The town, being in the opposite direction of the way we usually drive to visit home, is not a place we pass through very often, and for good reason. It is out of the way, not unlike most other small towns in rural America, with a few struggling businesses, an identity centered around its High School, and a few well maintained houses amidst many other ramshackle homes with weedy and junk-filled lawns. It is however, the town of my youth, and thus passing through for the first time in a while sparked many fond memories. I learned to play baseball on the old little league field. I spent many evening and holiday nights with my parents at the aged and weathered local Grange Hall (no doubt stirring up some sort of trouble). Those memories, though nearly 30 years old, still managed to bring a smile to my face.
After passing through town, we took the back road to the farm. This was the road the school bus carried me home on so many afternoons. It was once so familiar to me that I could have driven it, with all its twists, turns, and steep shoulder drop offs blindfolded, in my 74' Malibu - the cassette player blaring out some 80's iconic song (most likely a Van Halen ballad). Yesterday though, there was no blindfold. Only the smell of freshly cut hay bales, wrapped the day before by my brother Ron. Those giant marshmallows dotted the fields and reminded me of some life-sized surrealist pastoral landscape placed just so, in a museum, to make you stop, drown out all other thoughts and ponder their meaning.
Grandma and Grandpa were eager to see Lukas. They had seen him the weekend before in Seattle, but it had been about 3 months (they go by so fast) since we had last visited home. This time Lukas is over a year old and much more in tune with the things around him. It was not long before Grandpa had scooped up Lukas and carried him to the big green John Deere tractor and hay baler. They climbed up and in, started it, and drove forward and back a few feet for the full effect. This was Uncle Ron's tractor and was almost an exact duplicate of one in a Baby Farm book that Lukas enjoys reading. The tractor was parked close to the yard, where the barbecue and party were focused, so every time we set him down Luke would make a b-line towards the tractor, his index finger extended, making a 'ga' sound. He was transfixed! Grandpa also took Lukas to the barns to see a baby calf and his mother, both of which brought expressions of joy to his face. The milking cows, who were out grazing in a nearby field of lush green grass, were another source of wonderment for Lukas who stared at them with wide eyes (perhaps because they were black and white, like our cat 'Albert' and his favorite stuffed monkey 'Monkey'!)
The party was a birthday party for my Sister (two years older than I) and my Niece, who is now 20 years old. It was hard to believe that Luke's oldest cousin was born when I was 20 myself! I have watched her grow from a baby into an amazing young lady, who is studying to be a teacher. There were also many other family members to ohh and ahhh at all the fun little things Lukas did and, true to form, he basked in the attention. At the end of the day, it had been another great party. Another chance for Lukas to get familiar with family members who will always be there for him as he grows up. At a place that will always be there for him to visit as well. A place steeped in family history. A place that is full of new and interesting things to do and see. A place where his 'dada' learned about life, the value of working hard, and the love and laughter of family.
For the afternoon at least, it was nice to be home.