Travelling at the speed of light – and through time.
Day 2 Assignment.
Looking at old photographs, takes me to places where I used t
o be. The places are more easily remembered and called to life, than who I was.
Many a summer of my youth, I travelled by car or train to visit my mother’s family. It was a trip to an exotic place unlike my suburban life.
The place was northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. My aunts and uncles had dairy farms. The land was flat and dominated with cornfields. Roads were dead straight until they made a turn at someone’s property line.
The town had a Holstein cow statue at the main intersection. It had one grocery store and one bar. By 1966, you had to lock your car and house. Small farm towns had changed.
I’ve only made two brief visits in the last thirty years, but I can describe at least five of their houses with floor plans and décor. I can remember the barns and the lines of cow rear ends and the sound of the milking machines. Up a ladder was a hayloft – a perfect spot to share secrets with my cousins.
The places between house and barn were filled with flower or vegetable gardens or corncribs. It’s where we chased the cats or started a game of kick-the-can. Nearby, there were orchards, where we ate crabapples or cherries until we were sick.
The place I remember best was the front yard of an aunt’s house. The place where we had family reunions and my grandmother was in charge.
Tall droopy pines shaded the area. In farm country where open sun-filled fields were required, a shaded spot was a miracle. Not that my cousins and I didn’t occasionally run off to the barn or a shed across the road.
Everyone arrived with more chairs, tables and food. Tables placed end to end in long chains were covered with tablecloths. Plenty of plates, silverware and bowls and platters of food filled every space on the tables.
For younger cousins, the chairs wobbling on an uneven grass lawn meant we cried from effort or falling and were gathered up on someone’s lap to be both consoled and scolded.
Our energetic curiosity meant we ran up the steps of the front porch and got in someone’s way. Activities were devised, if we already hadn’t run off somewhere. One year, my sister taught some of us to ‘fly’ – jumping from the loft down to a lower layer of hay bales.
The most memorable event was my grandmother gathering a few of us around and teaching us how to make a blade of grass whistle. My often stern grandmother, sitting on the lawn and taking time to impart this skill, was an amazing affair. She showed us how to hold the blade tightly stretched between our thumbs and then to blow. I can feel the tickle of it now.
It’s nice to remember my grandmother could be this woman.
And not always this woman.
Maybe I went to five reunions when I was young and one or two when I was living on my own in Chicago. Through the thoughts of my mind, I can revisit any time I want.
Even if I don’t quite recognize ‘this me.’
Where have you been – today?