Mom was taking a walk down memory lane this morning. With Memorial Day approaching it had her remembering Michael and his always grilling out and inviting family to come enjoy the burgers. While the food was good, the family time was better. She misses that, as we all do. Pieces of our family puzzle are disappearing and leaving those gaping holes. A portion of the full image gone. Missing are colors and lines and life.
The puzzle is still good, as long as one member remains, it is simply different. As long as there is one voice, one spot of color filled laughter and heartbeat, value remains. My maternal grandmother was a firm believer in family. She taught that truth to mom who has passed it on down to us. My hope is that our own children understand that message and continue with it as time passes.
Since mom started the journey, and the prompt for today was desk, I believe I will continue on with the visit myself. Growing up here on this narrow, dead end, dirt road was a wonderful gift. I’ve listened to mom talk about other places that had been considered, but in the end, property was purchased here. It was here, the incredible adventures of life have happened.
My grandfather was an imposing figure with his size, but his heart, intelligence, and sense of adventure, earned him respect, not fear. He was also very loving and brave. He taught me how to drive a tractor to help plow the garden. While Big Red was not a very imaginative name, it fit. A large tractor that got the job done quickly, especially with his trained, competent hands on the wheel.
Planting that garden and tending it was work, but we knew the rewards. Nothing beats the taste of vegetables out of your own garden. Even though he was our grandfather, from him we learned many lessons. In retrospect, his garden planting wasn’t only the vegetables we enjoyed upon harvest and through the winter. There was us, my brothers and me. Since we lived next door to them, we spent a great deal of our time with them. Dad worked out of town a lot and mom worked the day shift. When school was out, with were with them. What a garden of adventure we were given. Planted in love, fed the lessons that would help us to grow and become well adjusted and productive adults. Under the summer sun and those huge Oak shade trees we were allowed to grow. The wonderful home cooked meals that fed our bodies, the fresh water from the well keeping us hydrated and the wonders of all outdoors that fed our imagination.
We were allowed to grow, to become strong, to reach for the sun in our life and dreams. We were given all we needed with extra helpings of love. We were taught, that school, like it or not, was important. That the lessons and homework a necessary activity. It was just as essential for our minds to grow as it was our bodies. You come to learn that snapping beans on the front porch on a summer day gives you time to slow down, to rest, to reset. Digging row after row of potatoes is an amazing scavenger hunt not only for the potato, but to see who could find the oddest, or the most recognizable shapes created underground.
When my grandfather prepared to plant potatoes, he would lay out the row then fill it with a thick layer of leaves. Place the feeder potato then a layer of leaves then dirt. It kept the potatoes cleaner as it fed them. I see that also as us. We were placed in an area layered in love, covered in protection of the heart and fed with compassion and intelligence. Along with that understanding of respect and responsibility.
As we grew, the weeds of our life was cleared away. Disrespect, lack of responsibility, laziness, ignorance, as any less than desirable trait appeared, it was shown to us and we were taught better.Grandpa was an amazing gardener. While his vegetable garden produced an amazing bounty, it overflowed into our lives as well.
Grandpa would bring in some amazing finds that fed that imagination in abundance. He also had these incredible stories to tell of his youth that left young eyes wide and minds opened. Stories that fed the adventures of youth. Stories that would send us back out to play but with visions of creativity. Our bikes changed into things other than simple bicycles. They became parade floats, horse, cars, magic carpets that had us releasing the handlebars with arms spread wide and a heart filled with joyous freedom. Sticks became horses, rags and strings the necessary bridle and saddle. Off into an adventure building homesteads and outposts at the edge of the woods. Creating trails that filled an ever expanding and growing mind and body. Sheets of tin became clubhouses, castles, hide outs for western train robbers.
Very little was denied us. Except for that desk. The mystical, magical, pristine desk. Many times we would see him sitting there, examining a stamp, or a coin, or reading from his Bible. We could stand near, but don’t touch. The things inside a mystery. The top usually all but bare. He was one who was organized and neat, even in his collecting ways. That desk, was his private place. He shared everything else without hesitation, but that desk.
I have that desk. It sits in front of a window in this room. It definitely isn’t empty. I think though that I keep it covered over with stuff, so that my son won’t come in and sit a drink down on it without thinking. Even though I have a chair at that desk, I’ve never sat there. I use the drawers, but not the actual desk. I still envision my grandfather, sitting there, working on his coins or stamps or reading from his many faith based books. I have those too.
Most importantly, most precious, though, are the memories. I may walk the woods today. I think I need a more physical visit to memory lane. I need to walk down the paths to where the garden in the ‘bottoms’ once grew. Imagine the twine that stretched across the fields, filled with those tin pie pans that reflected the sunlight and danced in the breeze. I need to find a wide spot in the creek to wade in as I listen for the sound of his voice in the wind. To walk along where the road he had built in the woods to drive the tractor for good, fertile woods dirt for his garden. To wander by what is left of his shop and gaze out across the yard where we played.
To hope in my heart, that the planting and care that he did in my life, has in the past produced good things. That currently what my life grows and shares is worthy of what he tended so long ago. To hope beyond hope, that I have made him proud. That the mysteries of the desk, is simply that even in this garden of life, we all need that one space that is ours.