Thursday, October 10, 2013

The World We Create

[Note: This post was originally published on The Mrs on October 29th, 2011.]

As a parent, we learn that lessons can take many forms.

Some, not so great. Others, absolutely charming in their surprise arrival.

Shortly before Hallowe’en, I took the kids on a jaunt. We needed pumpkins, and being new to the area, I’m still learning the local secrets. My neighbour helpfully directed us to The Place to go — down the town line and across a county road, to a farmer’s stand set up in the corner of a field.

My flimsy memory held that day, and believe it or not, I found our destination in spite of myself.

There were pumpkins. And pumpkins, and pumpkins. And gourds, and squash, and more pumpkins. Bumpy ones, smooth ones, squat ones... almost every shape you could imagine. And the colours! Oranges, reds, yellows, greens, whites — even blue-grey!

I wish I’d brought my camera. Lord knows I wish I’d brought more home.

Mr Lannis laughed at me when he saw my haul. And again when I enthusiastically described the massive tables laden with a vast variety of squash.

You’d think it was the first time I’d seen vegetables.

So pretty!

(Yes, I’m aware this is probably a sign I need to get out more. Probably? Certainly.)

At least I had had a passel of kidlets with me at the vegetable stand, not all mine, but all of whom were just as enamored as I was with the bounty before us.

We wandered the tables, talking about pumpkin-decorating possibilities, marveling at specimen every size, from our fists to prize-winning fair entries the size of our living room recliner.

I studied the educational display table, with helpful examples of different varieties, paired with signage depicting their name, their desirable qualities (colour, taste), storage tips, and the usual cooking method — or if they’re generally used for holiday decor only.

(Read: excellent for a doof like me who’s interested in sampling more than just the same old butternut squash at the dinner table.)

As I began choosing our haul, the seven-year-old began to panic, finally seeing more than just vegetables.

“Who’s selling all this?” she asked.

“A farmer,” I answered.

“But where is he?” asked my four-and-a-half year old.

Yep. It was an old-school set up. A lock box, with a coin slot.

The honour system.

The seven-year-old immediately latched onto the obvious. “But what if people don’t pay?”

“Well,” I said, “If this was your stuff, would you want people to pay for what they take?”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course.”

“Well, then we pay for what we take,” I said, stuffing folded bills into the slot.

“Why?” My four-and-a-half year old asked.

“Because we create the world we live in. This farmer is trusting everyone to pay for what they take. So we pay, earning that trust. And by doing so, we help create a world where people can continue to trust others with the honour system.”

One of my go-to parent lines (usually bellowed from the kitchen as boys pound on each other in the next room) is “if you don’t like it when someone does it to you, don’t do it to someone else!”

But sometimes it takes an outside example for messages to sink in.

Knee-deep in pumpkins, three motionless kids stood. With grins and unfocused eyes like saucers, they were clearly, excitedly, processing the social connection between actions and consequence — and a world of benevolent possibilities.

$18 worth of squash, some for decorating, some for eating.

All in all, a very cheap lesson, indeed.