Pumpkin was plucked from the patch 19 years ago today. Nobody knew I was pregnant, except my best friend Diane. I already had one child born out of wedlock to my undereducated and therefore underemployed self. I survived on Aid to Dependent Children (welfare), under the table wages from a cashier job, food stamps and Section Eight housing. I was the “first” in my family, first to have children while unmarried and first to be on the welfare rolls. I was the first to do anything shameful that the general public could easily witness. I have no illusions, my relatives were not perfect, they were just very good at not leaving a trail of illegitimate children, tattoos and Newports in their wake.
The plan was to give birth, finish my associate’s degree in accounting—I only had six months till graduation—and then tell my family. How could they get mad if I had a college degree and the ability to support myself and my children? It wouldn’t be hard to hide a baby for six months, I thought. After all, I hid the pregnancy and they see me every day. This was going to be a walk in the park.
It wasn’t. I had a four year old that was very excited to have a baby brother and wanted to tell everyone. Also, I am a very bad liar that cracks under the smallest amount of pressure. A week into my supposedly leisurely walk my mom called. I was extremely tired, stressed from school and Pumpkin was awake lying next to me on my pleather Rent-A-Center couch. My heart started beating very fast as I picked up the phone. “What if Pumpkin cries while we are on the phone? What if Ruby comes in and says something about her brother and my mom hears her?” I thought, sweat forming on my forehead. So, I did the only thing I was capable of—I started crying.
“What’s wrong?” my mom said.
“I can’t tell you, you are gonna get mad,” I blubbered.
“It’s ok, what’s wrong? You can tell me,” she said.
“I have a son,” I said, pointing at my son as if she could see him. She paused for the same amount of time it took me to crack, about four seconds.
“I have a son.”
“Right here, next to me,” I said between sobs.
“When? How? I’m on my way.”
I hung up the phone, leaned my head back on the couch and waited for her to come cuss me out. It didn’t take long. She walked into my apartment, looked at Pumpkin and then at me and said, “Well, we have to show grandma.” Great, she was going to tag team me off to grandma. My grandma who talks of walking five miles to buy a pound of hamburger, walking five miles home and realizing the store gave her three cents too much in change, walking five miles back to the store to return the money and then five miles home—during the depression when sometimes all she had was three cents. My grandma, who never accepted charity of any sort and does not use credit cards because, “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it.”
“No, not today. I am too upset to deal with her right now,” I said.
“I already called her, she’s expecting us.”
“Evidently,” she said, looking at Pumpkin.
I was terrified on the car ride over to her house. When we arrived she was sitting in her big recliner in the sunroom, her hands folded in her lap. I walked over and placed the car seat in front of her, moved the blanket so she could see him and stepped back. It was like placing a sacrifice before the Goddess of Self Reliance’s shrine, bowing your head and slowly backing away. She looked at him for few minutes without touching him.
“There’s another one for welfare to take care of,” she said.
“I graduate in six months, grandma. I will take care of him.”
After I accepted my diploma and walked off stage she gave me a hug.
I did support my family from that day forward.
Pumpkin came into this world with a Maury Povich worthy back story and he has continued to keep it going for 19 seasons. I adore him; he is one of the funniest people I have ever known. He views the universe in a way that is very unique and I am always excited to hear his take. I love you, Son.