Monday, September 17, 2018

Talking pictures

Pictures piled high. Black and white. A few with ragged edges, a style of the times. Years of families with non-smiling faces. The pictures change from those in cardboard folders to shiny photos of smiling faces. I grew up with those pictures. My time in life was recorded from little square photo to little square photo.

Sometimes I marvel at my lack of attention to detail.  I can pull up some of the detail of my youth but not nearly enough. How do I know? I look at old photos. Wow, new discoveries and more and more questions with no one left to ask.

Never had I really thought about my mother riding a horse even though I had heard the stories. I did not equate a visual with the stories. Well, not until I came upon a picture of my mother astride a horse. I looked at it. I looked some more. There was my mom on a horse. My mom who did not pay the least bit of attention to my horse. Who was this woman?

We gathered eggs. Walked into that hen house every day. Played in the yard behind it. Walked by it to feed the rabbits in cages next it. The hens roosted on one side of the building with the nest boxes on the other side. I could envision it and even smell the darn chickens.  Yet when I came upon a picture of my mother mowing the lawn next to the hen house, I was struck with the smallness of the building. I could not equate that building with the one of my memories. Did it shrink? Oh, of course, I grew.

Pictures of my past. Pictures of the family I remember and those in which the faces are almost strangers.  I did not remember the faces of my sisters when we were young. I only have impressions of the snapshots of times. So when did I put faces on them? How old was I when I began to take notice? Pictures of strangers I lived with yet did not recognize.

Some pictures are missing. Where are the pictures of the porch that was torn off the front of the house? Where are pictures of the huge logs within its walls? Where are the pictures that we want of the memories we wish to look at one more time? Do you notice clothing, house furnishings, old cars and children playing in the background? How much do you see when you look back? What are the questions you never asked?

Yes, I hold on to old pictures. They are stories within themselves. These pictures speak volumes.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Leaving summer

Evenings are cooling off. In fact, evening is even early. Leaves have not begun to rustle but seem to be thinking about it. The horse working on his winter shag coat looks enviously at the ewe getting woolier and woolier. Kids are in school and the county fairs are over. The calendar reads September, and we wish for one more month of summer.

Nolan told me he couldn't wait for Daddy to rake leaves, so he can jump in them. Oh, yes, leaf jumping time. Dad raked the leaves that the old mulberry and maple trees dropped. He raked them into rooms, so I could play house before the leaves were dropped into the fire. Dad hated the leaves. I loved them. I get it, Nolan.
 
I grew up loving fall. Mom's pies changed from summer, berry pies to cream, shoo fly and pumpkin pies. My favorite time of pie making, er, eating. Mom made noodles to last throughout the winter or hold up as long as possible when we begged to have them. Chickens were packed in the freezer along with of containers of chicken broth. The kitchen smelled of yummy food we missed during the summer months.

Bedding was placed in the stalls. The corncrib full. Grain was ground to keep the livestock tummies full throughout the winter, and the haymow was full of sweet smelling hay. We were often given the bounty of someone's canned goods or nuts from their trees. With the farming slowing down, more and more neighbors came to sit a spell. 

Dad took off screens and winter bedding was aired. Wood was stored next to the basement door. Hot dogs and chips were always stocked for visitors. The car was winterized, and so were we.

Yes, fall was the best season. There was more family time. Dad and Mom sat in the living room with us instead of rushing off to the field or cooking for hands. Mom once more picked up her crocheting and Dad lingered over the newspaper. The farm was readying for a winter rest.....so was the family.

Most of all I remember Betty Johnson, Doris Lavy, Margaret Stager and Lena Linder popping in to chat. There wasn't much news to talk about, yet conversations were easy and long. Fall on Neff Road. The best time of the year.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Living backwards

There was Barney's side down around the bend. There was Cyril's side across the road. With the Lavy side connected to it. Then there was the Loxley side. We never wandered much from our side even though Cyril's had a huge tree trunk that was resting on the banks of the creek. A tempting, felled tree laid waiting for kids to sit on, while watching a little bit of nothing.

I never thought much about living with the creek running through our property. In fact, I never played in the water. Dad always said we would be covered with leeches. Enough information to keep me on dry land. Dad and his brothers played in the part of the creek that ran along my grandparents' home. The creek changed with the seasons as did the size of the children. That creek was a strong pull throughout our lives. We took our children there. We went there to think and to sometimes weep. We went there to say good-bye.

I wish I could live my life backwards. More questions would be asked. I just never thought to ask. My questions to my dad on those times together in the field or on our treks through the woods would take on a new dimension. When looking through old pictures, questions remain unanswered. I can only look at the background and faces, trying to create the story in front of me. My time would be filled with absorbing my history and that of the neighborhood. I would look harder and feel deeper. But alas, I cannot live backwards.

The creek was a connection that tied us all together. Yet never did we picnic on those banks or invite neighbors to join us in a day of creekside fun. Dad told me stories of the old Indian who lived by the creek. Stories about the mill set up in the creek where lumber was cut for the new barn. There was a history that only crept into our lives. Now I want to go back and embrace it.

There was something healing and comforting, living by that little creek. My early memories are of Dad showing me the turtles and frogs that lived there. He taught me to skim rocks and to watch minnows. It was a place where the Loxley women visited with their children. A creek that tied us to the land and one another. The creek is part of our hearts.

So, Dad and Mom, I am the memory keeper. Although I live far away, I write a column and live life backwards. Always a child of Neff Road.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Whispering fields

Fields of corn whisper as they stand in rows, a regiment of green sentries, watching over the land. A far cry from the shores of the Pacific. Peaceful fields slowly turning to shades of golden brown, waiting to give up their treasure. The gentleness of the fields impressed Loren. He grew up in Colorado before living in the Pacific Northwest. The quiet countryside was such a change from the noises of the suburbs and pace of the city, the mountains and the rivers.

It took us both awhile to settle into our days on the farm in Indiana. A completely different life from that we know in Oregon. We loved the time with friends and family, catching up with the events in their lives and making new memories to take home with us. We took Loren to Shipshewana and the Amish countryside. It was a different perspective on life in America. A different pace. Different points of view. Different energy.

My time with my sister was priceless. We laughed and pulled memories out of the past, revisiting those we miss and times we both lived but did not share due to the age difference. She was with me when I got my new/old saxophone at the Wednesday auction in Shipshewana. It had been years of attending the auctions that I had tried to win the prize. We ate in old haunts and shopped until we ran out of stores. I had my first visit to Ollie's. And, my second. And.....my third. The suitcase was getting fatter, and we had three boxes of memories to ship back as well. As with all visits, they come to an end. There is little that I find much more difficult then leaving my sister. My heart truly felt the distance as we flew to the western coast.

In taking my sax to be cleaned and repaired, I found that it is worth quite a bit more than I paid. I am excited to pick it up once more, reliving those days next to fellow saxophonists David Aukerman and Brenda Stager in the Franklin Monroe band room. My family doesn't believe I can still play it. Hehehehehe. Well, I can.

It took a bit of settling back into the old routine. Well, it isn't all that old, since I have only been living in this house a couple of weeks. The traffic and noise were apparent as we missed those rolling fields of green. Yet we did indeed come home. We came home to a different pace with a different view. There is an energy here and an embracing freedom that we love. How nice it would be to have it all. Well, maybe we do once a year.

The boxes arrived. A magazine rack my father made sits in the living room. A few things from June's home bring her closer to me. Already we are planning a trip back in the spring. And, indeed, some of Neff Road will come to the wedding in December. Yes, we are only a plane ride away, yet in some ways, we are a world apart. Whispering fields.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Cotton candy memories

As I write this, many of you will still be in bed but soon to rise and head to the Great Darke County Fair. You will walk the midway or sit along side of the coliseum, searching for familiar faces. Those reliving memories from years gone by. I once looked for friends in the animal barns. I held hands with my guy who just might win a teddy bear for me. We ate cotton candy, waffles and all the things that the fair had to offer. We hugged relatives we only saw once a year. We watched the ponies run and stood by the fence hoping to catch a bit of the fair shows. 

Well, it was a long time ago when I last returned with my twentyish children along with one new granddaughter. Nothing had changed except the age of the people and the number of campers parked in the field. That granddaughter is six months shy of the years ago when we last attended. Yes, it has been almost twenty years.

I drag my feet when I think of returning. Those past memories are very sweet. Now I would return as an older woman, looking for faces that have changed as much as mine. All those things that made the fair fun will have changed. Many of the faces I saw on my last visit are gone. Yes, it would be different.

It becomes more and more difficult to return to my roots. The houses on Neff Road are different. My dear ones are gone. Greenville is not the town where I grew up, and my memories teeter on an edge of altered or erased. There was a sweetness in the times on the farm. It was maybe not so much about the place as it was the people. I don't think you notice so much when you live there. You change with the things around you. While those of us who live away notice the changes. Yes, life goes on unless that last picture captured in time still resides in your mind and does not capture the changes. 

There is a true sense of loss. Loss of family members, loss of neighbors, loss of time.  I debated a long time on whether to come back to the fair. I did want to see you again. I did want new memories to carry home with me. The amount of miles I traveled had worn me out. Long trips from Oregon to Ohio plus well over 800 miles of driving in two weeks had taken its toll. By the time Loren got to Indiana, I was done. We decided to just spend time with June and family, relaxing in a whole new way. The city life, traffic and daily routine stepped aside for cornfields, a duck named Henry, bunnies  hopping around the yard, a little girl named Della and stars in the sky. Loren got to meet family and to savor life in the country. His photographic mind captured it all making him ready to return soon.

Yes, I missed the fair this year and many of your lovely faces. We will return in the spring, so Loren can bring his old Deardorff 4x5 camera. A great old wooden camera, taking pictures of beautiful old places. So don't hold it against me for not making it this time. I was not ready, and it was not the time.  

Have a great time at the fair. You might even remember the young girl who loved the fair as much as you do.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

An elephant's eye

'The corn is as high as an elephant's eye. And it looks like its climbing clear up to the sky.'  Well, I might not be in Oklahoma, but I am in Indiana looking at the beautiful fields of corn surrounding the house. Ah, yes, home again.

Well, I really am not home, but Indiana is pretty close, and my sister is home. Then again, we can never really go home. I guess I realize that more and more over the years. We can reminisce, but we cannot go back. Once we leave, we change. When we return things have changed. So, with visiting comes remembering, or for me, a new column.

Everything catapults me into the past. The corn fields, wild bunnies peeking out of the fields. A horse in the paddock and a duck that likes to follow us around. Back again to farm country where times past await me.

I am thankful for the friends I still have back home. They are indeed a gift. We pick up conversations where we left off no matter how many years have passed. Geneva will call me Sis, and once more, I will feel that closeness we shared when my father passed. We all get older and these meetings are priceless. Precious gems added to my ring of life.

It takes a couple days to settle into this leisurely life. I miss my home and my guy. There is a longing that takes place when you live away from the roots that raised you; however, I love my home in Oregon and would not wish to live elsewhere. Still my heart belongs to these states where memories were made.

There is a beauty of living away. You not only increase in awareness by living with different people with different ways, but you also look back and find that those parts of you not only fit into this new life, but they also add to what you can offer others. I am a better person for expanding my world and would not change the place where I was born. Both have created the me who writes each week. They created the wide range of experiences I have gained by living in Ohio, Wisconsin and now Oregon. All were different experiences and all blessings in so many ways.

My time in Ohio will be short. Having a new house to settle has made this trip a much shorter one. Before I even think of leaving here again, I am homesick to return. Yes, the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, and I am once more living back a lane looking out the upstairs window across Daddy's cornfield at Neff Road. I did not leave Neff Road. It is all tucked sweetly in my head.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Beyond the plastic barrier

Shapes loomed and elbowed throughout the new house. Large plastic mounds hugged the middle of each room. Loren is known for his photography of plastic wrapped buildings. I think perhaps he should start shooting shapes that haunt rooms in the process of being painted.

Far from the olden days when a drop cloth was tossed across your worldly goods, the current mode is to wrap everything in plastic in the middle of the room. The pile is wrapped in multiple layers as masking tape companies reap the profits from the rolls of tape used to secure the furniture so it will not escape. Yes, indeed, every blasted thing in the house was wrapped in lumpy bundles. Hence, when it came to finding my phone and computer chargers, clean clothes, etc, they were not to be reached. Hm.  Looked like I would be washing out underwear for a few days! Ah, plastic. Can't get rid of it, and it separates you from just what you need.

The contractor brought Isaac and his team in to paint the entire inside of the house. And, truly it was in need. A house that was built in '84 had had no new paint on the ceilings or in the closets. The musty smell that greeted us when we entered would soon be gone. Isaac brought with him four men.  All were Hispanic, speaking broken English. Of course, we greeted them with open arms, since these four men would be part of our family for the next week.

I argued with our contractor on bringing in a port-o-let. It was to be in the upper 90's all week, reaching over 100 one day. "They can use our bathrooms," I said. Our contractor said that they needed to use the big, green, stinky thing in yard. When the men arrived, I informed them that they were to use the inside bathrooms. The contractor insisted that they could eat outside, hooking up their microwave in the hot sunshine. "You can use our microwave. We have water in the fridge and cups for you to use," I told them.

So why I was breaking the rules? I was raised when migrants were lodged in sheds with dirt floors and no running water or bathroom. They used the outside faucet and outhouse if they were lucky. They slept on wood pallets or on the floor. Whole families lived in a room. As a child I didn't understand it. I still don't. These people were my people. We all came from the same God. They were doing jobs that we didn't want to do. They were trying to make a living in a safe place just as we were with our families. No, there was no way I was going to treat these men less than I would my friends and family. They are my brothers whether they speak my language or are my race. I love them with no expectations. I was taught that as a child.

Over the week, we started joking and having a great time. We left the house all day leaving computers out and telling the men to come into the house to stay cool on their breaks. They worked hard and did a beautiful job. I smiled whenever I heard the toilet flush. Yes, we could show them what America is all about. We could show them what love means. One person at a time.

Our furniture was wrapped in plastic. We thought our lives would be complicated in having no access to what we used daily. Instead we found that on the outside of that plastic barrier, friendship was alive and kicking. We found joy and delight in another culture. Our newly painted walls broke down barriers.

Now we have our space free of plastic. I can write again. We have new friends we hope we will see again some day. It is time to move forward. I think we did.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A breaking heart

Today I write with a heavy heart. In fact, my heart is so sad that I fear it might break. How much longer can I write about Neff Road? I am not sure.

I grew up in a red state. I didn't know any better. I just did what my parents did and was told all the reasons it was the best to be a Republican. Throughout my life I questioned what was happening in our country. I questioned my faith wondering why it was so narrow minded, why it did not progress with our awareness of life around us other than what we knew. I questioned why men wrote the Bible and its interpretations. I saw narrow-mindedness all around me and did not know how to cope with it.

Over the decades I allowed myself to stand back and make my own decisions and observations. I knew that the way I was raised was based on a patriarchal attitude. Men had the say. Cowboys brandished guns and took what they wanted. People were shot and no one seemed to care. They just went on to the next scene. I watch old shows and wonder how we could even have tolerated the discrimination. What was wrong with this life I was raised in? It was a great life on the farm, but the scope of life in general was limited. There was no new input because everyone believed the same thing. I was suffocating.

All of the siblings in my family could not wait to escape the narrow bounds of our growing up. We all went to places where we were surrounded by other cultures and ideas. We had neighbors of all colors, all orientations, all religions, all nations. Our view of the world expanded, and we continued to delight in what we could learn. New idea, new awareness, open love and admiration for all took the place of that tiny place we had dwelled for the 18 years of our lives. Our God grew, our opinions about freedom of expression expanded, our views on violence found a place that felt right to each of us. We found that we were more drawn together even though the three of us lived far apart.

My life is rich for the people that have accumulated in it over these many years of living. I have grown and learned what love of humanity really means. So why am I writing this. Remember? Because my heart is broken.

Where were the churches when children were put into pens? Outrage!!! There is no justification. Why are we blocking people from coming to a country that accepted our immigrant forefathers on it shores??? Who do we think we are? I don't get it.We took the very land we live on. What hypocrites! How can we arm everyone in a country that already is the leading country in violence? I just read an article about how violence is increasing rapidly in farm areas? Why can't we be a country of peace? How can we judge people who protest by taking a knee? We are allowed to have a voice. This is a flag that has let people down. It is a flag that represents to many all that is not allowed under that flag. I came from a time when men did not want to join up. Our country made them. We did not want war. Now war is a real money maker for our economy. Why are we so egotistical that we think everyone is treated like white, anglo us? Now we have a man who gropes women, who has no idea what it means to be honorable and kind, who listens to only one news media because all the others do not feed his ego. Truth is in hearing it from all areas. When we turn off our news sources, we become a nation of one, and he is really working on it. We are moving backwards. We are losing all of the protections that have served our people and our land well. I am heart broken.

We turn away people who live in fear, who are raped, whose lives are always threatened. Why? Because one man says they are all criminals and will take away jobs. These people are why our country is great. They are the backbone of our country. Our economy is better with these people in our lives. People of color have suffered terribly in this land that welcomes all to its shores. We should be beginning them for forgiveness and see if they want to accept us.

Hitler convinced a society that they were the best. Books were burned. People were slaughtered and placed in cages, so to speak. A man determined what the public could hear. He convinced a nation into his illusions that they did unspeakable acts and caused a war that killed so thousands of our own. Yet here is a man who is doing exactly the same. He makes his own laws, he dictates what press he relies on calling all other liars, he makes people look one way while he sells them down the river the other direction. And......people are easily lead.

My heart breaks when I read what some people post. I wonder at the ignorance of it or the lack of caring for other people. I am crushed that churches do not stand against such vulgarity and do not stand up for all human rights. I am stunned that people do not believe in global warming because that and gun control just might upset their own narrow world. If you say it isn't happening, then it isn't true. Read only what will feed your beliefs, and it will be fact. Well, that's a crock.

I am sad. Why should I write? Entertainment? Is that all we think about now. Put all other thoughts of this declining country aside? So many people have said to me, I just can't think about it. Well, we have to think about it. We will not be another nation ruled by a dictator. We have to take a stand. I cannot preach to closed ears. I cannot preach to blue or red states.  The sadness I feel in my heart is that of losing someone I love. I am losing a community and a country. I can try to save that community, but they will not turn from what has always been.

So......do I keep writing?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Coming home again

House sold. Check. House bought. Check. Moved in. Check. Surrounded by boxes. Yep. Hm. Must be time to plan a trip to visit June.

For some reason moving seems to eat up your life. Packing, packing, packing. Unpacking, unpacking, unpacking. A ritual that I have repeated too many times and am finally at the last destination.....at least until I start running into walls and swearing my name is Bette Davis. Moving is indeed the appropriate name. I seem to have been moving constantly for the last month. Now I sit looking at the boxes saying, "What's the rush?"

Thus it is indeed time to plan a trip back to Angola, Indiana, to visit my sister. A lengthy visit. I leave here the last day of July and am very excited to pack a suitcase instead of a box. Sister time is the best. We always pick up where we left off even if it is a couple of years later than our last meeting. Yes, we are rather selfish with our time together, because we have so much fun reminiscing and going to our favorite places. I dream of tenderloin sandwiches and Shipshewana. June's friends have become very special people to me. Going to her house is truly like going home.

So how do we do it all in about three weeks? A look at the calendar says that we should have time during the end of the trip to make it to Ohio for a couple days. Loren will be there and wants to walk down Neff Road, see the farm and meet the people in my life. And, as luck would have it, the fair will begin. Hm. Two birds, one stone. Home. Perhaps we will do a meet and greet as we did before allowing me to meet all of you and spend time laughing and making new friendships.

I could say I am going home. But truly home is where the heart is. Our new home is indeed a dream come true. Spending time with my sister is a home where my heart sings and renews itself. Coming back to Neff Road is that blanket of love that has surrounded me my entire life. I look forward to meeting you and visiting with old friends. I look forward to coming home.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Walk the lane

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.

A sweet neighbor posted the grave marker of her parents. I sat looking at it with tears streaming down my cheeks. Dolores and Carl Bucholtz were more than neighbors. They were our Neff Road family. Carl farmed with Dad, so heard his tractor or truck often coming back the lane. When we held the farm sale, Carl sat with me by the big, white barn. He told me that he did not think he would beat this cancer that he was battling. We had lost Dad and now his tools were being sold. It was the end of our farming, one that Carl was so much a part of. I held his hand knowing that I was not only losing the things that surrounded me in my growing up, but I was losing a dear friend.

That lane on Neff Road had seen many who returned again and again. The house back that lane seemed to be a beacon of love. Warm loving arms always welcomed whoever came through the back door. There was always time to sit and talk, even when work was calling. We stopped for friends and family. And sometimes for people we didn't know. Dad would stop working in the field when he saw a car in the driveway. The lane brought us together. And, even in parting, we held dear those it brought to us.

I often think of that lane. Our families walked it each time they came home. From the house to the bridge and back, or maybe we wandered off to visit Lavy's or Stager's. The lane represented our family. A trip to loving arms and loved land.

We live lives in transition. We go from there to here in the blink of an eye. We either embrace the new, bringing a newness in ourselves, or we lose precious time hanging back. Over the years, I have found that what I learned on the farm, back that lane, has brought old friends back into my life and new friends to continue new journeys with me. The link from the past to the future. From the road to the house.

When my mother passed, I asked friends and family to send their favorite memories of my beautiful mother. I came across those letters again as I packed to move. They are memories from the past that have traveled to the future, allowing me to see new visions of this mother who rarely shared about herself. She was always too busy asking about others. I think everyone should ask for those memories when a loved one passes. A bridge from one time to another.

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.