Sunday, April 8, 2012
Blog 26: Going Back to the Farm
I know my last post was not so fun, and definitely was not a pleasant memory, but this is a much happier one.
On that first trip back to see Mom after I moved, and either before or after the water incident (I can’t remember which), I thought it would be nice to take Mom for a drive out to the country to see the farm where she grew up. The farm where she was born is down a dirt road not far from town. There are only scant remnants of the farm remaining. The house is gone now and pretty much everything else is too. We went there a few times throughout our childhood and young adult years when the house was still standing. I remember one particular time going out to the farm with Mom and my sisters years ago, and Mom had so many stories she shared with us. That was such a memorable day that I will always remember and cherish.
We had a picture of the abandoned, fallen down house hanging on the wall in our family home for years. I remember looking at pictures of her standing on the front porch of that house and in various pictures of her at the school house down the road. She was such a beautiful little girl and she grew up to be a beautiful woman. I could imagine what it must have been like in those days on the farm. From the pictures, it looked like Mom, her siblings and friends, had a lot of fun playing together.
Mom lived at this farm from the time she born, until the age of 11 years old. I remember the story of the day she was born, January 30, 1936, which was the worst winter ever. Grandma went into labor and Grandpa had to trudge through the snow to alert the doctor that the baby was coming. By the time he returned, my mom was already born. My great aunt and her family were living on the other end of the house and she was there to assist my grandma in her delivery. It was her first time delivering a baby. Just think of how scary that would be! There was nobody on the other end of a cell phone telling her what to do. Times were so different back then, babies were often delivered at home.
We left that farm and drove to another rural town where my mom and her parents and older brother and sister moved to after selling the first farm. They moved there when Mom was in the 5th grade, and she lived there until she graduated high school. The house is gone, and it actually burned down after my grandparents sold the farm when I was 14 years old. A new house was built in the same spot as the original farm house. The barns, garage and shed are still there.
It was so weird pulling into the gravel driveway and seeing the farm. Of course I had seen it several times over the years, but now it had special meaning because of the fact that my mom was losing her memory. I wanted to bring some old memories back to life for Mom and give us something wonderful to talk about as we drove around that day. I wanted to absorb as much as I could, while I still could.
A man was on a riding lawnmower and he stopped to see who his visitors were. I got out of the car and told him who we are. He said we are more than welcome to take a look around the farm. Mom didn’t seem to want to get out of the car. She sat there and watched me walk from the barn to the pig barn, taking photos along the way. My, did all those buildings seem so much smaller than they did when I was a child. Everything always seemed to be so much larger when we were children.
This is the barn.
The barn door was open and I could see inside. I could smell the hay and the dirty smell that is so reminiscent of old barns. I could swear I could see some of the same farm equipment inside the barn, but I knew that was impossible. That was almost 40 years ago that the farm was sold. I thought of those weekends my sisters and I spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and how we would play in the barn, fetch eggs from under the chickens in the chicken coupe, watch Grandma break the chicken’s necks and kill them for dinner that night, and how we learned to milk the cows and Grandma would serve that milk for dinner that night as well. We would complain that we wanted real milk! She would say, “Where do you think the milk from the grocery store comes from?” At least it didn’t have a film across the top and no lumps! We used to watch Grandpa feed the pigs. I can still remember the smell of the pig food, and it actually smelled good. Lots of other memories came flooding back.
Here's the pig pen.
I turned to look at my mom and she was about to get out of the car. I asked her to come out and look around. She wanted to leave. I didn’t know what she was feeling. When I got back in the car I asked her what she thought of the place and she said she was glad I brought her there because she wanted to see it again. She didn’t really volunteer much to say so I talked about the things I remembered and the stories she used to tell. She listened intently and chimed in when she had something to add. I wondered what her mind was thinking and processing when she was quiet.
We left the farm and drove to the cemetery where my grandparents, her mom and dad, are buried, as well as many other relatives. She got out of the car and couldn’t remember where their grave sites were. She always knew exactly where they were before.
We walked over to the graves and Mom looked down at the tombstones and read the engraved names and dates of birth and death. She handled it very well. She and I just stood there and we each had our moment of silence. I said a prayer and had my little talk with Grandma and Grandpa, like I always do when we go to the cemetery, and then we walked back to the car and headed back into town.
Mom, at her parents graves.
Our next stop was the house my grandparents bought after they sold the farm. It was a little house in town, and one side of the yard had a row of peony bushes, still there, in full bloom. Grandpa dug some up for me years ago and I planted them in my own yard, and every time I moved, we would dig them up and move them with us. Mom had some in her yard too, transplanted from Grandma’s garden. We have lots of memories of family holiday gatherings and visits with Grandma and Grandpa at their house. I could still see Grandpa sitting on a chair in front of the garage. He always sat there and watched the cars go by. Grandma was usually in the kitchen preparing a meal or working in her flower garden. She rarely sat down. However, when we were there to visit, they stopped what they were doing and gave us all the love and attention that grandparents do. They passed on and the house was sold many years ago.
Peonies will always be a special flower to me.
Mom talked about our trip to the country for several days after that. She told my sisters where we went. I think it meant more to her than she could express. I know it meant a lot to me, to share that afternoon of going back to her childhood, and mine, and making another memory. A memory that she would forget someday soon.