After we all piled into the Jeep at the end of our first (and perhaps only) visit to Lucky Ladd Farms, my dad said bluntly, “Well… that was overwhelming.”
I love autumn. It’s the best. My favorite. My birthday month. There are pumpkins, yummy food, pumpkin patches, sweets, and colorful leaves crunching under your feet in the chilled air. There is also Halloween, of course!
I absolutely adore this season, and as of September 2018, I have officially been in Tennessee for two whole years.
I have desperately been trying to create some traditions for my growing family, so that our new state can feel like home. It’s been a trying journey. It still doesn’t feel like home to me yet, especially after last weekend.
Last year, during our first autumn in Tennessee with a baby (who was four months old at the time), we went to Walden Pumpkin Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee. It was the peaceful type of pumpkin patch experience you strive for with a little one. The scenery was beautifully autumnal, and it felt like an authentic farm. I really, really wish we had gone back there this year.
But nooooo, we took the advice of the locals. We knew so many people with kids raved about “Lucky Ladds” and how amazing it was.
So we decided to try something new this year, and lived to regret it.
When we first arrived, I was stunned by how crowded the entrance was. I immediately felt like I had walked into Chuck E. Cheese. After waiting in line a bit (which surprisingly wasn’t too bad), the place was put on “lockdown” just as we were getting our tickets. No one was allowed to leave or enter the premises.
An announcement came on the overhead speakers, “We have a lost girl, six years old. Her name is Cari.”
The place was so crowded, children were getting lost?
Luckily, they found her after fifteen minutes (probably the scariest fifteen minutes of her mother’s life), but it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.
We proceeded to the corn maze, which was the only part of the trip I thoroughly enjoyed. My son perched on my husband’s shoulders while we wandered through the corn fields with grandpa. The deeper we got into the maze, the more peaceful it became. You could hear bugs and crickets in the abandoned areas, and I genuinely felt I was at a farm in the country. That part was nice.
Then my dad went to go get a soda (which took a half hour, because they don’t take bulk orders and then process them at the food stands — they take each individual order and complete it before moving on to the next one — super inefficient and slow — cultural things like this make me miss California). It was at this point that we lost grandpa in the crowd, and none of us had cell service out there so we couldn’t find him until way later after we saw all the animals.
When we did find grandpa, we went to the corn pit, which is exactly how it sounds — a giant bin of dried corn kernels for kids to play in, which I shall endearingly call a “hillbilly ball pit.” It is a genius invention, and all the young kids seemed to love rolling around in corn as if it were snow. There were trucks and toys for the kids to shovel corn around, and my one-year-old seemed to enjoy playing in the corn.
After a while, I noticed an unsupervised toddler in the corner shoveling kernels into his mouth and spitting them out, which seemed like a choking hazard. Then a very rambunctious and large girl (who looked a little old to be in the pit) nearly trampled over my son while she stomped around. It was at this point I removed my son from the pit, as it was starting to get a little rowdy.
My husband went to grab food (another brutally slow experience) while my dad and I took my son to Toddler Town. He did enjoy the baby swings for a bit, and we were able to hide and eat our food on a batch of benches tucked away by the trees. Of course, as soon as we discovered the hiding spot, more people started flocking to the benches.
By the time we made it to the giant Connect 4 games (my son was also intrigued by this — he found some entertainment in moving the giant plastic game pieces from one peg to another)… we were getting pretty fried. The crowds and chaos had taken their toll on our mental (and physical energy).
My husband decided to take our son on the giant slide that involves sitting on a burlap bag and sliding down to the ground. I was excited to perch at the bottom of the hill and film them going down. I found the perfect little spot and set my phone to record. My husband waved and I was excited to capture them on film.
Just as I was filming, a rude girl with an excessive amount of makeup for a pumpkin patch trip and an SLR camera shoved her way in front of me and took a bunch of photos of her own stupid family members. In my cell phone video, you can actually hear me groan as she obstructed my view.
It was by that point I was done.
I didn’t move out of Orange County, CA, so that I could feel like I was at Disneyland without the cool rides.
I tried to get a last photo of our son by a pumpkin, but he wasn’t having it. He was tired, cranky, and exhausted. We all shared the sentiment so we headed for the car.
Maybe it wasn’t always this way. Maybe the same thing is happening to Nashville that was happening to all of California: it became too popular too quickly… like your favorite little corner bar you used to love that got overrun by hordes of hipsters… Great for business, bad peace and quiet.
I’m not sure, all I know is… I need more than a year before I will be ready for an experience like that again. Maybe when my son is older, it won’t be so draining. Maybe I give it another shot down the road.
But not next year. Next year I’m going back to Walden Pumpkin Farm.