Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Humble Roots

The holiday season is knocking on the door. Along with the tinsel and wish list comes the recognition that there are many who have very little. It is the season of giving. It is the season of receiving.

We did not have much in that house back the lane on Neff Road. A family who lived on a farm and on the bounty it provided, if indeed there was a bounty on any particular year. And, our home was no different than those that surrounded us. We lived by the success or failure of the crops, of the well-being of the animals and of the health of the family members. I have a such admiration for my parents. Their love and commitment to one another was powerful. It was the one thing that kept this farm and family going. There was a strength in their pairing that could withstand anything that confronted them.

Bang! Bang! With each gun shot, another cow fell. I know that my mother cried and ached as each shot was spent. I know that every neighbor heard, and they, too, were heart broken. My mother probably held her daughters and wept. My father was probably one who held a rifle and wept as his lovely herd was put down. Bangs Disease took their livelihood. A new cow stable built for the milk cows. The latest equipment was purchased by the young couple. Dreams died in a pit truly of despair. Scarlet Fever attacked the young family. A disease fought only with penicillin, a drug not on the market until 1945. A middle daughter diagnosed with rheumatic fever and bedridden for two years. A baby daughter wrapped in a rubber sheet and placed in ice water to reduce the fever of spinal meningitis. How much could a family take? How did they survive?

As I laid in my tiny bed trying to survive, the small child in the next bed passed. My mother prayed that if I would live, she would give service to God the rest of her life. And she did. I believe that the faith that had seen them through the horrors of their young married life saved my life. The commitment of my mother to God truly touched the lives of all those who knew her. This was what happened in the house back the lane.

But there was much more. "I remember people leaving food outside the door." June said when I asked how they survived scarlet fever. The neighbors fed our family. I know when June was ill and in bed for all those many months that the neighbors made sure that she had things to do and visitors on a regular basis. When Dad lost his cattle, I know that the other farmers understood and did all they could to help him through this painful time. We were all poor but gave what we could of our own food, the help of our hands and all of our faith to help one another. It was, it is, the way of life on Neff Road.

My parents were very proud people. The most difficult thing in the world was for them to receive. Giving was easy. Accepting was hard. They never received that they did not feel compelled to do equally for someone else. I often had this argument with Mom over the fact that sometimes you had to receive to give others the benefit of giving. A hard lesson for a woman who promised to give for the rest of her life.

We on Neff Road came from humble roots. We live by the land. We love by the land. We are part of the land. What befalls a neighbor befalls each of us. When I return to my roots, I find that I am always welcomed home. I settle back into conversations as if I had never left. I find the same love greets me with open arms. The layers of the past welcome the memories and layers of the present. None of us had wealth, but living on Neff Road, we were rich.

It is a season of giving.....and receiving. A season of memories and thanks giving.