Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Resting on Neff Road

Dear Readers,

I have been on the Neff Road Blog for the last 18 months. During that time, I have revisited my past and the past that many of you have experienced as well. The journey has served me well. Going home is even better when I can share the memories.

I plan to take a break from the blog for the next month. My Grandparent's Voice blog is sprouting wings so I need to concentrate on what it has given me. March 22, I will be part of anthology Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandmothers which will be out in bookstores nationwide. I am also working on the book Neff Road and another not yet in progress from my other blog. The time for me to focus on one thing at a time has come.

 Next summer I hope to return to my roots promoting the aforementioned books and doing research. If possible, I will try to work in a book signing and reading while I am there. The richness of that life back the lane on Neff Road is not gone. I will revisit it once in awhile over the next month possibly adding a thought or two.

For those of you in Darke County, I'm still writing a column for the Daily Advocate. Currently, I have a story posted online at Grand Magazine www.grandmagazine.com in the Wisdom section. Some dreams do come true.

Again, I will be back with a report the beginning of March. Please keep in touch.

Thank you for being part of my life on Neff Road.

Pam

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yello

You can move from Ohio to Oregon, but some things you just can't leave behind. You can live in a state 25 years then move to another state living there for 33 years, but once in awhile one of those things pop up once more. Frankly, I love those little surprises that catch me unaware causing me to I realize I'm still that same girl who lived back that lane on Neff Road.

My friend has been feeling a bit under the weather. I wrote an email to her catching myself before I hit 'send'. I wrote, "Get better soon". Get better? Hm. I do believe I really mean for her to 'get well'. Her health needs improvement, not her. Ah, bits and pieces of the past.

I do not criticize the quirks of our speech back that lane. In reading a good bit of historical fiction about Scotland and Ireland, I find many of our speech patterns and expressions come from those roots. Perhaps many come from the transition from one language to another. Whatever the source, we had our own regional style.

My son was often teased when he went off to college and scolded me for not saying certain things correctly. I didn't realize that I said 'pellow' instead of pillow. I said sweep the floor instead of vacuum. On and on it went with me becoming more and more aware of my language patterns.

When first I moved to Oregon, and on our trip across the US to get here, comments were made to me asking where I was from. Some thought I was from the south. I never knew I had an accent!

Years have passed since I've been asked those questions. My love of the English language has deepened...and improved. Yet once in awhile I step back in time.

I still miss Mom answering the phone, "yello".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is Beauty?

Don't you dare say "Beauty was a horse". I'm going for "In the eyes of the beholder". Maybe it is my farm roots, maybe it is my journey from ugly duckling to old goose. Perhaps it comes from the people on Neff Road.

Sure, my vision isn't as good as it was way back when, yet in many ways, my vision is clearer than ever before. What is beauty?

During my acting days, I was required to get head shots, those pictures that go with the actor from audition to audition. The photographer was busy setting up for the shoot. While he fiddled around, I paged through the albums of his work. One album captured my attention.

"Owen, these photos are wonderful. How did this happen?" I asked.

"It began with my mother," he replied.

This son found that as his mother aged, her wrinkles and changing shape became more beautiful. He explained that the lines and wrinkles were pages of her history as well as his. The laugh lines, the lines of sorrow, those of from living a hard life, an age of war, struggle during the lean years and those from raising her son all laid a map of her history on her body. Owen saw her beauty.

None of us can turn on the TV without seeing ads for beauty, weight loss and ways to stay young. Since deciding to let my hair find its natural color, I have also found a freedom. I found a new me.

Don't you love the 'before and after' that pops up on many morning shows. I always wonder what was wrong with the 'before'? Sure, maybe a haircut and a little blush on the cheeks would be nice, but each of those women are beautiful 'as is'. Instead a random woman is given a hair style that will never look the same once she leaves the studio, hair color and make up that add to her budget. Her new clothing will be her only designer outfit among her normal wear. So what have they really done for this woman?

When visiting my friend in the care center every week, the halls are filled with beautiful people and too often forgotten people. In each face, there is a story, a history. I try to make them smile and greet them one by one, many times answered with a look of surprise or no response. They are true beauty, these people who have lived through their good and bad times.

Perhaps beauty lies in the unconditional love we have for one another, an acceptance of differences. Last year I visited the Brethren Home, visited my old friends and neighbors. The most beautiful people live there. I held Margaret's hand and thought, "This hand held mine when I was a child. She loved me and cared for me like her own." She is indeed beautiful.

Beauty comes from the heart of those who look for it. And yes, Beauty was a horse.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2.5 Miles

2.5 miles. A very short road. A road called Neff.

When I started writing this blog over a year ago, I debated on the title: Back the Lane? Country Girl? On the Farm? A Place Called Home? So many choices. Finally, I settled on Neff Road, because it is about the life back the lane off the road as well as the community that was rural Darke County. It is about a little road that was part of everyday living for this once little girl who grew up with cows and chickens, tractors and crops, church and community.

My story on that little road is the story of rural life, a story of a child growing up during post war years. A child experiencing change in a nation, in a home. Neff Road could well be in Iowa, Georgia, Oregon or any other state. It is a story of friendship, religion, love and sometimes even disappointment. My road influenced the lives of the children who lived along it. A writer, a superintendent of schools, a minister, a missionary, a teacher, providers for families and wonderful mothers. The adults were counselors, our other parents, our protectors, our teachers. The land was our security, roots that bound us to nature, land that fed us and provided a living. Neff Road was all of 2.5 miles of love and caring.

In many ways, I have tried to bring that feeling of unity, of family, along with me to Oregon. I know what it is like to live surrounded by homes where I was always welcomed. The embrace that I felt there has stretched all the way to here. Hopefully, my blog stretches those feeling beyond.

I write this blog not for me, but lengthen Neff Road just a bit more bringing that community, that embrace beyond the 2.5 miles. There is hope and change for those of us who have an opportunity to express and share. In some small way, perhaps we can tell of a simplicity of life that can still be part of us today. A glimpse into yesterday threading its way through all tomorrows.

I was nurtured and fed by my years on Neff Road. Now I pass it on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My 'O' States

"I am taking a job in Oregon," my then husband informed me. Oregon. Hm.

Our Ohio and Wisconsin friends and relatives who knew we were moving asked all sorts of questions about our new state even wondering whether or not the state was settled. Were cowboys still wrangling cattle and the Indians on reservations? Did we know that it rained  constantly there? The sun didn't shine.

Well, yes, we do have cowboys. The natives are friendly. And, yes, it does rain here; Oregon is ranked 36th in the U.S. for highest, yearly average rainfall. Hard to believe, but true. What rain we do get gives us the lush landscape that surrounds us.

I have lived here since the fall of 1978. As a farm girl, I'm still drawn the the area outside of our suburban home. Our rich farm land lies in the Willamette Valley. Some of the same crops are raised here as in Ohio. And, many are different. Acres and acres of flower bloom in the spring. Bulbs are shipped all over the world. Cut flower are shipped to the flower marts. Red clover covers the hillsides creating a stunning blanket of red. Acres and acres are covered with nursery plants. Blueberry fields supplies us with picking fun and purple lips. Vineyards are a plenty as is the wine tasting. Apples and pears grow at the base of the mountains while hazel nuts flourish in the valley. What's not to like.

I think I am blessed to have lived in two O states. Even though I miss my roots in Ohio, I would miss my home here were I to leave this lush state. Come visit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Butterscotch Pudding

"Is that Grandma's spaghetti?" my daughter asked my son.

Often my kids have talked about Aunt Peggy's macaroni and cheese.

I remember Aunt Welma's butterscotch pudding, rich and full of bananas.

Last night my daughter made her chicken enchiladas. They are memorable.

My son makes my pumpkin cake.

Mother made the best noodles in the world. None of us have ever been able to copy her 'pinch and dash' recipes.

I'm a firm believer that our taste buds never forget a good thing. They help us recall not only the food, but the person who possessed talent in the kitchen.

Today I'm sitting by a kettle of soup. A fine kettle of soup. I am anticipating something pretty great to come out of that pot.

Every woman who does not like to cook should be surrounded by those who do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Distance Bandit

"Are you going to the reunion?" A question that meets with all kinds of feelings, those of dismissal to those of excitement. The class reunion.

My daughter had her 20th last year. She attended and did not have a very good time. The same cliques existed. Not much had changed. My daughter went with the expectations of friends meeting old friend, catching up on lives and making connections all new again. It didn't happen. This is not unusual. I hear this  response often from other friends disappointed by their reunions.

I remember my 10th. I felt very much the same. I was a stranger in a group of those who were once my friends. We had a class of 48 kids. We all knew one another. Those who had lived in the area since high school weren't really interested in what had happened in my life. I, in turn, had not lived those 20 years with these people so was out of the loop. A gap had formed. I left early.

I returned for the next reunion now in my 40's. Children were grown. Classmates were beginning to age. Again I stood on the outside. My old friends seemed to have forgotten the memories we shared. I wanted to go home, but home was gone. Those who were part of my childhood, my struggles as a teen, my closest friends had stayed, and I had moved away.

I don't know if it is distance or time that robs us of those friends who once we considered our kindred spirits, but I do know that distance for me did not erase the love I had for those people. Many people believe in the 'move on' attitude. 'Get a life'. Well, I did move on, but the memories of sleepovers, roller skating, record hops, first loves, are all part of me. I found it sad that no one else cared to remember.

Last year I decided to toss away all preconceived ideas about what would happen at the Alumni Banquet in our old school gym. Returning at sixty-two, I didn't really care if anyone from my class was there. I was just going to attend with my best friend and have a good time. I had barely walked through the door when my name was shouted out. A friend who had lived down the road recognized me. I had been a baby sitter for she and her husband when I was a teen. They moved south, and I got older and moved west. As the night continued, more and more people sought me out. Old friends became new once more. I was home.

I was the only person in attendance from our class. Maybe that is what helped me to realize what was lacking with my own class reunions. Everyone wanted to know all about me and my family. We talked of old times and wanted more time to catch up on lives. The years and miles had melted away. I was again in the arms of the community in which I grew up. Past and present were aligned once more.

I've already been asked if I am going back to the Alumni again this year. Sadly, I am not. Not this year. I look forward to the next time I attend, walking those gym doors again to be greeted by old friends.

I am in touch with those friends from Neff Road. I write my love letters every day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Can't Bank It

I sat writing the blog gathering memories from the past and lessons of the present. Suddenly, I was overcome with a realization of the gifts I had been given from living in a rural area. Wow, fellow Neff Roadians, we are so rich that the bank couldn't even begin to hold the wealth.

How many people do you know who have watched seeds planted in a field grow into a crop. How many people do you know who sat on a tobacco planter or hauled manure? On that topic, how many of your friends have driven a tractor?! We are rich!

As a small child, I sat by my dad in the tobacco barn watching the ewe push her new lamb, or sometimes lambs, into life. I didn't know how to be afraid or repulsed by the blood and matter. I didn't know how to understand the pain of the ewe. I only saw my father's capable hands assisting in this natural event. Wet lambs stumbled onto their yet-to-be-tried legs soon after birth the same as did the calves we watched birthed in the field. In the same way, we kept vigil over the animals who were dying.

I remember many years ago when we were driving in the country, my then husband saw a cow in labor. He insisted that we needed to alert the farmer. A vet should be summonsed. Obviously, he was a town kid. He found it hard to believe that the cow could do it on her own and that the farmer would notice that a new head had been added to his herd.

We have a rich history, farm kids.

I snapped beans and shelled peas as a tiny child. I pulled weeds in fields as my parents hoed crops. I chewed on wheat fresh from the field. I held babies bunnies cuddled in the rabbit house beneath soft white fur. I learned the progression of the life cycle from beginning to end in the lives of the animals on the farm.

I didn't realize richness of farm life when I lived it, but for the memories, I am indeed a wealthy woman.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

From Mother to Son

I love finding treasures. Yesterday I found a letter from my Grandmother to her son who was traveling with a singing group. Any glimpses I get of this person I didn't know are precious. This letter I hold is a precious gem.

June 23, 1931
Letter No. 2
Tuesday morning

Dear Willard,

I just wrote to you yesterday but I'll have to write again today because I can't keep from it. I cannot write any more for about 2 weeks. I'll write my next letter to Flagstaff. Maybe I'll send one to Trinidad. You can ask at the both places.

You are at Cerro Corde this morning and I hope you are still sleeping while I am writing. It is striking six now and you are an hour later that makes you five o'clock.

It rained again last night, but it got real hot yesterday so they finished. The hay wheat was cut down towards evening. I do not think Dad will cut any more down yet as it still looks rainy.

I picked 14 qts. of berries yesterday. Will can them today. I cleaned up your room (partly) yesterday and I felt homesick for you again. Your room is pretty empty without you in it. I think of you all day. Tell Palsgrove I hope he'll have an obedient bunch of boys.

Harold has not written to us yet since he has been gone back to Defiance so I'll write to him today, too. Maybe he has had some bad luck. Anyway I want to know how he is getting along since he has gone back.

Well I must go and get breakfast. Dad will be in soon. Keith just now got up. I am going to try and have your snaps sent to you at Flagstaff, that we took at Bradford.

If you need a hat, be sure to get one. I think a soft straw will be so good for sightseeing and it will not get broken easily, yet look good, too.

I must go now so good-bye till I see you again at Trinidad.

Love forever,
Mother
or Mom or still Mamma

A straw hat, a mother walking in an empty room, a farm woman feeding her husband coming in from the field, a son leaving his roots to follow his music. An ordinary day on the farm on Byreley Road.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why Did the Chicken Bone Cross the Road?

I know how you feel. Truly, I understand. The boxes of papers, the clipped recipes kept over the years, old letters and cards, the list goes on. You want to toss them into the fireplace or throw them into the trash just to get rid of the clutter. Whoa.....slow down. A bit of history just might be in your hands.

My daughter has Mom's old cookbook. Though worn and tattered, the cookbook holds treasures. Well, treasures for this writer. This book resided in our kitchen. Where the book came from is a mystery to me. The publishing date is 1936. Was it a wedding gift? Perhaps it belonged to Mom Johnson or one of my aunts. But this is not about the book. This is about the treasures between the pages.

As a young bride, I spent many hours sifting through magazine, clipping recipes and helpful hints. I carried that pile of clippings from one coast to another. How many did I use? Well, a few years ago I pitched the stack of 'unused' recipes. Over the years I had probably only used less than ten. Now as a woman with more time on my hands and a hankering for bits of the past, I find a rich history between the pages of the old book, pieces of yellowed paper that my mother once clipped from newspapers and magazines.

The page I found this morning came from a magazine page of the Prairie Farmer dated September 15, 1948, when I was one. The page is covered with history. A woman in a bibbed apron stands holding a package of Fleischmann's dry yeast. A freezer can be purchased for $350. Less mending and longer wear are available from rip-proof, Rockford Socks. A machete can be purchased for 75 cents. A list of time saving suggestions fills the page.

I scanned the list looking for new 'old' ideas: a straw cut into sections and placed through a pie crust allow the steam to escape, a teaspoon of lemon juice added to the water when cooking rice will keep the grain separate and snowy white. I continued to read until I hit a suggestion that was a bit disturbing:

"Chicken wishbones can be put to many uses. Wash them in soapsuds, dry them and paint them with bright nail polish and tie one to each gift package. They may also be made into little dolls or you may crochet around them, adding a little crocheted bag to hold a thimble or a sachet."

Hm. The Loxley girls would fight over the wishbones. Who would be married first? Who would get the wish? My granddaughters do the same. It was fun to crack that wishbone, but the idea of holding that bone from some chicken who gave up its life for our dinner and giving it a fresh coat of nail polish, let alone dressing it up as a doll, is just wrong. I will probably have dreams of dancing dolls with chicken bone arms tonight. Revenge of the chicken.

Oh, well, one never knows what one might find in those stacks of old books and papers. A history, a chuckle, a bright idea just might be waiting.

"Why did the chicken bone cross the road?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"To get a manicure."

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Grocery of Our Own

"I'll just run to the store." How often have I said those words? I hop into the car and dash to the grocery store. The weatherman forecasts that we will have four inches of snow.  Again, I hop into the car dashing to the store to stock up on food.

Many years ago we had a storm heading to our area. Already the wind had arrived. Trees were down and the power was out. Cars were packed solid on the roads, drivers trying to get home before the bulk of the storm arrived. I dashed to the store....along with everyone else in town. Shelves were rapidly clearing. With the power out, freezers were thawing. Cash registers were down with cashiers reverting to the old methods. Candles were gone. Firewood was dwindling. Canned goods filled the shoppers arms.

We never dashed to the store on Neff Road. We never worried that there would not be enough food or wood. We knew that we would not go hungry.

I'm not sure why the fruit room was called the 'fruit room'. Perhaps it was a portion of the basement that once was a root cellar. Perhaps it got its name from the canned fruit that Mom lined up on the shelves along with her pickles. Our grocery store was in the basement.

I don't remember a time that the fruit room wasn't stocked with rows and rows of canned goods, paper items and an assundry of other items we just might need. Mom often sent her girls to the basement to fetch something. We grew up with the familiar sound of the swinging door of the fruit room opening and closing.

I remember when Mom and Dad got the freezer. It was a good day on the farm. Mom made pie crusts and noodles freezing them long before they were found frozen in the stores. Dad butchered beef filling the freezer with protein wrapped in white, paper packages. Vegetables from our garden were there for those cold winter days.

Eggs were as close as the chicken house as was fresh chicken. At one time, milk was available with a walk across the lawn. We lived in our grocery store.

Dad always had firewood chopped and stacked at the back of the house. We knew that when the power went out, we would still be warm. Hot dogs and fish from the freezer would give the Loxley family a warm meal.

How many times did we go down those stairs to our 'store'? What transitions took place on the shelves over the years? Later grandkids did the running for a bag of potato chips or a box of pizza dough. New products replaced the old yet the room was never empty.

Once in awhile a mouse would find its way into the little room of shelves. Dashing to the fruit room held a small amount of terror. I would stand outside the door gathering my courage then quickly push the door open, pull the string to turn on the light and grab whatever Mom had sent me to retrieve. Yes, the mice knew that the coffers were full.

In the house back the lane, the store was always open.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Golden Case

The small gold case sits empty. It means little to anyone else yet since my earliest days memory the gold case caught and held my attention.

The little box is no more than two inches long and less than one-third inch high. The lid pulls open on tiny hinges to reveal two empty compartments. I know from memory that one side held a small velvet pad that was held in place by a small springy lyre. The other side held my mother's red rouge. Vaguely I remember her using the small compact. I remember most the woman in the mirror.

A tiny trace of red still clings to the corner of the case. The case is embossed with fragile designs, a case that most certainly would draw the attention of a small girl. When mother wasn't around, I would sometimes look in the center drawer of the vanity just to see the small box. Had it been embedded with jewels it could been no finer treasure.

I now have the small case. It sits with other treasures on my dresser. Sometimes I pick it up turning it over in my hands still the little girl in awe of the lovely box. We never know what treasures we hold before those we love. The treasure might even take the form of a small box. The treasure might be the memory of a daughter watching her mother do something she rarely did, dressing up to go out.

The beauty of the woman did not come from the case. It was in the woman looking into the mirror. A woman I did not know well for she was an adult, and I was a child. I learned that a woman could sweat through the toil she did on the farm; she could kill the chickens, mop up after ill children and still take pride in herself. She had so little for herself. No doubt the gold case was a precious to her.

A small container of rouge would last her life time. The small, golden case will be handed down through generations. So,too, will the story of the beautiful woman in the mirror.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Billy

Billy had trains in his room. Brenda and I weren't allowed to touch them. He gave us orders that we were never to set foot in his room. Billy considered us brats, brats who should stay out of his way.

I played at Brenda's house most days. I wanted to be at her house instead of mine. Of course, she wanted to play at my house instead of hers. Mom and Dad Stager treated me as one of their own. Carol, the oldest, wasn't around much. She was one year younger than my sister, June. She mothered us and when we were in trouble would yell, "Brenda Sue!" We just ignored her and continued doing whatever it was that we were doing. We were the 'babies' of our families.

Bill was three years ahead of us in school. When we were eight, he was eleven. One year Darke County had so much rain that the small, trickling creek had reached flood stage. Of course, Brenda and I walked down the back lane from the house to the creek just to make sure it was flooding and to see what it looked like when it flooded. The water was over the embankment and connecting with the water from the front field. The two adventurers got frightened.

We couldn't climb up the cement abutment so began to scream for someone to come and get us. Now the really cool thing about being on Neff Road is that you can yell really loud and someone will more than likely hear you. Billy reluctantly came to investigate since he was supposed to be watching his sister. He stood on the road angrily informing us of the inconvenience we had caused as well as the stupidity it took for the two of us to get stranded. Then he leaned down, grabbed  Brenda's hand and walked her home. Sobbing, I scraped my way up the side of the ditch and save myself from sure demise in the three foot high water. Billy really didn't like me.

I lived and went on with my life. He went on to become a superintendent of schools. At his nieces wedding, she insisted that her uncle dance with his old neighbor. We danced. We tried to make small talk. Then the thought hit me.....I never was going to like Billy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Folded to Perfection

A changing time. Yes, I grew up in a changing time. TV's in every home. Girls going off to college. A generation looking for change.

I didn't know what a career was when I was growing up. My Aunt Welma had gone to secretarial school when she was young. Grandmother Loxley and my Aunt Kate were school teachers. Mom wanted her daughters to go to college, probably because her father would not let her go.

The life we lead aimed us towards a life of homemaking. We grew up with mothers making soap, plucking chickens, sewing clothes and focusing on family every minute of every day. 4-H consisted of sewing and cooking unless you had an animal to raise and show. I wasn't very good at any of it. I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do because no other options came into view.

Mrs. Frantom was our Home Economics teacher when I attended Franklin Monroe High School. Again, we learned to sew, to cook, to provide a home for husband and family. In her class, I learned to fold my future husband's shirts and to pack a suitcase for his business trips. I learned first aid so I could be medic in residence. I could make a white sauce and cook a whole chicken.  I wanted to escape so I could discover if there was more to life....more to me. I knew that I didn't fit in my mother's type of life.

"Grammy, how did you know how to do that?" my granddaughter asked as I folded the blouse.

Oh, my dear granddaughter, I learned it when I was 18 from Mrs. Frantom. I can't remember much more from that class, but I can fold a shirt to perfection.

It was a time of change, of moving into a new era, of women with careers and those making their homes their own and not their mother's.

For many years I struggled to find myself. I'm not sure, but I think I might have found me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Old Barn Handle

My hand grasped the hand. Cold metal in my hand. Twisting the handle, I opened the white door leading to the cow stable. At once the smell of cows, dust, hay and straw assailed me. Thick cobwebs heavy with dust hung on the old cow yolks hanging, hanging behind the cement feed trough. The cows were brought into the milking parlor. The yokes were placed around their necks holding them in place. Food was placed in front of them to occupy them while they were milked. A cement trench ran behind the cows easily mucked out after the milking was finished.

To the left under the stairs was a feed nook now a nook containing bags covered with dust from the loft overhead. To the back of the cow stable was the area Dad stored his tractors. I remember when he got his two red Massie Harris tractors. My favorite was the little one. In the corner an old green bicycle sat more tan than green draped in a cloak of dust. Small tools and old toys sat gathering more recent deposits.

I often walked into this part of the barn across the dirt floor to the two feed bins. Dad would harvest grain then shoot the grain into the bins from the wagon filling them with grain for the livestock. When the bins were empty, they became wonderful playhouses. Dad hung the old horse gear long out of use at the end of the bins next to big heavy door there to accommodate big equipment. I loved to push the huge door open. Dad would usually have a hand on it above my blond curls lending some unknown assistance.

The cow stable was at the other end of the barn. Cows chewed the cud ignoring onlookers. The smell of manure and dirt floor permeating the air. A pen butted up to the stable. Once in awhile, Dad would separate out a calf or a cow and her calf placing them in the pen.

A cement water trough sat beside the stable and pen providing water for the livestock. In later years Dad would throw a fish in the trough. We would stand by the trough hoping for a view the fish that went into the water small and over time grew to great length.

The wooden manger at the end of the stable was filled from the hay loft above. Big holes in the floor made feeding the cattle below easy. Dad often warned his small daughter not to walk near the holes. I did anyway.

Going into the hay loft was entering a world of imagination and play. Big doors at each end of the barn could be lowered to provide ventilation for the the fresh bales of hay. Magically light filled the dark loft when both doors were lowered. Dust floated on the air. A smaller door on the side of the barn and the big door to the front of the barn were opened when baling time rolled around. The red elevator carried the bales to the loft where they were stacked. Hay on the west side of the barn; straw to east side. Trap doors covered holes in the floor of the loft, places where Dad could toss straw down to the cow stable.

Best of all, the best part of the barn was the swing. The swing rope was a originally part of the mechanism that lifted bales from wagons when horses were used for harvest moving the bales from one side of the barn to the other. Everyone who came to the farm at one time or another had taken a turn on the swing. Dad rigged the rope so the swing would automatically pull to the other side of the barn loft. We kids climbed up as high as we could on the bales, jumped onto the swing and flew across to the other side. Hours were spent flying across the barn. Hours of play for a farm girl.

Behind the barn was the barnyard separated from the yard by gates, gates that held many small children trying to catch a glimpse of cow or maybe a tiny lamb. A gate that held a teenage girl looking for her horse.

I spent many hours in that barn. Many of those hours were spent with my father following him from chore to chore. He was never impatient, always showing me new things.

I wish I could turn that old metal door handle once more. Perhaps I did today.

Monday, January 3, 2011

In My Hands I Held My Life

Before my eyes, I beheld a wondrous sight. A gift. A gift far beyond a Christmas present. In my hands I held my life, a dream come true, a reality of what I do. I didn't know I would feel this way. Do all writers feel this way? Maybe. But this was something more. This was the story of my parents, my childhood, a road in rural Ohio. I held a history of another time and the love of a child for the people and the place on Neff Road. My son and his wife had given me my first book. They may not realize that truly they have given me something more.

Often I have thought of writing a book but was never sure there was a book in me. Yet here in front of me was proof that it could happen. My grandchildren were thrilled to see my blogs in book form. Grammy wrote a book.

"Can I read it?" asked Gabby.

I knew she wouldn't....not now, but some day this book will tell her about her grandma and the place she loved. She will learn about the people on Neff Road and about a farm. Sixty years of life residing in three hundred thirty-three pages. A history of another place and time.

I am humbled as I hold the book. A lump forms in my chest holding in my hands the memories I love. My mind spins. "This is me," I tell myself.

What will happen with this little book? I will work it a bit more and make copies for my family. Maybe I'll even go for a second edition. Maybe someday my great grandchildren will learn about a little girl on Neff Road.

I received a beautiful present. My family receives their history.