Childhood memories keep family farm alive

Day by Day:
Childhood memories keep family farm alive

By LIZ THOMPSON
June 14, 2020
This Week News

The sound of the cooing mourning dove at the beginning of summer takes me back to my grandmother Page’s farm and the lazy summer days I spent there, waking to the sound of the dove as the sheer white curtains blew softly in the morning breeze.

I remember waking and listening to bird song and sniffing the summer scents. I would look out the window and through the tall trees to see her vegetable garden.

Once downstairs, the large kitchen smelled like flowers, cinnamon, coffee, toast and homemade jam. Each day held the promise of adventure and time with my grandmother.

My grandmother lived on a farm built in 1854 in Groveport (Ohio.) The property originally consisted of about 750 acres, and the largest section, the bottomland, ended where three creeks came together: Alum, Blacklick and Big Walnut. They named the farm Westbank.

The bricks for the house and the outbuildings were made from the land, and the wood came from the trees.

I am told that from the kitchen pantry to under the front porch was a tunnel that was part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.

By the time I was born, the acreage had decreased, but the beauty remained. The time at the farm was more about being with my grandmother and enjoying time outdoors.

Sadly, the farm was sold to developers in the 1970s, and the house burned down in the early 1980s.

But the mind is miraculous. I can easily walk through the large house and around the land in my mind. I see my young self crawling under the shade of the tall trees to find carpets of wild violets.

I often sat on the large, cushioned swing on the screened porch and listened to my mother, grandmother and aunts talk as their knitting needles clicked.

On hot summer evenings, adults moved the cloth lawn chairs to the large yard, hoping to catch a breeze. My siblings and I, and often our cousins, busily would catch lightning bugs in jars.

The summer kitchen smelled of earth, clay pots and all manner of gardening utensils.

Music floated in the air when my grandmother played her piano.

It’s important to appreciate what we have while we have it. Our childhood memories can be glimpses of the real thing, yet the feelings, scents and mental images sustain us when life gets too complicated.

I wrote a poem 32 years ago about the farm, called “September Night Play.” In part, it reads:

Knitting needles clicking and conversation humming.
The citronella candle and the swing gently bumping.
Lightning bugs and laughter, and children running after
With a jar and lid with holes punched through to let the captured breathe air, too.

The weeping willow is a grand hiding place
But it is time to go home and end our night play.
So goodbye to Grandma, she must return to her porch
Who will have a new sweater to keep them warm at night
While catching bugs in a jar to watch their green, glowing light?

It’s so easy to become complacent thinking everything will stay the same.

I’d like to think I didn’t take the farm for granted, but I was 20 and living in California when she sold the farm. When I was there last, I assumed I would walk through the doors again. Maybe walk down the lane with her to get the mail or spend a summer day or Christmas Day with her.

We often do take things and people in our lives for granted without realizing it. But we can change that starting right now.

Irish poet and author John O’Donohue wrote in his book, “Anam Cara,” “Explore memory as a place where our vanished days secretly gather … and the passionate heart never ages.”

As I listen to the dove cooing, I close my eyes and smile. I let the sweet memories of childhood at the farm and in small-town Westerville tumble through my mind aimlessly, almost like a child doing summersaults through the cool grass on a summer evening.

Grandmother Page’s farmhouse likely taken in the 1940’s.
I remember in front of the screened porch she had roses, not bushes.

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

Day by day

Slow down and enjoy life’s read

By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday June 18, 2014

What page are you on?

I can tell how much I’m enjoying a book when I don’t want it to end. Slowing down only delays the inevitable; the last page, the final word. Next I’ll be searching for the sequel or another book by this author.

Some people struggle to read and find it hard to study and learn; it can be a real problem to overcome.

But I’m also talking about those who can read fine but don’t want the task. They stop and look to see how many pages they have to read, bemoaning the fact they aren’t close to being finished — wasting time being frustrated instead of enjoying the read. The end will come soon enough.

We do that same thing when we check our watch every few minutes or wish our days away, when we spend time worrying or wanting a bad day to end. We’d be better off by making the most of the moment.

Maybe it’s a human condition where we push forward, in essence, to simply get all the pages turned and the book finished.

As a teen, a reading test showed I was a fast reader, yet my comprehension lagged. Reading fast has served me well in some respects, but proved detrimental when typing what I was reading. By reading so fast, I often skipped entire lines. The same proved true when playing the piano while reading the music.

In time, I learned to pace myself for accuracy in typing and playing music. As a result, my comprehension improved and I enjoyed more what I was reading or playing.

Our personal life is a unique book, one I believe is written by God. Not one book, or life, is identical. That’s remarkable. We need to listen and watch thoughtfully as each page is turned, knowing the end will eventually happen.

In May, we were camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On our campsite, we had a screened room but we kept the front open during the day.

A yellow butterfly was darting frantically in this room, seeking an exit. I tried to help it out with my hands and hoped it would alight on my cane when upheld, to no avail. It was almost painful to watch as it hit the top and sides, coming so close to the exit and starting its mad path over again.

Finally, it escaped. We sighed with relief. Two days later it happened again, and I was able to use my hands to ease it to freedom. The flutter of its wings was both a thrill and a warning.

I found my heart rate was up after it flew away, and it reminded me how we sometimes spend a lot of time flying around seeking freedom, often refusing help. We see children acting much like the butterfly until they realize accepting help and guidance is good.

Life lessons are a gift.

I’m reminded of the final page analogy when someone dies and I attend the funeral, memorial service or wake. In April and May, I attended four such events, although in the same time frame six people I knew left this life: three friends, a brother-in-law, a neighbor who was also a friend, and the pastor who performed our wedding ceremony many years ago.

In retrospect, we think of these lives and their legacy.

I believe it’s unhealthy to compare ourselves to others. That would be like saying all the best books, poems and the like have been written. Why should we try to write anything?

I refer to other writers who inspire me; I don’t stop writing, thinking it doesn’t measure up, although I often choose to toss writings or completely rework them.

So with our lives. We spend time reworking ourselves and tossing out the garbage, so to speak. That’s a good choice.

When I attend memorial services, I try not to compare my life to theirs but I take inspiration from them. Those who volunteered — I might support these causes. Those who had great humor — I might catch myself when I grumble. And those who were humble — I’m reminded to check my ego at the door.

The list goes on.

When I fail to do what is good and true, I look to change that, often thinking of those who were positive influences on me.

Life moves fast enough; no need to push ahead. Turn your life pages slowly and enjoy the read.