Grams and her little dog
When I was 11 months old, my parents moved to a new city four hours and one state line away from my doting grandparents. It was a move that wasn't easy on anyone, least of all me. I have an unusually strong bond with my all my grandparents, and especially with Grams, my maternal grandmother. Consequently, until we moved back when I was 15, I spent most of my summers and school vacations "back home" with my grandparents. Even as a very young toddler, the phenomenon of "homesickness" was very real and very literal for me. I would miss my grandparents so much that I would become literally physically ill. My mom would call Grams and say "the baby's homesick for the farm" and they would make arrangements to meet each other halfway and swap me. And just like that, almost magically, I would recover. I continued to make regular visits back "home" even when I was school age.
I have distinct memories of spending the weekdays with my maternal grandparents. My Gramps had to wake very early in the morning for work. Before the sun was even up. I would wake shortly after him, and I sat in the kitchen with him. He drank coffee and I drank milk. He poured my milk into a yellow cup with Mickey Mouse ears for the handles. I would sit with him and look out the window at the fields. Soon he would tell me I should go back to bed, and I would. Later when I woke again at a more reasonable hour, I would crawl into bed with Grams and wake her up with a kiss on the cheek. (Only years later did I learn that she pretended to be asleep till I came in to wake her) Then we would go to the kitchen and she would make me breakfast. Usually cream of wheat. We spent our day doing all the things that homemakers and little girls do. We shopped, played, cooked, played some more, talked, and pulled sticker weeds out of the yard. My Grams could spot a sticker plant at a hundred yards! I spent long hours outdoors, exploring all areas of the farm. When it was summertime, my cousin who lived nearby often joined me.
In the evenings, Gramps came home from work and I would join him doing the chores. First thing we would do was turn on the faucet and haul the garden hose across the circle drive to the cattle pen and toss it into the stock tank. I remember the look of the "tracks" that were left in the sand where the water sloshed on the sand driveway as we walked then dried quickly in the hot summer sun. Then we would make the rounds feeding all the animals. Gramps's menagerie was fluid. Meaning, the types of animals he kept changed frequently. The core group consisted of cows, horses, chickens, peacocks, geese, pigs, and a donkey named Jack. At various times I can also remember there being rabbits, guineas, ducks, goats, Shetland ponies, mules, curious beasts known only to me as "barbie sheep," and even emus. With the exception of the pigs, no real attempt was ever made to profit from the animals. Newcomers to the "River Bend Mini Farm" were often puzzled by the curious combination of creatures. When they asked Gramps what he did with all these animals, Gramps answered simply and earnestly, "I feed them."
When the chores were done, we would drag the hose back across the drive and stand in the yard drinking from it. For some reason, water was always the most refreshing when it came from a garden hose. After that, it was back in the house to wash our "front feet" and sit down for supper. During supper we always watched the news, and then Wheel of Fortune on the kitchen TV. As the sun went down we often sat outside listening to the toads and cicadas making their summer melodies, and watching lightning bugs dance over the lawn. When the day was through, Grams and I would "tuck Gramps in" to his bed, set his alarm clock, and kiss him good night. Then we would go the the kitchen and spend some more girl time together before hitting the sack ourselves.
There is something about being with my grandparents that puts my soul at ease. It's a quality that can't be grasped, understood or explained, but only experienced. And after years of being with them on that farm, now the farm itself is imbued with the seemingly magical power to calm, soothe, and relax me. In all the world it's the place I feel the most centered, the most at peace. In 2003 when my step-daughter was killed in a car accident, I spent months longing for the farm. I felt a pull toward it. I needed to walk along the dike next to the river, wander among the trees, and allow myself to grieve.
Gramps received his eternal promotion in 2008, and since then the farm has changed. Most notably there are no more animals, save Grams's little schnauzer dog. But the one thing that hasn't changed, that will never change, is the magical healing power of the River Bend Mini Farm. And that is one thing that my Boo seems to share with me also. When things are spiraling out of control and we just can't get a handle on it, he almost never turns down the suggestion of a visit to Grams's house. Boo and Grams have enjoyed a special bond from literally the moment of his birth. (Which is a whole story for another post!) They are each other's best medicine. They "get" each other like no one else does.
Yesterday afternoon we spent a few hours on the farm with Grams. We chatted. We played. We caught butterflies. We sat on the porch swing. (A porch swing is pure spiritual salve!) We had the freedom to just be. There was no pressure, no expectation, no chaos. Just the pure peaceful medicine of an afternoon on the farm. We both came home feeling happier! And we hope we left Grams feeling the same way.