Saturday, September 6, 2014


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.  

Yeah.  Right.
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.

I tell my students they may not think their act of making the decision to further their education is a big deal, but that somewhere somebody is watching.  Maybe it’s a little brother or sister, or a neighbor kid or maybe even a parent who has secretly always wanted to go back to school.  Whether they know it or not, their actions and their attitudes matter to someone who is thinking about gathering up the courage to take on something big in life. 

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.”   
--Helen Keller



Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is a wonderful story and life lesson to tell your kids. And a real miracle that pumpkin grew from a lone, stray seed from a feeder.

Brian said...

I love that story and we hope there are many beautiful blooms on the horizon.

Connie said...

What a wonderful and inspirational story. I really liked that.

Baby Sister said...

I love this!! That is an awesome pumpkin, and what a great lesson it teaches us all. Thank you for sharing!! I hope your semester is going well!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - what a great story and I'm sure will resonate with your pupils ... how fun to know how far your pumpkin travelled ... and then to have Lori there to remind you both ..

I sure hope you have more pumpkins ... and enjoy your busy term .. cheers Hilary

Hilary said...

Blessed are the students who have and had you for their teacher. You have many gifts and talents but I so admire how you can take an event such as a pumpkin's growth and blend it with significant events turning it into important life lessons. You are a true gem.

Pat Tillett said...

Great post Betty! The kids who learn from you are fortunate.
So, what is it going to be? Pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread?

Alison said...

And then somebody chops you up and turns you into a pie! Ta da!! (Wait, was that not in line with your post?)

Gigi said...

Your students are so very lucky to have you. I certainly hope my son has a Bossy Betty at his school.

Olga said...

WOW! What a wonderful story. You are an inspiration to your students, I am sure.

Lin said...

Don't you love little miracles? I do! It's a wonder where it came from and how it came to be...but all that matters is that it DID!

:) Wow.

jenny_o said...

I love your miracle and the parallel you pointed out. You are so good at those!

I have to admit I also loved Alison's comment :)

Momma Fargo said...

Beautiful post, Betty! I call those surprises...God winks. :) Thanks for making my day bright!

christine said...

Isn't that a great thought:) Well done for taking inspiration from a seed!

My Mind's Eye said...

Yay BB we have missed you...but are glad to see you are settling into classes and getting a routine.
Pumpkin season is one of our favorites
Hugs madi and mom

Tabor said...

Great post, so glad Hillary gave you a POTW or I would have missed this.

TexWisGirl said...

just wonderful. congrats on your POTW!

joeh said...

Just what Tabor said.

photowannabe said...

I wish you had been my teacher.
I grew up in an era where we did the work expected of more, no less with little encouragement from our teachers. They did their job with few lasting effects.
I'm so thankful there are teachers like you who can create life lessons.
Tremendous story about the pumpkin.
I'm here from Hilary's POTW.

Wendy said...

What a beautiful post! The pumpkin story woven with an inspirational lesson for your students - how fortunate they are to have you for a teacher!

Congrats on the POTW award!!

I enjoyed reading this.

Sally Wessely said...

You have written some posts in the past that have inspired and stayed with me, but you outdid yourself with this one. Thank you for writing this story and for sharing it with us and with your students.