On the news last night, there was a story of a woman who won a house. A house!
A lot of people say, “I never win anything.” I am one of those people who say that. I never win anything. Except a pumpkin. One time I won a pumpkin.
The year was 1969. It was Friday, October 31st. Halloween. I was a skinny scrawny fourth grader at St. Cabrini Catholic grade school. The entire month of October, the teacher had a big fat pumpkin sitting on her desk. Just before the bell rang, she decided to hold a drawing for some “lucky” student to take it home, thus relieving her of the task of disposing of a large and soon-to-be rotting pumpkin come Monday morning.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when my name was drawn. I was thrilled! I had won something! My nemesis and rival, Erin Flannigan — who was cuter, smarter, had better hair, was more athletic, wore nicer clothes, had a sister and could do just about everything slightly better than me except possibly jump rope — really wanted that pumpkin. But there was no way I was giving it up, especially not to her!
Intoxicated with the thrill of the win, it did not occur to me that I would have to somehow get that pumpkin home, that I would have to walk nearly a mile schlepping a ginormous pumpkin that weighed not that much less than I did.
I proudly strode up to the front of the classroom like Miss America to claim my prize. I was so thrilled. I slid the orange beauty off the desk and up onto my knee and then I hoisted it up to my tummy, which sent me reeling backwards a few steps. I wrapped my spaghetti arms around my beloved prize and with my back swaying like a pregnant lady, I staggered two or three drunken grapevine steps to the door. Erin made one more generous offer to take the pumpkin off my hands, but I said nothin’ doin’ sister, it’s my pumpkin and I’m keeping it! And then with trembling knees and sweating brow, my pumpkin and I slowly melted to the ground.
But I remained undaunted for I had won a prize! A pumpkin!
For the next half mile, I slowly slogged toward home, repeating the knee-lift/hoist/stagger/squat/rest sequence about every ten steps. I was sitting on my pumpkin on the sidewalk resting up for the next sequence, when I saw Paula Vose’s mom zip by in her little VW Bug. The tail lights turn red. The car stopped and then whirred back towards me. She rolled down her window. “Wanna ride?” she asked. God bless Mrs. Vose! She had mercy on me. I nodded my head vigorously. She got out, put the pumpkin in her car and took me home — a kindness I have never forgotten.
The next day, I noticed the bottom of the pumpkin was beginning to turn black and soggy. I ceremoniously hauled it out to the burning barrel in the back yard. I lifted it to the edge of the barrel and with an odd sense of satisfaction, I tipped it in. It hit the bottom of the barrel with a resounding thud and sent up a cloud of grey ash. So long prize. And I haven’t won anything since.
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Have you ever won anything?