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.

Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee?

I have read this as a young woman asking her mother, her grandmother and her father; so I’m not sure which is correct. But the message is clear.

Grandmother Says… Carrots, Eggs, or Coffee; “Which are you?”

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

 “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft.She then asked her to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked. “What’s the point, grandmother?”

Her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her granddaughter.

“When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff?

Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything; they just make the best of things that come their way.

—AUTHOR UNKNOWN —

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but
not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
II Corinthians 4:8-9