In early September, one of my sons returned home from school one day with multiple plastic grocery stacks stuffed with dirt-covered vegetables, gourds, potatoes, and onions. His science class spent a day at a working farm where they were shuttled from field to field and told to gather what they could. He went overboard on the onions and could have harvested a few more of the fragrant, gorgeous peppers. We were proud of his haul and he was, too. It was a contribution to the wellness of our family as a whole. We’ve enjoyed the bounty.
But one of the gourds he brought home perplexed everyone. It was perfectly round and the size of a cantaloupe, but was streaked with shades of green. He was sure it was a watermelon because of the coloring. I disagreed. It had to be a fall gourd. We held it to our ears and knocked on it like people who regularly knocked on bulbous produce. We shrugged and determined that a watermelon didn’t click with the rest of the harvest spread on the kitchen table. We separated carrots from peppers and onions from potatoes, washing and storing them away.
I put his small pumpkin, handsome butternut squash, and the green gourd in a fall centerpiece until we were ready to eat them. Gourds last a long time when conditions are right. His field trip was my easy fall decorating bonanza. We’d eat the butternut squash eventually. He’d carve his pumpkin closer to Halloween. The green gourd could be carved, too. Green would make a fun monster.
Daily, he asked to crack open the watermelon. I said no, because there was a 99% chance it was a gourd. We’d have an open mystery gourd to toss out—not all gourds are edible and I didn’t want our family to discover little green gourds make little green faces. For several weeks, it stayed on the table watching fall flower bouquets come and go. Every few days, my son would sigh and ask why he couldn’t open his watermelon. Eventually, he stopped asking to open it. Until a few days ago.
I had been sick with a nasty virus that was so nasty, my husband sent me to bed for a few days. I was lounging and watching a game show around dusk when our farmhand showed up in my doorway with his hands behind his back. “Guess what, mom?”
He brought his hands around, each holding half of the green gourd. “Dad said I could open my watermelon, finally.”
Even though the room was nearly dark, except for the glow of the TV, I could see pale pink flesh and rows of black seeds.
“It’s really dry. Guess I’ll have to throw it away now.”
I told him he was right, I was wrong, and I was sorry.
Had I let him cut it weeks ago, he could have still eaten it. But I knew better. I had seen green gourds in magazines, at the grocery store, in pin-ably beautiful photo spread tributes to fall at lifestyle blogs. They were at farmer’s markets and in giant cardboard bins parked in front of the grocery store’s front door.
The smooth green skin said one thing to him, another thing to me. The longer it remained intact, the more I harbored a burning commitment to be right about it. Moms can be such children sometimes, and not nice children. My son cracked the watermelon and me. Both revealed flesh that lost its sweetness, with black running through in seams. I’m a woman in need of a savior, redemption, a clue.
I owe my son a watermelon in late October. This should be as easy to find as a fiery orange, gloriously rotund pumpkin in June.