I grew up on a farm in Remington. [Cue “Out Of Africa” Music]
There was a dad, a mom, and five kids. A medium sized family by standards of the 50’s and 60’s.
Not to say kids these days aren’t, but we were happy. Our happiness centered on a strong faith, a healthy work ethic, and memories made during church, school, farming, and family times.
A typical day consisted of kid appropriate chores, playing outside, maybe a bike ride into the library, laying pennies on the railroad tracks, chasing fireflies, minimal homework, a smattering of basketball and baseball games, and church on Sunday morning.
Meals were three times a day, if not four. Always a hot breakfast, dinner at noon, bologna sandwiches or Woody’s snack shop after school, followed by a farm supper when dad came in from the field. We set the table, kept our elbows off the table, asked to be excused from the table, cleared the table, and laid it all out on the table.
In the spring, we picked up rocks and sowed the seed in cabless tractors. In the summer, we pulled weeds, and detassled in our swimming suit tops and jeans. Our backs received the perfect tan while our legs remained milky white. In the fall, we hauled grain before we had a driver’s license, while listening to Harry Carey on the transistor radio. In the winter we scoured the want ads and snowmobiled in Michigan. In the meantime we hung wash on the line, tilled gardens, painted fences, milked cows, pulled corn out of beans, and fell in love with dogs while tolerating cats. The soundtrack of our lives blared WLS from the Plymouth sized hi-fi while we checked off our Saturday lists.
One by one we grew up and moved away because that is just what kids do when they are from a small town.
In early fall of 1973, I landed in a 10-story dorm room in the heart of downtown Chicago and didn’t sleep for a month. The siren’s wailed; the street noise was deafening and the stars were missing.
Slowly, the city began to enthrall and entertain me and soon, when I went home for the weekend, laid in my childhood bedroom with it’s slanted walls and familiar constellations out my window; I couldn’t sleep for the quiet.
Then I found the love of my life, moved to Michigan, raised a family---in another house with slanted walls---albeit much smaller. We tried to raise our kids without digging our way too deep into the American Dream Entitlement Myth. We aimed for eating together every evening and managed to make it about once a week. We added soccer, drama, choir, and Disneyworld to our family repertoire and realized the good ‘ole days were probably just that, old and over. Our children would disagree.
A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. One day we finished up a UPS career, married off a couple kids, sent the baby to California, and moved back to the farm. Now we didn’t actually pack up and sell the house (the economy saw to that), but we hauled our Apple computer, our bikes, and a few family scrapbooks, down here and set up housekeeping in my childhood home.
We’re in our 50’s and it’s been 35 years since my parents threw us a poolside wedding reception and waved as I drove off on the roundabout called the circle of life.
I guess you could call us “Boomerang Kids” (90’s slang for children who move back in with their parents--typically shortly after college) we’re living with the ‘rents (’00 slang for parents). Well, we’re not actually living “with” them. They built a one-story cottage and we keep watch from the big house to make sure they haven’t fallen and can’t get up.
I’m writing this from the alcove at the top of farmhouse stairwell. It is here, where sleepy and timeless rhythms of the night rocked us to sleep. And it was here, beneath branches of trees long gone, where the breezes blew us from the nest and taught us to fly. The memories remain.
I’ll probably go pick up a pizza in town tonight for dinner, but somehow I smell fried chicken wafting up the stairs.
Everything remains the same, in this quiet town, and yet, not. The farmer can program a GPS to drive the tractor. iPods dangle around teenage necks and their thumbs do all the talking. Recently, the Cubs where still playing baseball towards the end of harvest season. Family sizes and shapes morphed, but one thing never changes, for me anyway.
Home is where the farm is.