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.

Warm weather, books pair well

Day by Day: Warm weather, books pair well

By LIZ THOMPSON

May 21, 2018

This Week News

School books soon will be closed. With that last thud, summer draws us outdoors.

As our children swing the doors open, we need to remember they are our future — and we need to use every opportunity to help each one learn skills for life.

Reading is especially important — even in summer.

“Creating opportunities for summer learning sets the stage for innovation, creativity and leadership in every community,” says the National Summer Learning Association. “The young people we nurture today are the foundation of our society tomorrow.”

Ideas abound to get youngsters reading.

We can combine a nature walk through our parks and have children read the signs.

They can read cereal boxes.

We can take them shopping and have them find things to read in the grocery store.

It will be worth the time, with far-reaching effects.

Let’s give our youths access to books, newspapers and magazines.

Physical activity is vital to our health, but if we know how to read, it stays with us always.

The Columbus (Ohio) Metropolitan Library website says, “Studies show that kids who read during the summer maintain reading skills that are critical to future school success.”

We have no shortage of books.

The system has 22 branches, plus the main library, and is a part of the Central Library Consortium, with 17 partner locations. Add Westerville’s library and we have many locations in our area to find a book for free.

The Columbus library kicks off the Summer Reading Challenge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 2 at the main library. The program runs until Aug. 4, with opportunities for readers of all ages to track their progress and earn prizes.

“It is critically important that children always have access to books and reading, whether in school or out, and that parents understand they are their child’s first teachers,” said Ben Zenitsky, marketing and communications specialist for the library system.

Kelly Wegley, coordinator of academic achievement and professional development for Worthington Schools, agreed, saying, “Reading is important for life. Reading over the summer, even as few as four to six books, has the potential to make a difference in preventing the summer slide.”

Not every child has these choices, so libraries have established outreach programs and some work with schools.

“We go to select areas, day cares and preschools where children may not have ready access to books,” said Lindsey Smith, outreach with Worthington Libraries. That library system’s summer-reading program runs from May 29 to July 29.

“Our help center transitions to the summer-reading program to prevent the slide,” Smith said. “We have tons of programs and prizes. Every child who completes the program is entered into a raffle to win a bicycle and everyone who finishes gets a prize.”

Upper Arlington has a Summer Library Club for all ages from May 21 to July 31. Patrons can track their reading time, and after 10 hours of reading and 10 activities, such as visiting a park or a library program, they will receive a coupon prize package.

When readers complete 20 hours of the same, they can earn a free book and are entered into a drawing for a grand prize for each age group.

“We have poolside story time on Fridays in June and July,” said Christine Minx, the library’s marketing and community relations manager. “Kids can include the time they spend listening to stories on their reading log.”

Jenni Chatlos of Upper Arlington said her family looks forward to participating in the Summer Library Club each year.

“It gives us a goal to reach,” she said. “It’s a fun way to keep all of us reading over the summer. Then the kids are better prepared for school in the fall.”

Her son, Nate, 6, said, “I like the program because you get to read any book you want. The more you read, the bigger and better prize you get.”

Open the pages of a book this summer and see the world through words.

For more information, visit columbuslibrary.org, worthingtonlibraries.org or ualibrary.org, or check out your local library.