Sunday, March 26, 2017

Coming home

Coming home.  How Mom and Dad loved to hear, "I'm coming home." So many thoughts come to mind with those two words. For most of my life, it meant coming home to Neff Road. Driving down the road and back the lane to the arms of my parents, to those of my relatives, to my friends. Coming home.

Over the years those words expanded to embrace more years and more people, more places and dear faces. Walking into my son's home is just like coming home. Sweet arms of my grandchildren wrapped around me is indeed coming home.  Even though I have a home, those coming homes are so much dearer.

For those of us who moved away from Darke County many years ago, coming home has a different connotation. Many of us no longer have the loving arms of parents to hug us. Yet home is still the house back the lane. Doris and Victor, Hollie and Margaret no longer live in their houses I visited so often in my childhood, yet they are places that I still call home. My grandparents homes call me back to their embrace. And, that bridge and sweet creek pull at my heartstrings. Yet it is difficult when we come back, as many people take us in to where we left off, forgetting about our lives we have lived away from Neff Road. We come back to visit, wanting to share our lives, sometimes feeling we have been kept in a niche from long ago. Perhaps that is the way with everyone who returns to their roots. Coming home changes over the years.

Sometimes we find someone in our lives who gives us that coming home feeling. Maybe it is a whisper of something we cannot quite explain that calls us. A walk in the forest. Walking into a room that feels familiar. The smell of cinnamon or fried eggs lures us back home with the pure delight of sense of smell. I find that music takes me back to many homes. They tug at my heart and talk to me with a melodious voice, returning me to a place I have been.

Now I come home to my little nest. I delight in the respite from the day of work or babysitting. A place created from the parts of my life that all have that sweet echo of the past.  It embraces me in the warmth of yesterday and a place of peace before the morrow.

The arms that held me long ago still hold me when I dream of coming home. The smell of the farm, the hug of a child, daily Skyping with June and snuggling in at the end of the day. Yes, I love coming home. Home to many pieces of my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I am a visitor

At only three years old, she could capture a heart and hold it forever. A sweet little thing with a winning smile and a connection to the earth and its creatures that I could not understand.

Glued to the old Raytheon TV, I sat watching cowboys ride the range fighting Indians and establishing new territory. They came in wagon trains. They came in land grabs. No matter how the natives fought, they came in numbers too big for them to hold on to the very land that sustained them. I watched and watched. Loved every minute of these wild westerners shooting and finding love when the show needed a little more story line. I watched and watched totally oblivious to what the shows represented, what they were planting in my young mind. Shooting, killing, fighting, stealing of land, violent interaction with one race bullying another. And, I grew up loving those old shows. No wait, I wasn't grown up.

In looking back, I wonder what the adults in my family were thinking allowing me to watch these shows. We had cap guns and BB guns, things that make killing a make-believe game. Whether you agree or not, that is the bottom line.

Native - adjective
1. being the place or environment in which a person was born or a thing came into being
2. belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature
3. belonging by birth to a people regarded as indigenous to a certain place, especially a preliterate people

We had many tribes in Oregon. I am going to list them because I feel it is important to acknowledge them: Alsea, Cayuse, Cheto, Chinook, Clatskanie, Coos, Galice, Kalapuya, Klamath, Modoc, Molala, Multnomah, Nez Perce, Paiute, Shasta, Sinuslaw, Takelma, Tillamook, Tolowa, Tututni, Coquille, Umatilla, Umpqua, Walla Walla, Wasco, Wishram. There are now only nine federally recognized tribes. A few tribes with few people have created confederations. There are no federally recognized tribes in Ohio, and only two unrecognized: Munsee Delaware Indian Nation of Ohio and Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band.

Then I grew up. I realized that this earth is truly precious. In finding native stones on our land, I came to realize that this was not really our land. I wondered whose blood was deep beneath our home and barns. Where were the families whose roots truly were part of this land? What in the world had we done to them all.

"Are you home?" asked Mom. June answered that they were home and had a beautiful little girl. I grabbed my jacket and told Mom and Dad to get ready. We were heading to Indiana. My niece Jobi was not born to our family. No, she was a sweet, little, half-Indian girl who was up for adoption. June and Bob wanted her. We all wanted her. They took off to Montana and came home with a sweet, little girl who had a winning smile and who brought pure joy to our family. A little girl whose brothers and sisters still lived on the reservation. A place where Native American families struggled to make a living.

I am a visitor to this land. I came on the trail of blood and war. My roots lie in Germany, Switzerland, England. The Mexicans who lived here, the Native Americans, all have been pushed away from the land they loved and were born to. A little three year old taught me the meaning of acceptance. She gave me understanding into the beautiful spirit of one born of the earth. I am a visitor here.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Alumnae of the past, keepers of the future

Many questions have been asked on Facebook about the early towns and schools in Franklin Township. So, today I am turning my column over to Mom. In 1996, about three months before Dad passed, Mom sent a journal to me for my birthday. She wrote of her childhood, of her life. In doing so, she wrote of the history of the times. So, Mom, it is time for your pen to have its way: (I use my mother's words.)

The year before I started to school, Bess (her sister) took me to visit. She had a man Orville Riffell as a teacher. I kept laughing and he told me to be quiet. And I told him I didn't half to. So he took me up to his desk and switched me. Bessie got all excited and run down to her Uncle Dan's (he was on the school board). There was quite a lot of excitement for awhile. And when it came time the next fall for me to go to school, although there was another teacher, I wouldn't go.  Abe Minnich (the owner of Red River Grocery) took me and sit with me every morning for the first week of school before I stayed by myself.

We had a bench in the front of the schoolroom that 5 persons could sit on. The teacher would call on the 8th grade arithmetic class up from their desks in the back of the school. They would work problems on the board. Then the 7th grade would be called on down to the 1st grade. Sometimes I would be asleep as it was boring to listen to all of them recite. After I got in the 3rd grade, I liked school and I liked to go early before the big kids got there, and I'd carry wood from the wood-house in to make the fire. We would have to stay after school and clean up. Sweep the floor, pick up papers. I really liked that part.

I did good in school and hated to miss any, but in the 3rd grade I was riding Edward Young's bicycle home as I always went home at noon from school to eat dinner, and I was going pretty fast and fell off the bicycle and hurt my knee. It got infection in it and I had twenty-three boils on my right leg around my knee and couldn't go to school for three weeks. The teacher boarded with Bob (Mom's brother) and Welma and she come with my lesson every evening.

There is more I will share of my mother's story. This is the way it was in Red River when the school was  just down the road. A place where brothers and sisters were in the same room and all ages learned together. Water in the well and fire wood to be brought in. A time when classes were small and teachers lived-in.

This is the time of year for remembering the alumnae of our schools. A time for looking back at our own pasts and a time for watching the new graduates move forward. Let's hope in our moving forward that we not forget what and who came before.

Read the papers left behind from your loved ones. Hold the diaries and appreciate each word. Close your eyes and step back in time. Smell the wood fire and feel the snow on your cheek as you walk to school.