Ugly Pumpkins

When you choose to give your kid a name like Theory, there are a few assumptions you have to make. First, that people will always say, “What was that?” the first time you introduce your child to them [and for some reason, always mishear it as “fury”, which would be extra unusual…but also probably not out of the question for me]. Second, one has to assume that a kid with a name like Theory is necessarily going to grow up to be a stone cold weirdo. Now, I don’t wanna preclude my girl from being the uber-popular captain of her hypothetical future cheerleading squad, but I also have to acknowledge that her crazy name might predispose her to being the kid summoning the elements in a coat closet or the nerdy misfit attempting cold fusion for the science fair. Throw in a little bit of crazy feminist mom and you’ve got a recipe for a real misunderstood but awesome little person.

And my child? Living up to the weirdness quotient already.

When we turn the lights out to go to bed at night, she inexplicably yells, “Wolf….hardddd!” [Because Stranger Things is awesome and stars a kid whose IRL name is Finn Wolfhard]

She thinks the stray hairs floating around in the bathtub are out to get her, and gets misty-eyed and brimming with what can only be described as distant wonder when she sees the full moon.

She becomes completely inconsolable when she remembers she’s too young [and definitely not potty-trained enough] to go to school. And she speaks Arabic [for real].

One of the unintended side effects, though, of her penchant for weirdness is her complete embrace of other weird people and things. She’s drawn to them, and them to her.

She loves creepy, scary things and would live in the Spirit of Halloween store if we’d let her. She adores Coraline. Combat boots are her footwear of choice. If given the choice, the objectively ugly, deformed baby doll, mangey dog, or broken toy would be her go-to before the more traditionally acceptable choices.

Two weeks ago we took her to the pumpkin patch, where she found a lost, broken LEGO in a sandbox and spent the next half hour desperately asking each child she saw if it belonged to them [before deciding she should keep it], dragging her dad up the hay bale castle over and over so they could slide back down, having conversations with chickens, riding the tractor, and being weirdly good at navigating the hay maze. When it was time to go, the only item left to check off of our to-do list was to pick out our pumpkins. I watched as the other children her age struggled to lift perfectly round, beautiful pumpkins twice their size and began mentally counting up our cash, prepared to have to dole out some extra funds to afford whatever Halloween-on-steroids totally-overdone beast she selected.

Turned loose among the rows of heirloom beauties in shades of pink, traditionally perfect orange behemoths with huge swaths of flat blank space just begging to be carved, and understated squat white gourds I could just picture stacked three high as a centerpiece at Joanna Gaines’ farmhouse, my girl made a sharp turn, breezing past them all, never even stopping to consider them. Straight to the back of the patch, to an empty corner, far from the excited buzzing of the other children, my daughter wandered along a few sparse rows of exotic gourds. Beaming, she handed me two monstrosities the likes of which I had never seen before: a speckled green gourd, swollen at both ends with a slender neck in between, double over like a swan, that she struggled to lift off the ground; and a small, pure black specimen that I’d imagine looks a lot like Satan’s ova would, if he laid eggs: covered with sharp, pointed ridges reminiscent of the body of the Batmobile. Part of me winced inwardly, and I whispered a goodbye to my beautiful, imaginary front porch vignette filled with happy, rotund little pumpkins adorned with cutesy Halloween puns [“Creep it Real” or “If you’ve got it, haunt it” and their ilk], but my oblivious little girl, a sad, broken LEGO action figure tucked into her pocket, smiled up at me and asked in the most innocent voice bubbling over with wonderment, “Mommy, aren’t they beautiful?”

My girl, who sees past abject ugliness, who adores actors with names as weird as her own, who worries over the ulterior motives of her own hairs floating in her bathwater, who is excited by every sneeze because it gives her an excuse to say “bless you” in a foreign tongue. My girl, who tries to rescue abandoned toys, never once realizing that perhaps it was left behind on purpose because of its defects. My girl, who sees only beauty in dejected and overlooked strangeness.

Yes, I anticipated that she would be a weirdo, but I forgot that in today’s world, the ability to see loveliness, to discern good in everything and everyone is not commonplace, that this gift in and of itself makes you weird. And I have never been more proud.

My girl, my sweet Theory, may you always choose the ugly pumpkin.

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