For every family, there's one place that is the symbol of home. A place where you all gather to share laughter, tears, old memories, and to make new ones. A place that is steeped in traditions and history of generations that have come and gone.
For my family, that would be the farm on Yager Road. It has been in our family since the 20's, and has been a source of wheat, corn, soy beans, and for a while, oil. I couldn't tell you how to get there if I tried. It's like a beacon, you just know where to go to find it.
Above and beyond that, the farm is family.
Every year, since sometime in the 40's, the family has gathered on or around July 4th to celebrate the holiday, but also as a family reunion, and there is always a theme. The Farm has served as the back drop for a reenactment of the crossing of the Delaware in 1976, a hoedown complete with square dancing, various Olympic events, parades, and political conventions.
There is much food, much laughter, much silliness, and occasionally costumes. You talk, you catch up, you are reminded of what's really important.
Uncle Johnny, who's 94, sits over there talking about the woes of health care and medicine costs to anyone who will listen. There is much discussion going on about Becky's upcoming wedding, and who is making the trek to Pennsylvania. Uncle Dave has started up the tractor and is pulling it around to get ready for the hayride. Over a little bit farther, there's a pickup baseball game going on. A group of the younger girls have gathered in one of the trees to talk quietly about whatever it is that 10 year old girls talk quietly about. The little boys are running, chasing, and tackling. Margie is setting up the games for the kids, just as she has for at least the last 20 years.
And then there's Josie. Sweet little Josephine Marie.
One of the newest members of the next generation, she is my cousin Pam's daughter, experiencing her first 4th of July on the farm, in all her 8 month old glory. I watch as she's passed from family member to family member, the smiles, the cooing, the close talking to this little wonder. I watch the way Uncle Dale takes her, his first grandchild, and laughs with her. I watch as Pam takes her and walks with her in the grass, the same way our parents did with us almost 30 years ago.
This little one has no idea the history that surrounds her as she walks across the lawn with her tentative little steps.
Aunt Eleanor & Sweetie, at the farm, sometime in the 40's
I started writing this at the end of July, and shortly after I started it, my grandma, Sweetie, passed away. Many of my memories of the farm involve Sweetie, and the 4th of July picnics. The stories she would tell from when my mom and her brothers were little, and the times that were had then.
It was only fitting that after all the hubub of Sweetie's funeral, the family gathered at the farm to decompress and just...be. As we made that turn onto the dirt of Yager Road, and saw the familiar silos, and the crops, and essentially the same landscape I've remembered my entire life, there was a sense that something was missing. It was still family, it was still home, it was still familiar, but there was that small element that was missing.
That afternoon, as it often happens, the women gathered in the kitchen, with the food (and the wine), munching, having chit chat, and sharing family gossip. The men circled themselves in the garage, talking cars, farm equipment, and politics, all the while trying to solve the problems of the world.
There was much laughter and few tears. It was the perfect afternoon. There was a small rain shower, just long enough to send everyone running for cover, and I truly believe it was Sweetie's way of letting us know she was there.
It was a time to sit back, take it all in, and remember what is truly important in life, and to remember Sweetie, reminisce, and just take a deep breath. It is not lost on me at all that in order for us to do that, we came back to the farm.
It is our ground, it is our sanctuary, it is our home.