Our family sold our farm. The 40 acres on a corner had been in the family for well over 100 years. Although I am sentimental about virtually everything, I am not particularly so about the place I grew up. Go figure. Mostly I am happy that the person who bought the place will take care of it. He will respect and nourish the land in exchange for what the land gives back. So I'm good with it.
There are blue spruces on the corner. My brother Dan planted them, I think. He had a way around blue spruces.
A large rock sits there. My sister sat on that rock with her back to the rest of the world and figured out how to go on from whatever place she was in. Coming along later, I tried to use the rock for the same purpose. Didn't work. It was Nancy's rock, not mine.
Thinking of the corner makes me ache and my eyes sting. There were five of us who grew up in that too-small house, and one little girl who died when she was only three. How many times did a school bus stop there in the 26 years there was a Shafer kid in school at Gilead and later North Miami? How many times did Mom watch us and imagine what Christine would have looked like climbing onto the bus?
Those stairs are still in that old house full of memories and things saved for good. Most of the things are gone now. We've taken them out, shared them among ourselves and given much away. We've wondered what some things were and why they were saved. Vandals have done their part, too, destroying and doing harm because...well, I don't know why they do it. I get angry about that because even in these last months of owning the farm, it was still my mother's house; it deserved respect if for no other reason than she loved it.
Maybe now, finally, I know why I've written this column this morning. It's a goodbye to the farm, yes, but it's also a thank-you to it. It's not that I was always happy there--I'm not someone who enjoyed childhood--but I was safe. I was loved. I was never hungry. It was where I learned that if you look hard enough, there is always something to laugh about. It's where I learned to be strong and to think for myself and that no one owed me anything except whatever respect I earned.
Although selling property is always an end to something, the memories don't go away; they are yours to keep. I still hid in the lilac bush, broke the window on the front of the house--Dan dared me to see if I could throw the stick over the roof. I never said I was smart--and read 100s of books that started me on the path to writing my own.
I'm thinking about the family I grew up with as I sit here. My brothers and sisters and my parents and the ripples that came from them. Brothers' friends that I had crushes on, sister's friends who were funny and friendly and still are, and the neighbor's farm where we went every year for our Christmas tree (a dollar every year; thank you, Mr. Swigart.)
I think of the song I talked about last week, Harry Chapin's "Circle," and once again his lyrics speak the voice of my heart.
That we'll all be together again."
Amen. Have a great week. Seek out and treasure the memories. Be nice to somebody.
Anita's store is colorful, its inventory reasonably priced, and, kind of like "Alice's Restaurant," you can "get anything you want." It's a great spot for clothing, gifts, and one-of-a-kind items. The store's phone number is 765-470-2035. If you haven't been there yet, you're missing out!