The Plot Thickens

[Previous Rural Farmgirl, April 2009 – May 2010]
Family has been on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps it is because my two oldest sons, who have been out of country, are home for their first visit in nearly a year. Maybe it is because the holiday season seems to be approaching like a runaway locomotive that no one can slow down. Or just maybe it is the farm tours and the pumpkin patches and apple cider festivals that I have attended on the last few weekends that have me feeling all warm, fuzzy, and reflective.

(Thomas now 22, Lucas 21)

This week as I took a walk through the great little rural community where I live, I strolled down the street by the local park, kicking leaves as I took my mind for a walk, blowing out the cobwebs that seem to have taken residence there.
 I could not help but take notice of all the young families that had their little ones bundled up, out in the fresh air enjoying the beautiful fall day, too. I love the scene and the sounds of such an outing. I haven’t forgotten how hard the simplest chore can be when you try to accomplish it, with a little one attached to each leg, and so I could appreciate the effort that I know went into getting them to this place. I can still remember the days of praying that I could sit down with a cup of coffee and a magazine and not end up wearing the coffee or somehow “eating” the magazine, as little ones rushed onto my lap or made me “base” for their game of tag. And don’t get me started on the task of getting them bundled up for an outing. I find myself smiling both inside and out as I watch the little ones with their hats, snowsuits, and gloves waddle towards the slide too stiff to bend, needing assistance to get to the top.
 I remember, too, thinking I would never see the day when caring for the physical needs of a young family was my only daily accomplishment. Yet, here I am—the boys are now 22, 21, 18 and 12. And while on occasion I am still dubbed “base,” it is hard to believe that these men are those same little people. However, they can still get my eyes to light up when they walk into a room. Where does the time go? I regret at times that I was so wasteful with it, wishing it away or thinking that there was an endless supply of it. I also wasted a lot of time being hurt and angry. For me those emotions are time stealers and they leave you living in the past unable to enjoy the present. In addition, since I feel that I have already lost so much time, I refuse to give anymore to such things.
I feel fortunate that family is a legacy that we get to pass down to our kids. Both my hubby and I come from large rural families where the cousins in every generation are close…more friends than cousins. We are active in their lives. My husband’s family owns a family cabin nestled in the Blue Mountains that has served as “family central.” For more than 100 years, the family has been hosting events on the same weekends every year up there. People from each generation show up, sit out on lawn chairs and share about what is going on in their lives.
 On my side of the family we have a great big family reunion at Sun Lakes State Park every five years, and the women have taken to hosting a “ya-ya” weekend once a year. Aunties, grannies and young marrieds all head for a beach house on the coast and spend the week keeping those family bonds tight. I cried when I missed this trip this year, since it took place while I was busy watching pigs fly (see post below). The group is filled with amazing women, including my grandma Doris, who is the woman I want to be. I have never met a woman more talented, more giving or more warm-hearted. My grandma Doris cannot see wrong in others. No matter what kind of scoundrel the person may be, you will hear my GG say something like, “But, she has the most beautiful eyes…” What’s not to love about that? Then there is my Aunt Betty, who is not really an aunt but is my mom’s cousin. This is a woman who appreciates my “wild side.” She and my mom’s sister, Aunt LeRae, were godsends early in my life. While I was still an awkward teen and young adult trying to find my way into this family that had adopted me, they made me think that I would somehow be okay, that in time the rebel child in me would settle herself down. While they were wrong, of course (tee hee), back then I needed to know that it was at least a possibility. I was a gypsy girl in the land of no-gypsy people. Of course, the list goes on and on, but you get my point. These are the people that when you look into their eyes it is like holding up a mirror to my soul. They are my gauge showing me where I am and where I need to be. They are the group that “knew me when” and know each of my battle scars and hurdles.
This week I was given a very precious gift. While the boys were home, my mom and the boys hosted a surprise 25th wedding anniversary party for my husband and me. Boy was I shocked. I had been told that it was a dinner party for my grandparents, and since I have missed so much time with them this year, I was determined to get there, which of course made the boys’ job easier. I even stayed up late hand stitching a pillow for my grandparents. As people began to file in, I thought it odd that my in-laws were there, but on second thought…why wouldn’t they be? It didn’t dawn on me until I saw the cake that the party was for us. The gift I spoke of is a group of pictures of ALL the parental figures for Tom and me on their 25th wedding anniversaries:
a reminder of the legacy of love that we come from and that our boys come from. It still touches me, and is without a doubt the most sentimental gift I have ever been given. It is true that a picture says a thousand words.
The boys will all be back home for Christmas, and we will find our way to the mountain cabin where there is no electricity, or phones, or cell phone or internet service. We will drag out the board games and the cards, and if we are lucky, we’ll get Lucas to play his guitar as we grab hold of great grandma’s old hymnals. We will find time for snowboarding, and visiting friends and family, and doing some Christmas caroling.
In my aging years, I am learning that family is what we make it. Very few families are a whole series of Norman Rockwell paintings…but we can all have one Rockwell moment, even if we have to create our own families or put on the rose-colored glasses in order to see it. Family has not always been easy for me, but with time, I have been able to grasp a few truths like, “it isn’t the job of others to make me happy” and “people can’t give what they don’t have.” I have also had to acknowledge that others have to give me as much grace as I may feel that they require. Not all family situations are in our control to mend; I know this from personal experience. But for those that are, my prayer as we enter the holiday season is that each of us will till the soil in the ole’ family plot. That we will pull up the dead weeds, rid it of the seeds of discord, lay down a couple layers of grace and forgiveness, plant the seeds of inclusion, then stand back to see what grows. You never know…your winter garden may be the biggest bounty of the year. Oh, and be sure to grab the camera for your Rockwell moment.

  1. Betsy says:

    Unfortunately there is only by sister and I left of our family. I am fortunate to have 3 children. One daughter lives with us with her son of 12 because of her health issues. I have a daughter with 2 young children and hour away and see her weekly plus plan holidays for all to attend. However, my son and his wife and 2 year old son live in mainland China where my son met his wife while he was teaching English in a university. Last year on Christmas eve we sat down in front of our computer and watched them open their presents with the grandchild running to the computer cam to show us what he got. It was exciting but also sad as I just want them home. Everyone needs to enjoy their families whether they are small or large. Do whatever you can to be together. God bless you and give you a wonderful holiday.

  2. O'Dell says:

    Hi Rene,
    You are right about not having "Rockwell" pictures of many families. I do have to dig deep to find good memories of my childhood, but they are there. I recall helping fix Thanksgiving dinners,getting all dressed up, and eating in our dining room (reserved for special holidays). The aroma of the fresh bread, and stuffed turkey was wonderful..I recall looking out to our field, and seeing the beautiful colored leaves, fall being my favorite time of year. We were a large family, with all our different personalities, seemed like there was always a new baby on the way…life was chaotic at best. These days, with my children grown, and now with 5 little grandchildren, I make sure that we have lots of fun, so they will have good memories of times past, when they are grown. We play games, bake cookies, and watch their favorite movies together. I too, have one son who lives away, and I miss him greatly. But this is what he has chosen for his life and I feel I must let him live his own life. I look forward to seeing the little ones, and when I’m not with them, I’m usually busy making them new dresses,or pajamas..or a needlepoint picture for their rooms. Being a grandma is the best thing ever, for sure!
    so, happy Halloween to you……and all the other bloggers!

  3. Loretta Hoffman says:

    Rene, You will not believe this, but my son who has married a Brit and now resides in England, showed up at our country home in the middle of September. There are 7 siblings, with the yougest daughter being the central figure of the family. This was the first time they had all been together in 12 years. Tom left to return home yesterday, and now God in His infinite grace and wisdom allowed me to read what you are sharrin. It is such a peaceful feeling just knowing there is another person who understands the many feelings of this blessing.
    Happy Autumn and continue to enjoy the beauty.

  4. Laurel says:

    I want to thank you for this blog. Just 2 weeks ago I had a big fight with my son. I thought we had put a gigantic wedge between us. I have apologized for my actions. The phone conversation still felt a little cool. He is coming home this week end I will get to see if things are better. I think I may share this blog with him.
    Family is important and it is just the 4 of us. No extended family (or very little and not close). I have dreamed that someday we would have a big Christmas with the grandkids and a table full of wonderful goodies.
    Thanks again

    Best of wishes to you and your son Laurel. I want it all to turn out well for the both of you.

  5. Michele Kirkman says:

    Rene’, You are so right about grabbing those precious moments when you can.
    My sweet husband died almost 10 years ago when my son was 16. My son became even more special to me and we have been closer than most moms and sons I know.
    I never want to miss a minute of what is happening im his life.
    Jared got married a year ago and luckily, for me, his bride loves me and understands my son’s and my bond.

    Life is too short and precious to miss any of the moments Rockwell like or not

  6. Gary says:

    Thank You Rene’, for sharing precious memories of time spent with Family. We have all spent times like that with our Families, and the places where we spent those times will always have a Special feel about them.
    I also find those feelings well-up when I am in similar places that remind me of bygone times that will live forever in my Heart.
    GodSpeed to Y’all…!
    in Tampa

  7. Kris says:

    I was having a horrible day before I read your blog. My spirits lifted, the day got better. It disintegrated again. We need to remember that Rockwell knew these things too. Remember the kid with the hobo bundle on a stick at the soda fountain with the policeman who was going to take him home? We can all go home again. Perhaps that is the essence of the farmgirl experience – the knowledge that we are all tied to a certain life.

  8. Bonnie Ellis says:

    Rene: What you are telling us is to have Joy, no matter what family we didn’t or do have. One son lives in Texas and the other is far away also.No parents or grandparents either. I could be sad because they aren’t around, but that’s what memories and photos are for. This year I am digging out photos from the past and will computerize them so I can give some to my kids and put the rest on my small tree. My heart goes out for those who have lost loved ones. Christmas is about joy, and and joyful remembrance. I wish both for everyone. Thanks for the post.


  9. Kathy Aubrey says:

    Miss you girl. I am glad that we have seen more of each other this past week. You are part of our family.
    Yesterday I took my mom to the Tri-Cities to meet up with cousins and Aunts and Uncle for lunch. My cousins brought my aunt from Lewiston who has Alzheimer and my Aunt and Uncle from Pasco were there My Aunt will be 90 in May and my mom will be 88 in Jan. We girls kept looking at our parents in amazment saying darn we have good genes. We are very lucky to have longevity in our family and we know that we need to get them together more often. So Family reunion time is coming up next year. We are starting to complile all of our information for a family tree for next reunion.
    love your blog and love ya

  10. Raynita says:

    Thanks for sharing these very wise words:)

  11. Debbie says:

    Rene, I cried like a baby then laughed and then cried again when I read your blog today. I have been feeling so overwhelmed with taking care of grandchildren and all the other "stuff" in my life right now. With all the work that needs doing I haven’t been able to just be Grandma. After reading your blog though I am reminded that the time I have with them while they are little is limited. Soon they too will grow into young men and women and I want to cherish every minute of "now" with them while I can. Bless you for your thoughtful and insightful writing. Love you girl.

  12. Diane says:

    All I can say is Wow! What a great blog and perfect timing, the Holiday’s can always stir up family issues. I am going to share this with my family and hope that it gives them the same warm feelings that I have when reading it. I look forward to your blog every week. God bless you and have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  13. Reba says:

    You have a way with words that expresses exactly what is in my heart. I only have one daughter, but she is living in the States this year. Yeah!! So, we are enjoying Autumn, and will enjoy the Holidays together!! It doesn’t matter much about gifts, just the gift of Each Other!

  14. Betty says:

    I have not spoken with my brother, nor do I anticipate talking with him, since my mother died in 1999. I don’t know what has happened to our little family, but I think the Viet Nam war really messed him up. But fortunately I am still close with my sister and we speak weekly on the phone. I don’t think I ever knew what closeness was in our family and would like to find it some day. I have my own two sons and we are close–which is very good.
    Betty in Pasco

  15. Holly says:

    Dear Rene,
    Truer words were never spoken! What a wonderful post! It seems like a lot of us were touched by your words.
    I was reading a book today, the Christmas List, and I got to thinking about my attitude towards joy. It seems that we (I) look at people and determine my relationship with them by what joy they bring me. After all, who wants to invest in someone that doesn’t want you around!!! But I’ve come to realize that I’m thinking backwards. The question I need to ask myself is "What joy can I bring them?" Not only to I get the gift of giving to someone else, but it’s often doubled by what they give back. And even if they don’t, I’ve been blessed in the process.
    I have such fond memories of family gatherings when I was young, but due to scatterings, deaths and frankly, not wanting to put effort into it, many of those times have slipped away and my kids have not been able to grow up with those same experiences that I had as a kid. We’ve been able to rekindle a few things lately. It’s funny how I dread the effort and inconvenience, yet come away from such a gathering so thankful that I did it. I need to do it more.
    Happy Anniversary! What a wonderful legacy to your children…they obviously think so too!!
    Blessings to you Rene!

  16. Kathy Eckholt says:

    My biggest fantasy is to someday have all my sisters living in the same place, kind of a compound sort of thing. Where we can eat breakfast together in our jammies if we want. I live next door to our Mom and one sister lives 45 minutes away, another two hours away, the third six hours away and one 12 hours away. We are quite close, of course we have our squabbles but we all know that we love each other and that is special. But to be able to just chat for no reason and not have to "catch up" on the latest would be so wonderful. We haven’t had a whole family Christmas in years, but I keep hoping someday.

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