That last Thanksgiving, Grandpop Archie and I sought out a new food adventure, making pumpkin pie from scratch.
This was an enigma for him, strange as it sounds. Grandpop was an outstanding cook, his range of expertise with vegetables was peerless, yet this gourd had never met his acquaintance.
So that Saturday morning, when he saw me lugging a misshapen Cinderella reject through our front door, his curiosity got the better of him. He announced, rolling up his sleeves and grinning, that he would be happy to work with me in gutting the pumpkin.
He was seated at the kitchen table, a walking cane perched on the end of the chair. I arranged the cutlery before him. He inspected the knives and the other accessories needed to begin our task.
This pumpkin was an unwieldy, bottom-heavy beast. Grandpop quickly realized this, steadying it as I cut through what would be his first assignment. Slowly, we worked together. I stopped midway and turned the other side of the pumpkin toward me to complete the cutting. As I did so, I realized much of the weight came from the juice and the seeds inside, so I proceeded with caution.
That’s when my efforts took a nosedive. I lost control of the knife, and the pumpkin went flying off the table. It smacked against the kitchen island, ricocheted under the table, split into three misshapen sections.
Before I could drop to the floor to survey the damage, grandpop moaned, Leenda, I’m slipping!!! Parts of the pumpkin slammed against his shoes, juice, and seeds waxed around them, his reflex to extricate himself slid him into pulpy quicksand.
We were in a deadlocked struggle. His cane teetered and plunked to the floor, out of my immediate reach. Grandpop’s chair was moving against our will. No one else was home; I could see where this was leading. My only option was to flatten myself along the floor; in doing so, I stretched with all my might for the cane. I don’t know how I managed to maneuver it against the kitchen wall while I spread myself across the floor, grabbing grandpop’s shoes, telling him to push back to the wall while I held on.
Suddenly, he started to laugh; this variable added a new pitch to my rescue plan. Dear God, help me out of this, I prayed. I pushed him and the chair with all my might, moving him out of danger. He was still laughing. When I stood up, I was covered with squashed squash. The seeds beaded themselves like a necklace down the front of my sweatshirt. The tears in my eyes weren’t only from laughter and relief but an unspoken realization that we might never have a chance to do this again.
Grandpop’s observation, still with a grin on his face, was, See that, Leenda, we’re never too old to learn new t’ings!
I don’t remember how that pumpkin pie turned out or how many seeds I continued to find for weeks afterward. Still, that narrow escape and those words of wisdom have never been truer for me than it was for Cinderella when her pumpkin turned into her enchanted carriage.
Linda M. Romanowski earned her MFA in Creative Non-fiction from Rosemont College in May 2021. Her thesis, Final Touchstones, granted with distinction, is scheduled for publication by Sunbury Press in 2022. These submissions are part of her Italian heritage collection in hybrid form of essays and poems. Her non-fiction and poetry publications include the Mario Lanza Institute Facebook page and website. She is a contributing feature writer for The City Key online magazine