I drove back to Nebraska for a family reunion this weekend. It was a huge affair. My Grandfather on my Mother’s side of the family was one of six boys. Although all of the boys have passed away, their children have propagated. It was reported that 174 of us had decided to attend.
The get together was held at my Grandpa’s farm. His father had built the farm over 100 years ago. I was amazed when I looked at the barn. The barn had held twelve-sixteen dairy cows. When my uncle told me just how my grandfather had treated those heifers, I knew that they had felt loved. The barn had aged more than a century but it was still standing, without any signs of stress. I marveled that my great grandfather could build such a wonder.
My heart started yearning for a lifetime I had never known. The one which my grandfather had lived. A lifetime of hard work and hard play. With five brothers, there was always some fun going on. As my uncle told me how they would call the dairy cows in to milk, keeping them inside the barn when it was cold outside, the yearning grew. They milked the cows twice a day, first milking by hand and then by an electronic device. He said it could be ten degrees outside but when the cows were all in the barn, with the doors closed, it would approach 60 degrees inside.
I don’t remember seeing the cows in the barn. Soon after I was born my uncle and aunt started living in the house. I remember one time when I came over to visit, my grandpa had just come in from milking and he smelled horrible. He said it was because he had just milked the cows. Maybe that is why I never thought the dairy cows were worth investigating.
One of my favorite memories was when my aunt would call and say that they had gotten the baby chicks in. My mother would load me and my brother up in the car and we would drive out to see the sea of yellow fuzz. A few months later my mother would be butchering some of those chickens and I would try to hide during that time. I couldn’t bear to see their heads being cut off but I sure did enjoy the fried chicken my mother would cook up.
The location of my Grandpa’s farm was heavenly. It was situated on the banks of the Beaver Creek. I went walking a bit with my niece and we marveled at the wondrous beauty of the creek. Then when we came back one of my relatives took us on a short drive in his 1947 Fairlane Galaxy and we got to see his residence and his son’s house. Being that close to the Beaver creek was like stepping out of reality and falling right into paradise. It is the most beautiful place in the world. Driving in a classic car through paradise is an over the top amazing experience!
As I reflect on this weekend, I realize I had not appreciated my childhood in the years I was living it. The bullying I endured during junior high and high school and my mother’s ill temper stole a great amount of joy that was for the taking. As I look back through the window of my memories I try to enlighten my gaze with forgiveness. With each memory my heart grows more homesick, it is the first time I have missed my place of origin and my heart is tortured with the memories of what were and more than that, with the memories of what could have been….