As anyone who reads this blog knows, I’m a sentimentalist. Ask me what I was supposed to learn in high school English and I’ll tell you that my teacher was Mr. Ketelsen and that I had a solid C- grade average. End of story. Ask me about my childhood or anything else that I hold dear in my heart and I’ll regale you for hours with wild tales (embellished, but mostly true). That’s just the way that I’m wired.
This past Tuesday I picked my Mom up from her apartment and we went for a drive to the place that she was born, a small farm outside of Joy, Illinois. My cousin and his wife still live on the farm, it’d been many years since our last visit where we could just sit and visit….like thirty or so.
My Mom and her siblings grew up during the Depression and WWII, poor. Seven kids plus Grandpa and Grandma Wagner all stashed into a small two bedroom house. Its through Mom’s stories that I came to know about things like: summer kitchens, hog butchering, gathering eggs, walking to a one room schoolhouse a on gravel road lined with hazelnut bushes and the like. It was listening to a narrative of the past as we drove down those narrow, winding, hilly gravel roads as Mom would tell us about how after school her and her brothers would wade the “that creek to cool off” or how “the Mueller’s lived in that house” or “this is Parkersburg Hill” (why?) “because the Parkersburg grocery store was on top of it, they sold a little bit of everything” (its a cornfield now, and has been for decades).
On the farm Mom and Nancy sat in the kitchen of the house where Mom and five of her siblings where born, and caught up on the latest news while baby Stella slept in Nancy’s arms, none the worse for wear. My cousin Joe and I spending time looking at all of the geodes that he’s dug up and found in their travels. My cousin Joe and I were never close, he being twelve years or more older than I, but I found out that we have a common interest in geodes. Long story short….Joe enjoys the hunt way more than I, but maybe I can tag along this fall when he goes out and learn more about it from him, and get to know him better.
Mom and I departed from Joe and Nancy’s farm and drove into Joy for lunch at the Boondocks café. Boondocks is probably the only place to eat in town and where we casually ran into my cousin Doug (whom I’ve referred to often in these blogs). Doug and I are a year apart in age and growing up he usually put me up to do dangerous and naughty things which would get both of us into trouble…I being, literally, an angel any other time. Doug was eating with his hired hand, but stayed on with Mom and I so we could, again, “catch up” on what’s going on with everyone. The topics covered ranged from the weather, family, vacations, funny stories, health and the like. Laid back and interesting, you couldn’t have asked for a better noontime on any given day.
The day finished up with another good visit, this time with my aunt and uncle on their farm…another place that I spent a good deal of time growing up. Sitting in those various places with those loved ones throughout the day with no real agenda, schedule or list of things to do was one of the best days that I’ve had in a very long time. It reminded me that roads not traversed in a long, long time are still worth driving if nothing more than a chance to remember where one came from. I hope that you can do the same this summer. Take a day, or two…set a course for where your heart lies with no real expectations and spend it with those you love.