Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Peculiar Human Emotion: Homesickness

This post is a copy of a writing asignment in a class I am currently taking online.
I regularly read a blog written by a young woman who currently lives in in Europe. She recently wrote a post that not only resonated with me, but also reminded me of a recent journaling exercise that followed in a similar vein.

The young lady grew up in one country but when she was ready to attend University she eagerly left it and emigrated to England. There she found her “soul” home (as well as a husband). Unfortunately there are laws on emigration that must be obeyed and visa expired, she was forced to move back to to her home country. In one of her her posts she wrote about all the places in England that she had hopes of visiting. She wrote of the beauty she encountered and of the things that she once had but has no longer. I felt great sympathy for her when I read her post on being homesick for England. I, too have a “soul” home that I cannot return to.

My father grew up on a farm in south central Minnesota just outside of a small town called St. James. It sat on 80 acres. That is quite small by today’s standards, yet it provided a good income for the family “in the day.” When my grandfather died and my grandmother went into assisted living, the farm contents were auctioned off, the land sold; the buildings and the old-growth grove of trees surrounding the buildings were torn down and then plowed under. There is no trace left of that magical place.

Like that young lady, I visit again and again in my mind. For me, I remember certain things: the smell of fresh cut alfalfa, the dusty light in the barn at feeding time, the taste of homegrown produce filling the table at mealtime, the sound of the yellow rose bush scratching at the dining room windows and the crackly stiffness of corn cob leaves just before harvest.

I remember Grandpa hunched over the kitchen radio trying to listen to the Twins game between lightning-caused static cracks. I remember Grandma sitting on the kitchen counter eavesdropping on phone conversations over the party line. I remember the huge lavender-colored lilac blooms on a tall bush that decorated the middle of the chicken yard. I remember the red box elder bugs that Grandma would sweep off the living room walls into a dustpan and shake them out over the chicken yard fence as a treat for the birds. I remember picking eggs out of the hens’ nests and carefully placing them in wire baskets for washing and storage in the coolness of the root cellar where they sat until the egg-man came to pick them up. I remember shoveling silage down out of the silo and breaking apart the bales of alfalfa for the cows at feeding time. I remember the grunts and squeals of the pigs as they bumped each other out of the way to be the first at the trough.

We would walk half a mile up a gravel road to collect the mail from the grouping of mailboxes at the junction. Sometimes Grandpa would use the tractor to go get the mail. He’d let us stand alongside his seat and we would laugh when the bugs would hit our cheeks as we barreled down the road leaving a plume of dust rising in the air behind us.

In spring when the ditches were full of water, we would find long sticks to tie strings onto so that we could try fishing in them. (No one spoiled our fun by telling us there were no fish in the ditches.) We built forts in the grove to the north of the house and we played "Wagon Train" all over the farm yard. Grandma would fill our canteens with orange Kool-aid and pack some candy bars in our lunch boxes.

When I grew old enough to learn to drive, it was Grandpa who put me behind the wheel in the middle of a freshly mowed alfalfa field. He directed me in circles and figure eights until he knew I could handle the car, and then together we set off down the gravel roads.

In time that young lady in Europe could find her way back to England to visit her special places or even live there permanently. I sincerely hope, not only that she does, but that she writes about it as well. While I won’t be as fortunate, now that the farm no longer exists, I will honor and cherish those memories and more.