, it nestled there for months until it got enough water, sunshine, and strength to sprout, bloom and grow.
It's a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time, whether by a teacher, a friend, or by a large, beautiful pumpkin.
"When we do the best we can, we and never know what miracle is wrought another in our life or the life of another.”