Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I am a Child

Life was what we made it. It is what all farmers make of rural living. My children cannot comprehend the life even though they remember the farm. My grandchildren will have no idea what it was like being raised with cows and chickens living across the yard. What it was like to bottle feed an abandoned lamb in the basement of the white house. Life was what we made it. Life was what was made us.

Maybe you are reading this piece of writing years from now, my family. Maybe you are curious or just would like to know a little more about this grandma or maybe a great (or several greats), a past that is yours as well.
I often write about our way of our life back then. They are all pieces of the whole, but they are not me, the little girl back the lane. I remember often being afraid when my parents were off in the field. I often sat alone in the house. My sisters were older and in the field with Mom and Dad. The house was big and made creaking sounds. I was safe. They knew it. But I was always afraid. When old enough, I was taken along for the hours they spent in the field hoeing, planting, pegging tobacco. I learned patience at a very early age. I never had the slightest inkling that I could refuse to be part of this farm life. It was the way I grew up.

I was part of a work crew. We all pitched in on chores according to our age abilities. I pulled weeds early on and gathered warm eggs from beneath chickens. I had to learn not to be afraid of the chickens for some could be angry and mean. We didn't worry about the affects of the sun. We tolerated sunburn. It was part of the way we lived. The smells of the farm were almost a comfort.  The old house had its smell as did the each barn. The fields smelled of earth and plant. The creek bottom smelled of mossy water and wet rocks. They were all part of my every day. A part of the womb I was born to.

I could go to the barn and touch a cow, a rabbit, a lamb, a horse, a chicken. My first words were moo-cow. Quite appropriate for a little farm kid. We always had a dog and kitties. We grew up to the sound of the old barn owl and the mourning dove. We knew what it was to hold baby animals soon after birth or chicks after hatching. We knew what it was to be exhausted at the end of the day. We knew only this life.

I went to the outhouse and used the old pot in the winter. We bathed when small in a washtub. We bathed once a week. I was barefoot as soon as I was out of school. We were poor. I had one pair of shoes to get me through the school year. We ordered them each fall. We were all poor. I was spanked and still can't figure out why I did anything that would ever deserve such action. I was a child.

Mom and Dad provided music lessons, art lessons and some dance lessons when most farm kids never dared to even think of them. I'm not sure what they sacrificed in order for us to have those classes, but they saw to it that we did. They dressed us as well as they could. I wore my cousins hand-me-downs and thought I was rich. We only got one gift at Christmas. I remember once I got a puppy and another time a tiny plastic doll and an orange. We didn't have much one on one time with our parents. They were always busy working and providing for the community. We learned to serve and not to ask for more. It was often a lonely existence.

There was much to our lives that I prefer to put aside. I never felt that my parents were my own. They belonged to everyone else. When my sister June left for college, I was terribly lonely. My parents were older and not involved with their youngest. It was then that I learned that the farm had been my other parent. There was no place I would rather be than on that farm on Neff Road. I knew every inch of soil and found comfort in barns and creek bottom that had been with me all my life. Being a loner most of my childhood, I learned to explore and embrace the lessons of the farm. Perhaps I learned how I belonged to the earth.

So if you read this, my children, go back to our roots and see this place where my life began. Touch the soil that gave me life. Imagine the small, blond girl looking for bunnies beneath the weeds, watching turtles in the creek and walking the fields behind a tobacco planter pegging plants. I learned to ride a tricycle and a bicycle on that gravel lane. I heard the storms rattle the roof of the big white house. I watched the corn grow high until the house was almost invisible from the road. I walked to road to visit neighbors and rode my horse down the back lane. With Dad, I hunted mushrooms in the woods and the thicket at the back of the farm. The arrowheads came from this land. A land where my parents remembered old Indian living along the creek in a lean-to. I left this farm when I was eighteen. I cried every time I left thereafter. Remember me and this place on Neff Road. Remember that we belong to the land and indeed it belongs to our care.

I am a child of the earth. I am a child of Neff Road.

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