Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Home is Where the Farm Is

Happy 9th Birthday Cooper!  You have spunk and energy.  I pray you use those things to grow into a magnificently, creative adult.

When cake is involved, they are happy to snuggle up next to each other!

Our pumpkin creations!

Collin with buddy Nathan.

Connor with neighbor buddy Stephen.

Neighborhood Halloween parade.

A soccer player, three morph people, and a hobo.

The gang.

This week I had a first.  For the first time one of my essays will be included in a book!  Woo Hoo!  Can I call myself a published author?  Perhaps:)  The book, to be published in August, includes essays about the unique and special aspects of the Hoosier state.  I wrote about my childhood memories of a Hoosier farm.

If interested.... 

Home is Where the Farm Is

Upon graduation from Indiana University, I knew one thing for certain: I no longer wanted to be a Hoosier.  Other states seemed so much more exotic, warmer too.  I was young, single and without a tether binding me to the state of my birth.

Weeks after I donned the cap and gown, much to my parents’ dismay, I loaded up my meager possessions and headed out West.  I landed in Texas and spent the next two years listening to “ya’ll” and “bless your heart.”

The weather was warmer.  The people were friendly.  The landscape was expansive and diverse.  But, it wasn’t home.

I ached for Indiana.  The days when my heart hurt the most, I was dreaming about a little Hoosier farm that generations of my family have called home.

The farm sits in Danville, Indiana, 40 miles west of Indianapolis.  Visitors traveling from Indianapolis pass by dozens of retail stores and fast food restaurants before the landscape changes.  The busy highway transforms from commercial overload to small town charm.

The farm is located a few miles past Danville’s quaint downtown.  It’s perched amid the cornfields, and commands the attention of passersby.  The house is stately, handsome even.  One may call the home elderly; it has stood on that same patch of farmland since the Civil War.  I prefer to call it mature.  Red bricks cover the sides; ornate, historical touches add character. 

At one point, a dilapidated log cabin shared a piece of the land.  The history of the log cabin?  No one quite knew.  But, for a while it was interesting to gaze at the cabin’s sagging sides and wonder about the families that once called it home.

The farm did not lack in acreage.  The landscape was expansive and unobstructed.  An endless supply of cornstalks took the posture of guards protecting a fortress.

My great grandparents were the first ones in our family to occupy the farm.  My grandparents followed.  My father, my mother, and my siblings lived in suburban Indianapolis.  I was used to manicured lawns and abbreviated play areas.  Traveling to the farm was like walking onto the set of Little House on the Prairie.  Instantly, I transformed into Laura Ingalls.

Our favorite part of visiting the farm was Grandpa’s tractor rides.  He would jump into the driver’s seat, and the grandkids leaped into the wagon trailing the tractor.  Grandpa snaked the tractor around the property.  We traveled along a dusty trail that sliced through the cornfields, and then encircled the murky pond dressed in cattails. 

My Grandmother preferred to walk us about the property.  She’d stop, and point to wild flowers and plants.  I vividly remember her motioning to a dainty white cluster and calling it Queen Anne’s Lace.  It was beautiful.  The white buds fanned out in an intricate design that could best be described as lovely.  I deemed it my favorite.  Still today, the sight of Queen Anne’s Lace brings back memories of those hikes and my Grandmother’s careful explanations.

The pond provided endless fascination.  In summer, Grandpa fastened squiggly worms to the ends of hooks.  He cast the line under the water, and we plopped down on the grass and waited.  Our goal was not to land a fish (even though we swore it was); the fish were just tossed back into the water.  I was there to hear my Grandpa’s fish tales, ones he told with a twinkle in his eye and a laugh in his voice.

In the winter, we laced up ice skates and timidly stepped upon the frozen pond.  Skating on a pond made the artificial rinks seem lame and unimaginative.  We would glide upon the pond with snowflakes drenching our face and covering our smiles.

A tire swing hung on a tree branch by the pond.  Upon arriving at the farm, it was my first destination.  I spent hours swinging back and forth.  With each rotation of the swing, I would inhale childhood, and exhale happiness.  When my Grandmother passed away, my father cut down the tire swing.  Safety reasons, he explained as he chiseled at the rope.  As the tire thumped to the ground and the fractured rope landed on the grass, I felt like a little piece of my childhood had detached with the tire.

What I remember the most is the holidays, birthday parties, and even the funeral dinners held at the farm.  Relatives from all over “tarnation” descended upon the property.  The farmhouse seemed to swell to accommodate all the family.  Everyone had a signature dish, the item they were expected to bring to all family functions.

But, Grandma’s dishes were always the stars of the show.  She treated butter and lard like food groups.  She lathered up naked vegetables, stripping them of their title as a health food.  Her cinnamon rolls earned her family fame.  More than one relative begged for the recipe, but Grandma seemed a bit like a baking savant.  She created masterpieces without the constraint of instructions listed on a 3 x 5 card.

I loved when my Grandmother whipped up persimmon pudding.  She plucked the persimmons from the trees next to the house.  The pudding was best served with a fistful serving of whipped cream.  Somehow Grandma infused love and family into every spoonful.

Every family dinner began with a prayer.  All the relatives formed a circle and clutched hands with aunts, uncles, and siblings.  The senior most family member did the honors.  Little children found it comical.  They squeezed the hand of their neighbor so hard that the relative would wince in pain or let out a giggle.

I remember little of what was ever said during a prayer, but I do recall the feeling I had while standing amid the group.  It was a feeling of being loved and accepted.  It was a feeling of being at home.

When I lived in Texas, I never felt this feeling.  The farm sat in Indiana, states away.  Relatives lived nowhere close.  Within two years, I packed my bags and rented a U-Haul.  Once I crossed the state lines, I breathed a sign of relief. 

I was home. 

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