We are now several days past your second Halloween, and you turned 19 months old about three weeks ago. Strangely, these seemingly disconnected factoids mean it’s time to teach you an important truth:
Your Nana Kellie is nuts – but in a good way.
Last year you were too little at six months old to really do much on Halloween other than crawl around and be cute – at which you excelled.
This year though, you’re walking, climbing on everything, babbling up a storm and adventurously trying every new thing that comes your way.
Nana – possessing all the powers bestowed on Nana’s – knew all this would happen. So, she planted two pumpkin vines last spring, special just for you.
Those two vines grew and grew and grew. They escaped their bed to entwine and twist and tangle themselves around nearby flowers. They snuck through the fence into the neighbor’s yard. They climbed the chicken wire keeping critters out of the adjoining vegetable bed.
Soon, they produced about a dozen big, beautiful yellow blossoms. Each promised a magnificent pumpkin. About four made that mysterious transformation.
Only one survived. (Pumpkins are very touchy…)
Every Saturday when you’d visit, we’d visit the pumpkin (after ringing all the wind chimes and playing with the hose and running through the sprinkler and chasing your ball around the yard and blowing a soap factory’s-worth of bubbles.)
We watched it expand from a pale yellow gourd into a green ball.
Through June, July, August, September we’d check its progress and you would pat-pat-pat it as if to say, “You’re doing good, Mr. Pumpkin.”
Finally, in October, what started as a gentle flower had become a basketball-sized fiery orange pumpkin, perched precariously on the very edge of the vegetable bed’s box frame.
Then, the Saturday before Halloween, just before the rain started falling that would drown the rest of the weekend, I cut the pumpkin off its umbilical cord-like vine and brought it in the house.
That’s when Nana took over.
We agreed that you’re a tad young for us to carve the pumpkin (although, I can’t wait to see what you do with all the seeds and guts next year!)
Instead she brought out her box of paints and several brushes, small, medium and large. She stripped you down to your birthday suit, covered you in a towel, and let you have at it.
Strangely, it took a while for you to understand what to do. So, Nana showed you how to turn that plain orange orb into something fantastic.
She put the brushes in your hands and laid them in the paint and demonstrated how to slather the paint on the pumpkin however your sweet, imaginative 19-month-old heart desired. Once you understood that you had free reign you were off to the races.
And when the brushes somehow limited your toddler genius, Nana showed you how to use your hands to complete your first Halloween masterpiece.
This was the “Nana is nuts” part.
When Nana asked me if I wanted to help you paint or to take pictures, I gladly and quickly grabbed the camera. Papa is adventurous in many ways. I’ll climb anything, run anywhere, do just about any silly thing you can imagine.
But I don’t like messes. They make me very anxious. Just ask your mother or Aunt Livie about them eating S’mores on our camping trips…
And you, my love, were a mess.
Your Nana Kellie, on the other hand – or two hands, which looked like five-fingered rainbows – has no problem getting dirty in the name of good, clean fun. You’ll learn this more when you’re old enough to join her in the kitchen. (I am already nervous about cleaning up after you make your first batch of cookies together…)
By the time you two were done that pumpkin would have made Jackson Pollock proud (if he’d taught 19-month-old babies how to paint.)
And none of it would have happened without your Nana.
See, here’s the thing:
Everybody is different. Everybody has special skills and interests, likes and dislikes. Things that make them happy (like messy finger painting) and things that make them not-so-happy (like messy finger painting.)
The greatest gift of Life is the blessing of being with other people. The chance to share your unique ideas and talents and experiences. Learn a little bit about something you never knew. Discuss and debate what’s important to someone else so you can decide what’s important to you.
That only happens when you accept and celebrate the notion that other people are different than you.
See, the world is not now, never has been and never will be simply black or white. It is a paint palette with many colors. You may not like all of them. You may never use some. But you’ll be a better artist for knowing that they exist.
Maybe, when you’re older and starting to make your own choices about relationships and values, you’ll look back at the pictures of this pumpkin.
Maybe you’ll remember you and Nana chattering away as paint splattered on the rug, the table, your booster seat, you, her, even the poor dog. Oh, and some got on the pumpkin, too.
(Meanwhile, Papa stood as far away as the camera would allow, cracking up when you started chair dancing to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”)
And you’ll know that this magical moment happened because two different people shared their spirits and love with you.
May it always be so.