I took one last glance over my shoulder into the living room, through the dining room and out the large windows facing south to the beloved view of my mom, fields and forest. Then, a few steps out the front door (that we rarely used) and the wooden door latched behind me. I turned, put the key in the lock, and with one click it was done. That chapter in my life was over.
I sighed lightly and smiled a bit. Then I resolutely walked across the front porch, down the steps and continued down the long sidewalk to my car. Glancing around one last time, I saw the sandstone cliffs, the green pastures, the red barns, the well-worn cement feed bunks and the white fence. The grey machine shed and silver grain bins sparkled in the late afternoon sun. As I drove over the trickling creek tucked under the driveway and down the long path (the same one we used to dread traversing in mud after the school bus dropped us off) and pulled out onto the road, I said a silent good bye to the weathered mailbox and ‘Johnson Angus Farms’ sign that has guarded the homestead for 57-plus years.
This place gave me roots, here in the Midwest where common sense prevails. Farms and families surrounded us, literally and figuratively. Memories bubble up inside me: sledding down the back hill; 4-H hayrides; chasing fireflies and watching them glow inside glass jars with holes punched in the top; picking up sticks in the yard after a windstorm blew through; lying on the grass looking at fluffy clouds in the bluest sky; discovering a new batch of kittens nestled in the haymow in early spring, which meant a summer of fun; riding bikes with my sisters up and down the sidewalk and driveway…
I remember skinning a few knees and shedding a few tears; washing cattle for the county fair and practicing showmanship in our front yard; napping with my dad on a scratchy green army blanket on the grass on a Sunday afternoon; helping my mom harvest raspberries (ouch!) and asparagus (yum!).
How I treasure these thoughts as they now live in the big city surrounded by four walls, yet content to be free of the farms duties.
Memories swirl. Good times. Trying times. Family times together.
The house is white and square. It sites half way up the hill, trees peeking out behind it, the farm spreading out below it. On the landscape sits barns, sheds, a cattle yard, pastures, fields and more fields. The house is a subject I’ve painted and photographed through the years. Those will stay with me, for now.
This place matters. And it doesn’t.
“Going home” is now a place in my mind, secure and safe there. I crave that sense of place. Belonging SOMEWHERE and knowing the house and farm will always be there. That feeling can overcome me in other places at any time. The base it laid was strong and solid and compelling. It bubbles to the surface later in life when I’m searching for inner strength.
Saying goodbye to my childhood home and the farm that raised me is bittersweet yet hopeful. I see that others will soon put down roots that will sprout again, to nourish and grow a family all on this piece of land I once called home.