02 Nov 2021

Building community:

Pumpkin Mischief? Managed

Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from reader Emily W. She’d spotted the following sign along 4th Street NE while out for a walk:

The note spotted by reader Emily W. Photo courtesy of Emily W. and used with permission.

The note was, in a word, heartrending. A military widow and mother of two was growing two pie pumpkins in her side yard –which is actually a small neighborhood plot in her next-door neighbor’s home– and some nasty person cut them down. There would be no homegrown pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Emily asked me to share the story and so I did:

Within minutes, our Twitter following was not just incensed on behalf of this neighbor, but also ready and willing to help. Some commiserated and wondered if the pumpkins were stolen by rats (not likely, unless rats have learned how to use sharp knives). Some others wanted to help, trying to find the differences between decorative gourds and pie pumpkins. Some others clamored for local networks to cover the story. Among all the replies, local restaurant Maketto weighed in:

Maketto and chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s generosity has been well-documented before, most notably through The Power of 10 initiative, to provide employment to out-of-work chefs in order to help feed the community during the earlier days of the coronavirus pandemic. So when he saw the tweet, he shared it with Vina Sananikone, who works at Maketto and handles the social media for the restaurant. There was a plethora of pumpkins in the Maketto coffers for the holiday already.

I contacted Vina, who was excited to bring not just two but twelve (!) pie pumpkins over as a present. The idea was just to leave them as a friendly offering, but then I recalled having met Sara before. You see, Sara’s home is in a prominent position at the corner of 4th and F Streets NE, and Sara absolutely loves decorating. She’s used her corner to create many a wonderfully over-the-top Christmas tableau in the past, with a Santa sleigh jutting out of a tree, snowmen and so much more. I’d documented Sara’s home last Christmas, where she told me all about her trying to rein in (pun intended) her desire to go “Full Jersey” with her decorations. It boggled my mind to learn how this vivacious, upbeat lady had so much sorrow in her life– losing her husband suddenly a few years ago and left to raise their daughters on her own. Blogger Barred in DC shared the note as well as a tribute that Sara put up on her fence for Memorial Day this year. She is an active member of TAPS, a support group for those who’ve lost active duty military family:

So when a smiling Vina brought over a crateful of pumpkins Sara’s way, she truly felt the caring and concern of all of you out there holding her up and cheering her up.

Did I document the pumpkin hand-off? You bet I did:

Sara realizes the pumpkins in the tub Vina is holding are meant for her. Photo by Maria Helena Carey
A visibly moved Sara holds up a handwritten note from her friends at Maketto. Photo by Maria Helena Carey.

As it turns out, this was an eventful day for Sara– something she documented in a thank-you post on Instagram:

Happy to help you feel that love, Sara– and happier that you’re our neighbor. Can’t wait to see pictures of those pumpkin pies!

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