This past weekend Husband and I went to visit my Gramma in my hometown, which is 4 hours away from where Husband and I live. On our way to Gramma’s retirement home, Husband wanted to drive past my own homestead, so I obliged him. The house is still there, still looks the same as ever, although the surrounding trees are a lot bigger now and the barn behind the house along with the fence around the backyard are gone. There is a Christmas tree in the front window. One of my friends from highschool lives there now with his wife and their children, so I often see Facebook pictures of him and his loved ones in my old home. It’s nice to know they are enjoying the place and taking care of it. The fireplace looks exactly the same as it did when I was growing up. Their family’s stockings are now hung with care on the mantle.
Anyway the point of this short story was to get to the comment made by my husband:”Talk about a humble beginning.” And yeah, my childhood sharply contrasts that of my children. For one thing, we had no close neighbours. Our house was surrounded by fields. The only noise on some days was the sound of the wind and perhaps a distant tractor or combine. Our main entertainment was our swimming pool, hayloft, and wagons full of soybeans. Our huge yard played host to volleyball and baseball, and our property provided a vast backdrop for epic games of hide-and-seek that lasted an hour or more each turn. If we found a downed tree we would try to lift it; in winter if we found a frozen mud puddle we would try to break the ice with the heels of our boots. We rode our bikes down the road and were always chased by large farm dogs. This was both exciting and frightening, sort of like a suspenseful movie is now. But for all of that romanticizing of developing one’s inner resources as a result of having to look inward for entertainment and enrichment, living on a farm was hard work. Most people, when they think of farm life, think about quaint shops (or shoppes), homemade wholesome food, friendly smiling people, etc. And yeah this is probably true for people who grew up in small towns. Not so much for a person who grows up on an actual farm.
No one thinks about the all-day affairs of fruit picking, house cleaning (because we had a huge house that we enjoyed and were proud of), yard work (understatement of the year), farm chores, cooking, and any other sort of household duty that is made that much more vast due to scale. It’s great to think about the fact that we ate nothing from a box for many years. But the work that goes on behind the scenes, the assembly lines in our kitchen of peeling, slicing, pitting, preserving, canning, freezing, storing, goes largely ignored. I actually thought (and still do) that my mother loved doing housework. She seemed to love spending all day in the kitchen, putting up fruit and veg for the coming winter. That’s fine for her, but why did I have to do that? Because I lived there and would be consuming these products, that’s why. No one’s hobby (be it cooking, gardening, owning a large property in general) is solitary on a farm. Everyone, whether they are interested or not, takes part. That’s what people don’t understand about growing up in the countryside; you have to do a lot of things you are not interested in doing. You don’t lie around or talk long walks enjoying the surrounding nature; you have to stay near home for when you are needed to help. Or because when you finally get a chance to ‘play,’ you’d rather read a book or watch tv. All natured out.
We spent so much time taming, harvesting, and using the resulting products we found outdoors. It felt like a battle to get the grass, pool, fence, leaves, snow, gravel and dirt to behave the way we wanted them to. Another Saturday or Sunday meant another day to git ‘r dun. I often tell an anecdote about finding a mulberry tree at the back of one of our fields. We gathered up what we thought was 4 cups of berries (in between hoeing weeds on hot clay soil), to bring them home for my mother to bake in a pie. My mother made the pie, we ate it, and of course it was delicious.
No one I grew up with (on the concession) could fathom living in a big city, much less buying a house in a city, making good money in an office, buying a rental property here as well, and raising children in a concrete jungle. One life is not empirically better than the other, but they sure do differ greatly and everyone has a preference as to which type would make them happiest.
I leave you with Letterkenny Problems, a You Tube series that perfectly embodies my tribe: http://youtu.be/_KLSbCtinXs