Those early years… we lived … farm and small town life… together. Daddy farming. Mother canning pickles, apple sauce, and strawberry jam. While Carlton and Kathy’s lived on the homeplace, we spent quite a bit of time there as well.
During the school year, my Tim taught K-12 social studies, phys.ed., and coached wrestling. So, as remains common in small towns, the school and the church were the hubs of activity outside the farming and ranching demands.
My Swedish ancestors planted the church we attended. Mother sang solos, quartets, and in the choir. She even taught children’s Sunday School to be with Heidi and Jamie. Daddy served on the deacon board and often sang in quartets and the choir as well. His soft-spoken mother had been the longest serving organist for the church for many years.
Huddling around a piano to sing hymns… one of my most cherished childhood memories. Mother made sure our brothers, Kathy and I learned to play the piano. While I don’t ever remember not having a television, we lived in such a rural area we only had one channel out of Cheyenne for years. We made time to watch the evening news, but we certainly didn’t allow it to steal our time. (Once the technology was more widespread our rural community still only had three channels available until the early 80s.)
So, yes, working land and all the support tasks to keep a farm going forged a work ethic in me… that I didn’t realize was that uncommon until I was much older. Work awakened us. And we worked until the sun tucked itself away. Yes, we worked. But, we also praised and prayed.
Our morning routine included coffee, circling around a table, and reading the Bible and Our Daily Bread. We prayed for the weather today and missionaries serving in foreign lands. We lifted up others in the community facing hardship. We weren’t vaguely talking to the air, but Jesus was (is) the Hearer of our prayers.
“Jesus Jesus Jesus
There’s something about that name
Master savior Jesus
It’s like the fragrance after rain
Jesus Jesus Jesus
Let Heaven and Earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
There is something about that name
We Love the name
The holy name
Your precious name”
Gloria and Bill Gaither (1970)
On Wednesday evenings, we’d go into town for prayer meeting. We usually went to town for every athletic home game. And commonly we traveled to the away games, too.
We all spent time helping around the farm, though. Whether the intensive hours of harvest or the day-to-day operations, the unspoken expectation… help out wherever and whenever you can.
Except on Sundays. My Dad believed in honoring the Sabbath with worship and rest. My Mom prepared a roast with potatoes and carrots, so we could feast together around the table after church. We discussed the sermon. So, for some, this conversation lingered while others of us cleared the table and washed dishes.
Once the dishes were dried and neatly put away, we’d grab a pillow & a spot to nap. Sunday afternoons meant nap time for everyone. Some seasons this might be to the quiet drone of a football game on the television.
Jamie loved football. Even as a young boy, he’d sit through whole games. He wanted to understand every play and penalty. He’d play catch with anyone willing to play.
He also had the most contagious laugh. I loved to hear him laugh. But to see him laugh… full body joy. We all loved watching he and Heidi run around the living room. We’d shut off the television just to watch those two toddlers.
Coming from an Italian mother and Swedish dad, people often suggested my olive coloring came from the Italian side. My demeanor, though… far more stoic. Some of my siblings’ personalities… far more emotional, demonstrative than mine.
But Jamie’s joy made me smile, too.
Our concept of family was both broader and tighter than may be customary in the USA nowadays. Although Tim and I didn’t live on the home-place, we spent a lot of time there. Jamie and Heidi played outside a lot. They had generous boundaries. They knew not to wonder into the fields or bother Grandpa Ken or any other workers around the farm. My grandparents (Great-Grandparents ) summered on the farm. So, with them, Mother (Grandma Phyllis), Kathy, and me… those two had eyes on them, but a lot of exploring freedom as well.
“A family is a formation center for human relationships.”
– Edith Schaeffer What is a Family? pg.62
We’d often dress Heidi and Jamie in coordinating outfits. I remember their first snow suits. We bundled them up- cozy tight. And they loved playing in the drifts. They looked so much alike in the early years. They played so well together. Sure, they’d fight and argue similar to siblings; however, they’d figure out how to get along again. They had their similarities, compatibilities throughout their childhood.
“A family is a blending of people for whom a career of making a shelter in the time of storm is worth a lifetime…. a family is meant to care for each other, and to be a real shelter- from birth to old age.”
Edith Schaeffer What is a Family? pg. 102-103
They were like “our” twins, so Jamie really was more like a son than a nephew. We loved them, disciplined them, and taught them collectively. And they looked after each other, too.
Three years after Jamie and Heidi were born another nephew who-felt-more-like a son was born to Kathy and Carlton. We only had Michael on the farm for a year before Carlton and Kathy moved to central Nebraska. They moved just before Jamie and Heidi started kindergarten.
And everything changed… Although we all did our best to remain close, everything changes when our lives no longer mingle day to day. Oh how a thunderstorm of tears poured from Heidi when they moved away… We thought that would be the toughest separation these two would learn to endure.
continued… Aunt Karen… after the rain (part 3)