Playing with the mice-catching kittens in the barn and the one-at-a-time house cats: Paley, Happy. Climbing in the haymow. Petting the cows Aunt Lena insisted on naming, recording in her decades worth of meticulously kept journals the birth date, name, sale date and price—just the facts and not the emotion. She and Grandma Ella serving meat and potatoes to our visiting family around the massive dining table. Corn, tomatoes, green beans. Never zucchini, Brussels sprouts, parsnips—disdained fancy vegetables.
Exploring the attic, pulling ancient things out of ancient trunks. The horsehair coat my grandfather wore in the horse drawn sleigh, army uniforms for four. Cranking up the old telephone, pretending to talk on the party line. Running between tall rows of silage corn in the immense fields.
Sleeping in the stifling heat in the “west bedroom” (everything identified by compass direction in the midwest) where my father—born in the “laying-in” room downstairs—slept throughout childhood before moving out west to raise his own family far from home. Gagging on smelly iron-laden well water; hoping the orange-stained toilets would flush. Swinging in the porch swing.
Playing in the “crick.” “Helping” Uncle Donald create whatever he needed in his well-stocked workshop/garage—nothing thrown away, in the house or the outbuildings. The repair pit under the parking space for the consecutive only-American-made travel vehicles that replaced the trailer for blue highway ramblings around the country to visit the scattered siblings, nieces, nephews.
❧ ❧ ❧
Gone now the cow stanchions in the barn, and the cows. Gone the kittens and the house cats. Gone the fields of corn and oats. Empty the silo, the hay mow. Gone the koi in the well pump tank the cows drank around. Silenced the tractors, the combine, the milk wagon. Stilled the porch swing.
Claimed by family members the clock Grandma wound everyday, that stopped on the day “Pop” died, a year before my birth, and had to be repaired. To new homes the mirrors, green canning jars, the camera Aunt Helen carried in WW2, leather-bottom chairs, small tables and cabinets.
Dispersed the dining table, trunks through the ages, the desk Donald made in high school wood shop (mine if I can get it across the country), the wagon wheels that decorated the back yard, the huge picture of the Michigan legislature including great-grandfather Goodell that hung on an upstairs wall. Taken away a few of the 1000s of photographs, scrapbooks holding proof of achievements of six children, and dozens of farming journals—but most will be lost to the ages, going down with other fragments of a century of living in the same house.
Gone Grandma Ella, followed by Aunt Lena. And now, finally, Uncle Donald from his home of nearly all the 105 years since the farm was purchased by his father in 1912.
Remaining forever the barns—and at least for now the house that is no longer the home.
Lingering in the hearts of those who remain, the memories, and the love. Three generations of lucky, lucky childhoods.
In the words of cousin Karen to our Uncle Duck, beloved by all who knew him:
“The chores are done,
the cows are counted.
August 18, 2010—March 1, 2017