This picture of my childhood home was taken from the highway using a zoom lens. The building site is actually a quarter mile off the highway on a township road. Because it was a township road, the school bus picked us up right in front of the house. The other kids, many of whom had driveways longer than a quarter mile, were certain we got preferential treatment. Being only a mile from town, we were also the last ones on and the first ones off for quite a few years – until someone decided to make things “fair” and reverse the bus route mid-year, making us the first ones and the last ones off.
This is the sanctuary of my small “home” church, which was built in 1954 when I was a year old. So much of our lives revolved around church activities – Sunday school, Bible school, programs, youth group. I was married in this church in 1971. All of my sisters were married here as well. Cameron was baptized here. My dad’s and all of my grandparent’s funerals were held in this church. Hundreds of memories – good memories – are contained within its walls. Following church today, coffee and cake were served in mom’s honor. Still very active in church activities and an amazing organizer, she is going to be missed.
We are family. Mom is the pretty lady in the back on the left. Her only sister, my Aunt Barb, is the one in middle of the back row. The other old folks (some of us anyway) are me and my sisters and brothers. Front from the left is Jim (50), Karen (55), Diane (52), and Rob (46); back from left is Mom, Debbie (54), Aunt Barb, Kim (44), and me (the oldest at 56). Whoever first compared a family to a quilt was right on the money. We’re quite a patchwork of unique and very different fabrics – bound together by what matters most on this earth – love.
From the church, we went to the cemetery. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about and miss my dad. He died at home in the early morning hours of August 28, 1997, the day after my 44th birthday. My maternal grandparents and great-grandparents are buried in the same small, rural cemetery. Today, not too far from my dad’s grave, a mother stood at the fresh grave of her 29-year-old son, who was killed in a car accident two weeks ago. Witnessing her grief, I realized how blessed my family has been. While we’ve had our troubles, that kind of tragic loss has not been amongst them.
After completing his college education in Wisconsin, my paternal grandfather came to Minnesota and worked as a county extension agent and then as a manager for Dayton Farms before purchasing my family’s farm in 1917. This house was built in 1929 when my dad was six years old. From what I was told, the lumber, which cost $6,000, was delivered on a skid pulled by horses from Crookston (about 20 miles). The screened, “front” porch on the right holds the “front” door that leads to the “front” hall, a beautiful room that features an open staircase to the upstairs and French door to the “front” room/living room. The “back” porch on the other side of the house was the utility porch with the door leading into the kitchen until it was remodeled after I was gone in the 70s. Now, the door opens to the dining room. As for the door in the middle of the house, you can either go down the basement stairway or up to a tiny room with four doors – one to the kitchen, another to the dining room, and one to the living room. What’s was with all the doors? Initially the house was heated by woodstoves in the various rooms, so which door one used depended on where the wood was being delivered. By the time I came on the scene, the house was heated by oil stoves, one in the corner of the dining room and a much smaller one (one that went out in the middle of the night, making for some frosty mornings) in the hallway upstairs. A furnace that heated the whole house was installed sometime in the late 50s or early 60s. Back to that tiny room with four doors, it became known as “potty hall,” because that was where the potty chair was located. With seven kids, there was almost always someone “in training” for a lot of years. Oh, and that rather oddly placed window above that center door? There was another staircase in the kitchen. The window is at the landing where the two stairways meet and a single stairway takes one upstairs. Considering we made trips down those stairs in cardboard boxes, I’m kind of surprised on of us didn’t go through that window. When I was a kid, there was a big tree on this side of the house that shaded what was probably the biggest sandbox in the county. My dad never did anything small. Our swing set wasn’t too far away. There was also a windmill on this side of the house that was there until someone climbed it when she was six years old. Yup, that would be me, and once I got up there, I was scared to come down. For one thing, I was a long ways up in the air. And, my dad, who was on the ground looking up, was not very happy with me. Mom, I’m sure, was mortified. The very next day, he and a neighbor friend took the windmill down.
I have so many memories of good times on this porch. When I was a kid, it was our “playhouse” in the summertime. We set up our kitchen in the front and bedroom in the back with the other living areas in between. I am certain that between the four of us sisters, we had 100 kids/dolls. Since I’ve grown up, it’s been a great place to enjoy the fresh country air and visit in small groups. Before driving my dad over to my brother’s farm to help with harvest on the Sunday before he died, we had our last conversation on this porch. Our talk included a little discussion about politics, a subject about which we didn’t see eye to eye. A bit exasperated by my views, he told me I was a “dumb sh#$.” While he never would have admitted as much, I know he respected my ideas and appreciated the fact that I had them. As for being called a “dumb sh#$,” I wouldn’t have taken it from anyone else. But it was so normal – so very Dad – that I cherish the memory and laugh every time I think about it.
And finally, one last picture of the house from the front yard. If there is one thing I miss, it’s a huge oak tree in which I spent a considerable amount of time. Yes, I was a bit of a tomboy and probably what one would call a dare devil. I was also a kid who had the privilege of growing up in America’s Heartland – the best place (IMO) in the world. The days could be long. The work was hard. If the sun was shining, and there was hay to be put up on the 4th of July, we worked. And at the end of a long, dusty day in the field, we had to make sure there was enough water for the cattle and other livestock before running bath water. There were times when there was only enough water for one bath, and we drew straws to determine the order of our turns. In the house, there was an endless array of chores as well – the kind of work that goes with a family of nine on a farm. But when the work was done, we had non-stop fun – wholesome, homemade fun. It was good.
My brother’s oldest son is moving into my parents’ house. He’s 29, an electrician, and interested in farming when my brother retires. I would love to see Page children run in this yard again someday and at least, one more generation carry on the farming tradition. It will be 100 years in 2017.
As for Mom, she’s leaving healthy and on her terms – ready for a new adventure. The fact that she chose “my town” is a blessing for me and my family. Who could ask for more?
If you are still with me, thank you for indulging me. I reiterate I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.