The Great Pumpkin returns once more


The Patterson family had a rare moment this week when one night was filled with absolute peace.

There was no arguing over a toy, no debates on what one would have for supper, no frustration over a homework problem that seemed unsolvable…absolute peace and quiet, even harmonious living for one night.

It was hard not to come together as a family when “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” beamed from the television set in the living room. Yes, like many families, the Pattersons have a tradition when it comes to Charlie Brown. We stop whatever hustle and bustle might be consuming our time to watch both the Halloween and Christmas Charlie Brown specials. We have done it each and every year since our children were born. But the more I think about, I don’t think I ever stopped watching it.

As a small child, I watched The Great Pumpkin with my own mother. As the leaves began to change colors and fall from the trees, I knew the television special would come around. I can remember playing in my yard and right before the sun would settle into the hills, Momma would yell out the door.

“Charlie Brown comes on tonight,” she hollered.

At that moment, I would charge inside my house, determined to finish everything I was supposed to do in time for The Great Pumpkin. I would try to shove all my supper in my mouth in one bite. My homework was checked and double checked, back inside my book bag. I jumped out of the tub with one big splash, hoping the spots behind my ears were clean enough for inspection. I slid straight into my pajamas and ran a brush through my hair. And almost like a baseball player sliding into home, I dove in front of my television set just in time for the opening credits.

Momma would sit on the couch and watch the entire show with as much attention as I had as a young child. And as I continued to grow, I still watched the show every year, and with my Momma until I was old enough to move out on my own.

And now…here I was with my own family. All five us of huddled around the television to watch the same program that captured my attention as a child. And now my own three children were carrying on the tradition.

At first our oldest son James was “too cool” to watch the show. But as the familiar music struck its first chord, James slid into the living room and was just as captivated by The Great Pumpkin as his younger siblings.

Perhaps “Peanuts” creator Charles M. Schulz had no idea how generations of people would gather around their televisions each year to watch The Great Pumpkin when the cartoon first aired in the 1960s. Schulz, later in his life, wondered if “Peanuts” would stand the test of time.

“Art is something so good it speaks to succeeding generations,” he said. “I doubt my strip will hold up for generations to come.”

Maybe it’s the memories of childhood. Maybe it’s a ritual that has simply stood the test of time. Maybe it’s more than just a television program. And hopefully my own children will continue the tradition of gathering together as a family to watch the program.

But I will say that as the glow from the television set beamed inside our living room and the familiar sound of Charlie Brown echoed through our home, it was hard to tell who were the adults and who were the children.

Maybe that’s the point.