It's school pick-up time. Despite the millions of dollars spent on our little elementary school, the engineer somehow pulled a "Titanic" as far as parking goes and scoring a parking space is as likely as getting into a lifeboat on the big T. I've learned. Always have something to read and something to listen to that you'll never get away with once she's in the car. Culture gap. In more ways than one. I reach under the passenger seat to a hidden compartment where all my "Mom Music" is hidden and grab a cassette. Oh, you don't know what that is? Then you're probably too young to be reading this blog.
I flip through the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar, mostly thinking to myself "people really wear that?" when a song begins to play that gives me reason to pause, be still, and reflect. "A Month of Sundays" by Don Henley.
The demise of the farmer in this country and the role corporate technology and greed played in slowly destroying what many had spent generations building is told in this woeful ballad. My grandfather was a dairy farmer and I am the grandaughter and daughter of a farmer. I take great pride in that. No other inheritance, no matter how materially valuable, could ever replace what my grandparents gave me in life at the farm. If you are a farm-girl, you understand. If you are not, you have no idea what you missed.
My grandfather was a quiet man. A tall, handsome Swede who, I assume, kept most of his feelings on the inside and kept up a strong, quiet front on the outside. That said, I can only write from what I observed. His words were few and his routine was paramount to keeping the farm running. We knew when we could be loud, silly, rambunctious kids and when it was time to be quiet. Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights was most definitely quiet time. Dinner was always planned around the show. He would sip two highballs before dinner (Imperial & Gingerale) which usually left him in a light-hearted and less serious mood and I remember him, at times, throwing his head back and laughing at the three of us girls...I always looked at my grandmother then, and she smiled too, happy to see him joyful and free from the stresses that weighed in on him, if only for a few moments....
He had a tiny office just off the dining and living room of the big farm house. In it there was a huge roll-top desk, a large grey metal filing cabinet, a waste paper basket and a small army cot that had a flat pillow and a blanket folded neatly at the foot. There was a window that faced North. Out of it you could see the banana yellow Piper Cub plane, the rusty green John Deeres, the tilting silo and the land he owned rising up like an ocean wave, speckled with seaweed made of black and white cows
I used to sneak up on him...usually from the living room side as that was where my grandmother had created a "school-room" for me to play teacher in, blackboard and all, and sometimes he would leave that door open. I would creep, very, very quietly toward the door to see just how long it would take him to discover me. Sometimes he would say, without turning around: "Is that you, Shelly?"...but most of the time he just sat, very still, with his big journal spread out on the desk before him and a freshly sharpened pencil in his hand. Not moving, not writing, his head bent down. Sometimes, after what seemed an eternity, he would rub his forehead and sigh, then slowly turn to look out the window.
As a child, I never understood this quiet, almost penitent time he spent at his big old desk. As an adult, I came to understand it only too well. His world was disappearing and he knew he was powerless to stop it. He was an old-fashioned farmer in his golden years who was facing a very modern world and was up against foes his generation could never have fathomed a reality. There was only one option for him.
Sell. The. Farm.
Those three words resonated across this country with alarming volume...but it was a cry, it seems, that only the farmers and their families heard. And now, the wealthy masses flock to specialty stores to spend exhorbitant money on "organic", "home-grown", "grown in the USA" products that were once left in a crate on the stone wall of our farm--free for all. Yeah, that's progress.
I know what fresh milk tastes like. Do you? Do yourself a favor--go visit a dairy farm, if you can find one.
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