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.

Kitchen aromas bring memories flooding back

Day by day

Kitchen aromas  bring memories  flooding back
by Liz Thompson
THISWEEKNEWS
Wednesday December 4, 2013

My childhood memories created a love of a lived-in kitchen. My Grandmother Page had a grand home called West Bank Farm on Alum Creek Drive in Columbus.

I loved the smell of her kitchen and the entire house. Even though it was, at one time, on a historical registry of some kind, it has long since met its demise. But the memories of the place are as easy to recall as closing my eyes.

The kitchen was the first room you walked into at this 15-room house. The aroma was a mix of years of canning foods from the garden, homemade applesauce, and her favorite gum; Dentyne. Cinnamon was clearly the winner.

The ceilings were tall and the wooden floors covered with worn Oriental rugs. I loved the sounds as well as the fragrance. It reminded me of stepping inside an old book with its musty smell and great stories to share. Many a night I still fall asleep walking through the house in my mind; seeing the winding staircase, the music room, large screened porch where I looked out at huge trees and wide open land that went on for acres.

Good memories all.

About 30 years ago, we were house hunting. I don’t know why, but when I looked at houses to buy, I always opened every kitchen cupboard and looked in every closet. What was I looking for? I’m still not sure.

We were looking at a house that was a little above our price range but we loved it. When I walked into the kitchen, I was met with a scent that was delicious, for lack of a better word.

As I opened the kitchen cupboard doors, I was met with one aroma after another. Spices. Coffee. Candles. Tea. I’m not sure what it was in total but my senses were in love with this house. There was more than scents we liked about it but today what I remember is that behind each door was a delight for me to enjoy. The kitchen had been loved with home cooking for years and it was obvious to anyone standing in the room.

It reminded me of the farm, on a much smaller scale.

We were disappointed to not be able to buy this lovely home, but we have moved so often, it might have been hard to leave. So it was for the best.

Unconsciously, I think I always wanted our home to have that welcoming aroma, for visitors opening our cupboards to smile in that same way.

Yet even though I didn’t really know what the mix was, in my mind, I remember. But it’s more than an emanating scent that that home held; it had memories stamped into its fabric. I realize that now after years of doing the same in our homes from here to the Southwest and back.

Again, like the farm; memories which are too many to recount here.

We carry our memories with us and at odd times they make it to the surface. The farm experiences are part of my personal fabric and the comfort of these soft pieces make all negative experiences less traumatic. Like a patchwork quilt pieced together one stitch at a time to end up with a complete quilt to treasure.

Christmas was always a time for baking cookies at my childhood home in Westerville. Sugar and molasses cookies, Chinese chews that were so sweet they made your teeth ache — in a good way — and my mom’s famous meringues. How she is able to whip up those stiff cookies that melt in your mouth, is still a mystery to me.

If you were born into a coffee-drinking family and before it was sealed in bags, you must remember the metal tins of coffee. We opened the coffee with the metal “key” used to wind around and pop the lid off. The smell of fresh coffee filled the room.

My mom stored her Christmas cookies in used coffee tins. Now I realize that the lingering coffee aroma made her cookies taste extra delicious, to me.

My granddaughter sent me this email:

I had poured myself a cup of coffee this morning — lots of milk and sweetener — and the very moment I tasted it, I was reminded of you and Pappy! Coffee always reminds me of waking up early at your house and having eggs and bacon and sweet, milky coffee for breakfast. It’s a really fun memory.

And the memories linger.