“Away down east in the Pine Tree State, there is a lake dearer to my heart than all the other waters of this fair earth, for its shores were the scenes of my boyhood,
when life was young and the world a romance still unread.”
~C.A. Stephens, Stories from the Old Squires Farm~
We’re officially on Thanksgiving break as of noon. After piano on Wednesdays, the kids and I usually stop by the library. They picked out three movies–I told you we’re on break–and I came home with a couple of new books. On the way to Fort Wayne I’d listened to a podcast on the topic of “Forgotten Classics”. The title I came away with, the one I knew I needed to read, was “Stories From the Old Squire’s Farm”, by C.A. Stephens. The guest, Martin Cothran, called it the Little House books of the Northeast.
He says the best books always are the ones that are regional. I’m not sure why, but that tidbit stuck with me, though it wasn’t the region that caught my attention. The story is about six orphaned children who go to live with their grandparents. The grandparents raise the children, who eventually grow up and move away. In time, the grandparents get old, no longer able to live on their own. I’m not sure exactly how or how many, but the children realize it is nothing less than their moral duty to care for their aging relatives, the ones who took them in and cared for them in their youth. They move back to care for their grandparents.
I related to this story, even though I’ve yet to read it. I’ve been watching for months as my grandparents age to the point of needing help. Only one of their three daughters lives close, and she, for the most part, has borne the burden of caring for them. Here I am, regions away, wrestling with the guilt and injustice of seeing two people who spent their lives caring for others now literally limping along, needing so many people who aren’t there. My sister and her husband moved from Minnesota to go live with them.
My grandparents were basically my second set of parents. Where mom and dad couldn’t, they filled in the gaps. The spiritual richness of my childhood, the physical provision of a roof and new school clothes, the companionship of someone to spend time and listen–these are the gifts that came to me because of them. I was five years old when my grandmother inherited her mother’s inheritance, and she and my grandpa took the money and built their house. I stood in the hole where the house would stand. I watched grown men with businesses unearth the boulders with their very own bulldozers, pushing them back into a pile by the tree, the same tree where Jessica and Liz and I would play. The 1950’s chair still sits in the corner.
I tell my grandma this anytime we’re back to visit. “Grandma, your house looks the same as it always has”. As a woman now, I understand the sensitivity in wondering if the statement of this fact is a compliment or not. She always seems mildly apologetic for the lack of change, and reminds me in her way that “Well, Honey, people were raised differently back then than they are now.” The same decorative soaps and even shower curtains are there. My aunt used to bring back soaps from Walt Disney World, and there were always a few travel shampoos on the side of the sink with the quote from Walt Disney himself,
“Everybody neat and pretty? Well then, on with the show!”
Who knows if I’ll even have time to read these. The family is all coming in for Thanksgiving. This is the second year my husband and I have hosted, mostly because we’ve got the space, and compared to my sisters and their seasons of life, I’ve got the time. My parents hosted us for several years, then my sister and her husband. I’ll admit part that part of the reason I welcomed the chance to take this on is to prove to people that I can be an adult. There were a few years in there, where I was not hosting, and my hands were less tied with my own smaller kids, and I felt, for lack of no other word, free.
I was free to enjoy life, to dance in the kitchen, to go and visit a friend for breakfast. “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.” I’m not sure what that verse has to do with anything I’m saying, but those are the kind of words I wholly wish to live by. As the holiday Thanksgiving crazy slowly closes in, I’ve got nothing to prove to this family of weary travelers, only two open arms to welcome with love, these fellow humans with whom I have shared my whole life.