My son’s birthday lands near Halloween, and when he was eight and nine and probably even ten and eleven, for his party I would line our whole deck with pumpkins. When the little guests arrived, I would have them pick their favorite one and they would decorate them with colorful yarn and magic markers and poster paints. At the end of the party they left with their perfect orange art pieces. What I remember most was spending hours going from pumpkin patch to farm stand to grocery stores in search of the perfectly round blemish-free bright tangerine orbs.

I had just started running in the woods and it must have been the new endorphins in my life because everything was suddenly beautiful and alive. One day, as I was running my three point eight (but who’s counting) miles, I started seeing trees in a different way. First, I found myself looking at the tall straight pines and thinking, wow, so majestic, so regal, so perfect. And then my eyes landed on a tree that had bulbous growths intermittently placed and bursting out of its sides. Just as I was about to recoil, I saw a different kind of beauty. And then it seemed that what I was drawn to most were the trees that weren’t straight and tall, but rather the ones that had some imperfection, some twist, some bump, some aberration. And as I ran I kept thinking, wow, these are exquisite and I never would have thought so. I wouldn’t have even looked at them. Instead, they almost seemed more beautiful. And from there maybe it was a logical leap to my next thought which was, does that mean . . . I’m beautiful???

Just because I don’t have the classic straight blonde hair and the gorgeous turned up nose and the cheerleader body, ya mean . . . ya mean . . . ? And then I found myself running and crying and repeating out loud in the woods, ya mean, ya mean, is it really possible that I’m beautiful?

When I got back to the car I looked in the mirror and for the first time in my entire life (and I was 47 mind you) I saw my own one-of-a-kind snowflake astounding beauty.

That next October when I went “shopping” for my son’s birthday pumpkins, I didn’t have to go to six places. I walked around the first patch and picked out the most oddly misshapen, the ones that had bulbous growths and green stripes and pock marks and bumps and brought them home, and when the day came, I lined them up on the deck and waited to see if the kids would even notice.

I never consider myself naïve, but I never considered that these little innocent kiddos would react with such disgust and dismay. Yuk, they whined almost in unison. Gross, they garbled. Eeeww, I’m not touching that one, they snickered.

Luckily, the next year he was too old for pumpkins. I think I gave teeny Match Box cars. None of them had dents or scratches.

Nancy Slonim Aronie is the author of Writing from the Heart (Hyperion) and the founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop on Martha’s Vineyard.