By Rachael --
Fall is a season of romance. It’s easy to be taken in by various sights and delights this time of year, from colorful leaves to homemade apple dishes to cozy sweaters. There’s also pumpkin-spice everything.
The romance of autumn is more personal for me. My second date with my husband was at a pumpkin patch. We spent that sunny day roaming around a hay maze, meandering around an apple orchard, and enjoying apple cider slushes and doughnuts.
Our relationship had an unusual beginning. Josh and I were matched up via a well-established dating website and corresponded through e-mail, Instant Messenger (remember those days?), and phone calls for several months before we planned our first face-to-face meeting.
We lived six hours from each other, so we settled on a halfway meeting point: the university town of Champaign, Illinois. We planned our first date at an Applebee’s restaurant on a busy street just off Interstate 57. Because Champaign was such a convenient place to meet up, we did so several times after that first date and scoured the town for things to do. We visited the local mall, coffee shops, movie theatres, and spent one afternoon strolling the University of Illinois campus.
When I think of all the time we spent in that town surrounded by endless miles of rural cornfields, that second date at the pumpkin patch stands out the brightest in my memory. I can only remember small pieces of the conversations Josh and I had that day as we sipped apple cider slushes. We talked about our families and about our jobs, and maybe our memories of fall and Halloween when we were kids.
The images of that day are what I remember most vividly. It was a kitchsy family-owned place with a Wizard of Oz theme everywhere, from the Yellow Brick Road leading to the store and café, to the Dorothy dolls and décor inside the café, to the painted characters near the barnyard. The day was warm and sunny, and I remember round pumpkins and bales of hay, roaming farm animals, and families with kids running everywhere. We spent some time wandering around a corn maze before heading inside the store and café. There were jars of local jams and honey and salsa, baskets of apples and pumpkins and squash, and the smells of chili and pulled pork sandwiches.
Almost exactly one year after that day at the pumpkin patch, on a crisp fall day in October, Josh proposed to me on a quiet street with red and orange leaves falling around us. I had just driven to his hometown of St. Louis to spend the weekend. Whenever I visited St. Louis, I stayed with the parents of one of Josh’s good college friends who had a spare bedroom and welcomed me enthusiastically. That October day, I parked on the street outside their house and Josh came out to greet me as I got out of my car. He almost immediately dropped to one knee and held out a small jeweler’s box. I said yes, and we entered the house together, where our friends who had watched from the front window were waiting with hugs, delighted squeals, and words of congratulations.
Since our marriage, we have returned to visit that pumpkin patch twice. We stopped by a few months after our wedding when we were on our way back to St. Louis after visiting my family. It was toward the end of the business day and few people were still there. We went in the store and purchased some doughnuts and chatted with two shopkeepers, telling them our story and how we had our second date there.
The last time we were there was when our daughters were 4 years old and 9 months old. We were passing through on our way to visit my family. I wonder what my younger self would think if she knew I would someday bring my children to this place. We watched the antics of the farm animals, and the noisy bleats from goats thoroughly frightened my younger daughter. I sat on a bench and nursed her while our oldest daughter posed for photos with kitchsy props. We explained to our older daughter our connection to the place, but she was more interested in playing. We browsed inside the store a little and then headed back to the interstate. Some of my favorite photos are of my daughters at that pumpkin patch that holds so much meaning for Josh and me.
Josh still talks about wanting to visit that pumpkin patch again. We’ll probably go back again someday. In the meantime, we take our daughters to pumpkin patches in our own area and reminisce about that first pumpkin patch. I also twist the rings on my left hand and recall the crisp autumn day when I was given that one with the diamond.
Yes, fall is a season of romance. It’s a time for hay rides and candy corn, scarecrows and harvest moons, second dates, marriage proposals and diamond rings. It will always be one of my favorite seasons.
Rachael is associate editor for Mumbling Mommy. She previously worked as a newspaper editor and has a bachelor's degree in English and writing from Indiana Wesleyan University. When she’s not busy with her husband and two daughters, you’ll find her gardening, cooking, singing with ladies from church, or reading Charlotte Bronte novels. You can contact her by e-mailing Rachael@mumblingmommy.com.
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