After ten long hours scrunched in the car, we finally made it to the farm. Gravel under tires made the familiar crunching sound. We pulled in atop loose stones, pebbles of grey and white designating a drive-way amid acres long called, home. Did I miss the turn of the key or the sound of the melody? Four doors suddenly sprung open like a long closed box. Out popped arms and legs in different sizes and shapes. Stretching and bending this way or that, reminding me of my little brother’s green Gumby toy when we were young. Perhaps his horse, Pokey is eating hay in the barn?
The farm belongs to my father-in-law, but it is my husband’s legacy. It’s important that my children and grandchildren know where their father and grandfather came from. Where his life began. They may not remember this trip today, so my pictures will be a remembrance forevermore. I want them to see where he lived and grew-up as a boy, to listen to stories of the simple things he took pleasure in. To grasp the meaning of how different life was not so long ago before technology stole time away. How good things were when fun could be bicycles and books, playing in fresh air or running and jumping until legs-were-so-tired.
The old farm-house sits among 80 acres of lush dark soil, green grasses, woods, streams, fields, and trails in a little town called Shelby, on the northwest side of Michigan, not far from the Great Lake of the same name. It is beautiful country, so peaceful one could hear their own name whispered in the wind. Nine children were raised within the walls of the cozy home that is made up of three bedrooms with one bath for all. Impossible now perhaps, but back then it was not out of the norm.
Living on a farm came with chores to do, depending on birth order. Older siblings saw more animals raised in the barn than younger ones. A cow of black and white, chickens, pigs, and cats to catch the mice. My husband remembers milking cows when he was very young in a silver tin before gathering eggs for his mother in a wicker basket of biscuit brown.
A lot of the family’s food came from crops grown in their own dark soil. So rich, it was and still is nearly black, the color of coal. There were vegetables from gardens and planted crops plus mouth-watering fruits falling from trees drooping above. Cherries and asparagus helped to provide for the family, while my husband’s father worked hard at a factory job too, nearly each and every day.
My husband tells me of a wonderful childhood where his playmates were mostly sisters and brothers. Sports were a family favorite and for a while they had their own small basketball court poured near the red wooden barn. Kids formed small teams to play baseball, football or croquet on the massive lawn. They rode buzzing mini-bikes up and down the dirt path or fished in glass streams using scraps of cream-colored rope for line. On the end of their hooks were stolen pieces of pink bologna, curled and shriveled, ready to lure miniature fish from under speckled rocks.
When darkness fell, a freshly scrubbed brood gathered round the square black and white television set, straddled on four wooden legs. If the space-age antenna worked just right, two or three fuzzy channels came in. Sometimes arguments broke out until a patient mother stepped in to decide what show would be watched. Before long, bedtime fell upon freckled faces with long lashes. Soon weary feet of bare climbed steep steps to the top. Under eves, bunk beds were shared while sweet dreams danced beneath blankets of curly heads until morning when a new day began.
Today, it may be hard to imagine the simple life above. Gone forever it is, I’m afraid. In our suburbia it’s rare for children to have real space to play, and it’s not safe to let them go off for the day like my husband once did. For good or bad, technology has replaced much of our children’s freedom, leaving them little room for down time. Still, at every opportunity please allow children to be kids. Let them run and jump, play and grow. Encourage them to use their imaginations. Dreams are sometimes born through simple things. A walk in the park, flying a kite, catching a fish or reading, “Run-Spot-Run.”