Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Gawd am I homesick!!
It always hits me this time of year. Seeing all the fields turn to gold, yellow, and deep green.
At my childhood home in Cloverdale, we have the field behind the house that the local big wheeler farmer works. Each year it can change: yellow for canola, gold for wheat or oats, and my favourite, the blue flowers of flax. For a while, it looks like the land-locked log house is lake front property. Sometimes it has corn, but I have to agree with my brother, Matt, that it looks perfect for a gruesome, farm in the middle of nowhere, axe murder movie. It’s not a favourite.
And it’s flat where I grew up. Like I said in an earlier blog, trees are there for a purpose, to block the wind.
As it says in one of my favourite books, ‘If you’re not from The Prairies, you don’t know wind’ . But it is that wind that sweeps across the blue flax flowers to give our ‘lake’ its waves.
On Neil’s inaugural visit to the homestead, (yes the same Dad & chairs visit) we were heading back from town, and Neil was a bit unnerved that I was driving down the middle of the road. Which I couldn’t understand as he believes lane markers are mere suggestions. And I was saying as much, when he, trying to change the subject, switched the focus to the dot down the road, also in the middle of the road.
I shall note here, as much to my defense as to educate, that on country roads we need to drive in the middle of the road as the gravel pushed to the sides of the road tends to grab your car and throw you into the ditch. And these ditches, designed for spring thaws and their flood waters, are deep. It’s just what you do. But I digress.
We have a running joke in The Prairies: you can watch your dog run away for 3 days, so we were focused on a spec approximately 2 miles down the road, only disappearing occasionally with the slight swells in the road.
"Well, you’re going to hit that car coming!’"argued Neil.
"Oh that’s no car, darling," I smirked knowing that there is only one type of vehicle you can spot 2 miles down the road. And as we raced towards each other, my car and that dot, the ‘dot’ grew bigger, and so did Neil’s eyes.
"That is a Big A’"I presented, as the 2 story tractor passed us. In truth, we probably could’ve have driven under it if it wasn’t for the massive front tire that introduced this colossal three wheeler. I waved to driver who I knew from nearly day dot, Curt McRae, family friends from the farm down the road.
I also remember an August evening, a warm dog-day sun going down and we 3 kids were helping Dad with some straw the farmer of the next field had left for us to bale. The golden light was full of dust and straw particles created a dance of first harvests and me and my siblings joined in as the empty hay trailer made for an excellent stage (and a safe place for my ballet moves).
Mom wasn’t there for some reason, I think she was taking an upholstery class at that time, so Dad was in charge of the dinner.
"Watcha makin’?" we all asked.
‘Tom Surprise’ was Dad’s answer. We all looked at each other with dubious looks. But nodded our collective agreement with the menu chosen.
"I’ll call you when it’s ready", he promised.
Seated around the table, Dad presented his one pot dinner.
‘It’s baked beans?’ I pulled back in huff, slamming my body back into the chair, arms crossed, lip pouting, after peering under the lid.
"What’s so surprising about that?"
Matt took the serving spoon and dug in to the reddish brown mixture and Pop! up sprung a full hot dog straight into the air.
"Surprise!" my dad exclaimed, arms wide as his grin.
He never failed to entertain.
I guess I feel homesickness more keenly this year as I haven’t been to the farm in a long while and Neil is away at the Olympics. I’m not alone, and I’m not lonely, but parts of me are missing, namely the security both Neil and the farm bring, marriedhood & childhood.
When I stop to think why I’m a bit down I immediately think it’s because I have no one to share the day to day things with. And then that takes me to thoughts of my mom who has been widowed for 17 years and my father in law, a widower for 3. How do they do it? And then I shake my head and I say to myself, ‘you weren’t always married, Niki. You were a very independent woman….whoa wait ‘were’?
And it has changed. I brace myself every time Neil goes away as inevitably something BIG happens. And I mean big things. Big A things. Such as kitchen flooding, cars breaking down, contract negotiations, renovation decisions, company, health & life insurance renewals, sicknesses, hospital visits, and my all time favourite.......it all happening at once.
This time it was a car accident. Brooke’s first one and I’m not silly enough to think it’ll be her last. But I immediately went back to Canada. I’ve been driving in the UK for longer but there I was, looking for my parents to tell me what I should do next.
When did I go from solid, instant decision making on my own, Niki to waffling, doubting, fingernail biting Niki?
Then it hit me.
It’s when my decisions impacted directly on others. When my path selection affects those I love and their paths. It’s a sobering thought. And it's not just the old adage - it's not all about you anymore when you get married and have kids. It’s about how it affects the family, sure, but it's also about asking how are they going to react to this situation. Someone's life path is a big responsibility. They should have some say in it. Except for young kids. That is a straight up dictatorship.
It’s not so much I need guidance, but reassurance that this decision, this path altering plan is ok and they are ok to join me on it.
So I get it.
And it’s only something that you get once you’ve been through it.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
All of sudden, not having that sounding board and the reassurance that your choice is ok, is scary. It might not be correct once we’re down the road but at least you know your partner has given you the promise they’re with you on that chosen path. It’s sharing the responsibility of the outcome.
So does independent mean lonely? Or just alone?
Does being a waffler mean weakness? Or just careful?
Like anything, it’s the perspective you bring to it and the question then lies within how you identify with each.
I realise now that my homesickness is not only about not seeing my family or the farm but the inability to relive childhood memories in situ or the ability to recharge in a safe place ready to take on the next segments of life’s surprises.
Who knew baked beans could hold such potent life lessons?
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