Big Papa Squash


His existence came about by accident, which makes the start of his story even more unbelievable — and the looming ending oh so tragic. In our house for only one year, he’s had so much influence on all of our lives it’s hard to imagine there was ever a time without him.

October brings with it the arrival of cooler temperatures, a crispness in the air, and multi-colored leaves. But for our family, we will remember that October brought us one more thing. It brought us him.

Quietly listening, he has never failed to offer up unique answers to all our questions or creative solutions to our problems. From an esteemed perch on the living room bookcase, the gaze from his piercing black eyes has never wavered as he watches over our family both day and night.

But recent developments indicate his end may be closer than any of us would like to admit. I, for one, don’t know how we’ll manage through the days ahead without being able to glance up and see that goofy expression looking back. Mad or sad, one look in his direction and you just have to smile. His name was obvious — even before the last coat of paint had dried.

Big Papa Squash.

The first of October last year, our two granddaughters and Yours Truly dropped by our local grocery store to pick up a few things from the deli, but as soon as we entered the store, it was obvious that our routine food run was anything but.

We were met by a sea of orange and white pumpkins spilling out from two huge display containers. Thoughts of deli sandwiches were quickly replaced by comments and questions thrown my way by our now overly excited granddaughters. Like ants crawling over a piece of candy, they started picking over the huge stack.

“Can we get this giant one?”

“How about this little guy?”

“How many is too many?”

“Yes, yes, and four,” were my answers. That’s when he caught my eye. All by himself at the very bottom of the display box was a pear-shaped squash, the only one of his kind. One of the girls carried him as the other helped me push our two carts of orangeness to the checkout line.

Once back home, I got lunch together as the girls decided on how they wanted to paint each pumpkin. Afterwards, we all went up to the art room and, for the rest of the day, watched two Hallmark Holiday movies as we painted. They each painted two pumpkins. I painted something else.

Big Papa Squash.

With a wide-open smile full of crooked buck teeth, large oval eyes, Big Papa Squash was born after two days of painting. All five, four pumpkins and one very happy squash, were placed on display on our front porch swing to reside for the next four weeks.

Unfortunately, due to the weather being unseasonably warm, the Girly Girls’ pumpkins barely made it to Halloween. They met their demise the first of November and were discarded into the trash.

But not Big Papa Squash.

We brought Big Papa Squash in and made him the center piece on the dining room table for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the tree was taken down and all the ornaments and decorations put away, Big Papa Squash moved to his lofty perch on the bookshelves. He has been there ever since.

I’d be the first to admit I doubted he’d make it to Halloween of last year, much less survive an entire year after that. That’s a long time to live if you’re a squash. Then again, the Girly Girls think he’s a gourd rather than a squash. They called him that once, but only once. (He didn’t like it, so they never called him that again.)

Still, over the last couple of months, he has started to show his age. He now has a few liver spots, and I’m afraid he may not make it to the front porch in time for this year’s trick-or-treaters.

So, if you happen to visit our house this year with your little ones, The Wife and I will give healthy handfuls of candy to all. Before you leave, make sure to take a moment and look at the four new pumpkins our granddaughters have painted. They are on display on the porch swing for all to see.

And if we are lucky, sitting right in the middle in his place of honor on a gold platter will be a very special, very old, squash.

Big Papa Squash.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]