I wasn’t quite prepared for the volume of emotions I would feel bringing Sadie and Simon to my grandparents’ farm in the itty bitty town of Forreston, Texas. I spent every summer of my childhood playing around that silo and all around the land surrounding the house. The things that my brother and I did when set loose on the farm would literally give me an aneurysm if Sadie and Simon even thought about them We jumped off barn roofs, played in the creek, chased cows and ate moon pies before lunch.
I am sorry, but there’s not an iPad app on the planet that is as stimulating as roaming free on acres of land with the smell of clover and cow sh*t on your shoes and clothes. Those long summer days comprised the greatest memories of my childhood, even accounting for the nostalgia and euphoric recall I am no doubt mired in now.
I have no idea how I could ever give my kids that measure of freedom– I have taken tort law and now see danger and death everywhere. To set my kids loose where there are rusty farm implements, dilapidated old barns, and a creek with actual water– I just don’t have the maternal cajones for that. I wish I did. The closest my kids will get is that John Deere tractor exhibit at the Lincoln Park petting zoo or a corn maze in the fall (and even then I will be 5 paces behind them at all times).
I know it’s trite to want to go back to some idyllic, golden yesterday, but I do. The nostalgia is part grief (for what no longer is), part joy (for what I remember and carry with me always), and part gratitude (for having two kids to show my memories to and to share what remains). I want to go back to when my grandmother’s house and land belonged to us, and I want to spend some summer nights eating greasy meat and corn bread while watching the sun sink below rows of ripe corn. I want Sadie and Simon to feel the wonder and safety of being able to run as far as their legs will take them with minimal adult supervision.
I wish they knew my grandmother, with her holy roller tunes and devotion to the 700 Club with Pat Robertson. I wish they knew how she talked to everyone with a sincere tone of familial intimacy, enhanced by her third-grade education and a world view born of a life of hard work as a farmer’s wife. She was hilarious and opinionated and ignorant and huge-hearted. Just like Sadie.
I fought back sobs as I surveyed what’s left of her house, and its utter disrepair. I inhaled. It smelled exactly like it used to 35 years ago. I listened. The same bird and insect symphony and the far-off bawl of a cow filled my ears. It was comforting– like running into an old friend I thought I would never see again and didn’t realized I missed.
When later I tell Jeff about the visit (and still later when I tell my therapist), I know I will cry. I won’t understand exactly why but I will welcome the tears. They are a reminder of where and who I have been and all the sweetness my little heart could take, then and now.