Sunday, May 7, 2017

"An' a One, an' a Two!"....or...."Wunnerful, Wunnerful!"

Safe to say, Gabe and Abbie have never heard of Lawrence Welk.  

Lots of reasons that would be true.  First and foremost, they are just turning ten years old.  Tomorrow.  And even though Mr. Welk's musical variety show aired new shows for more than thirty years and still plays on Saturday nights on PBS, Gabe and Abbie didn't sit down together after supper with their parents or grandparents to watch ladies in chiffon and puffy sleeves sing.  Nor did they enjoy ragtime piano or develop a distinct antipathy to Irish tenors.  There is lots of music on television, but these days shows like 'The Voice' or 'America's Got Talent', or even 'American Idol' intersperse a little music with a lot of talk.

By the way, Gabe and Abbie love to watch 'The Voice' and 'Dancing with the Stars' with their mom...when their dad is at harvest.....

So what exactly is the interface between Gabe Harms, Abbie Harms, and a bandleader born in North Dakota more than a century before them?

Just this: their Grandma Julie. I did watch Lawrence Welk with my parents...and my grandparents, and somehow, after all these years, my feelings about Gabe and Abbie...their births, their lives thus far, and the fact that they are turning ten tomorrow brought to mind Mr. Welk with his long baton, facing the camera as it panned out from the orchestra.....

"An' a one...(That's John Gabriel)...., an' a two..."(And here comes Abigail Louise)...

....And aren't they "Wunnerful, Wunnerful"??

Happy Birthday and lots of love, Gabe and Abbie....

Have your daddy find you 'The Lawrence Welk Show' sometime just for fun....

Thursday, May 4, 2017

When Lizzie Smiles

The refrigerator is on the back porch...have I mentioned that?  On the other hand, it is functioning, keeping the milk cold and the cheese safe for consumption with crackers for a Sunday supper.

Ten years ago, that was not the case.  Ten years ago, we were running by Casey's at six in the morning to buy a quart of milk for breakfast. Ten years ago our hand-me-down fridge gave up its chilly ghost during the first week of May and we didn't have time to replace it.

Until May 3, when Blake bought a fridge at Lowe's in St. Joe on his way home from a plant trip and Matt came over to haul it out of the truck and into our kitchen.  Ann was there too....and Lizzie!  Lizzie wasn't around to see the fridge, but we knew she was coming the very next morning, her birthday, which is why I always remember how old our fridge is.

Lizzie!  The first child we knew by name prior to her birth. First grandchild Aaron was introduced after he arrived; Gabe and Abbie were names chosen, but not bestowed until their mom and dad met them.  But we all knew Lizzie would be Elizabeth Carol before ever we saw her, so we spoke of her in conversation like she was just out of sight, like we knew her, like she was a person we had yet to meet at the airport, the train station, the bus stop....

And there she was!  Sleepy and soft wearing a pink headband.  I remember texting Kenzie that she was a beautiful baby girl.

Baby Lizzie had big blue eyes and an infectious toothless grin....

.And she has kept that inviting and captivating smile through these ten years, toothless or tooth-ful, braced or un-braced.


Love you, Lizzie!  Wishing you so many more smiles and excitement and happiness for this birthday and more to come!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Toast!

We like to toast...or "Clink and Drink", as Levi calls it whenever his mommy fills him a glass with juice.  We are people who will toast a success, a season, a wedding, a baby, the end of harvest, the completion of a project, togetherness, even survival...
....and tomorrow, we will be celebrating a birthday...a big one, the kind with a zero.  And because our kitchen has no appliances and it's the middle of plant season, this post falls into the category of  "in lieu of".  

What I mean is: 'in lieu of ' a cake aflame with candles, a great big celebration, a super special present.....'in lieu of'...a steak dinner, a night out, a singing card'....or any of those other surprises or commemorations or decorations or ways of measuring six decades.... here's what you get.....

Here's  a slide show of lots of what you love, Blake.  Here are your grandkids, and your farm, and your kids.  Here are you and me enjoying our work and our travel and our business and our family and baseball.  Here's what you do: thinking and reading and writing and talking about life on the two lanes and the gravel roads, life in rural America in small towns and farm fields, changed from the generations that preceded us on this land, but still rooted in community and stewardship of what matters most.

Happiest of birthdays to you, even though it's just another working April 21st; enjoy good work, beautiful flowers, loving family, and some hot jazz.

A toast!  

And a few remembrances from our recent...and not so recent past.... 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Flowers of the Field

The stove is in the garage; the fridge is on the back porch; the microwave perches on a church pew.  The coffeepot still lives, parked on a plastic Rubbermaid tub with two plaster dusted mugs and a box of Starbucks pods alongside.  Our kitchen, always the heart of our house, is down to bare bones.

Forty years ago, my mother and father sold their land in Calloway county and bought a property with a limestone creek, a gabled barn, a milking parlor, some pasture ground and a couple of fields planted to milo. They had a vision and over the years they realized their plan, seeding the upland field to warm season prairie grasses, building ponds, and fences, and facilities in and around the big barn for handling cattle and storing hay.  The milo fields became a pasture, and an orchard.  The rundown outbuildings were painted red and roofed in silver, jacked up and leveled and put to use.  There was a bountiful garden with soil mellowed by well aged manure carted up a wheelbarrow at a time from the red barn floor.  Over time the rambling old home was remodeled; two greenhouses spoke to the resident green thumbs; a swing set was built for grandchildren and a telescope turned the former milking parlor into a planetarium.  Summertime and wintertime:  holidays and harvests: the farmstead was a lovely busy fruitful place.

But neither a house, nor a farm, really makes a home.  The couple who lovingly restored and improved and transformed the worn out ground and aged house are worn and aged themselves.  The gardens have gradually shrunk and the apple trees are bent and broken.  The place is still lovely; the pastures with well fed cattle, the grasslands without sprouts, the ponds fenced, the little trees planted decades ago now mature.  But there is an air of emptiness this spring as the daffodils bloom unnoticed and the early opportunistic weeds spring up unabated.

As a gardener I know only too well how quickly our most strenuous efforts at taming the land to our wishes can vanish.  It is a visual manifestation of the Biblical klaxon, a warning that:

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
         As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.

16When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
         And its place acknowledges it no longer. 
(Psalm 103:15-16)


For, "All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; 
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
(1 Peter 1:24)

Our works, our beauty, our efforts...ephemera. 

But... that is not all...  

To paraphrase St. Paul, " I will show you a still more excellent way...." (1 Corinthians 12:31)

In a desk drawer upstairs is a packet of letters tied with black twine addressed to a midshipman in the Navy from a young woman at Greenberry Road.  The bundle of letters has made many moves: from Jefferson City to Columbia to Chicago back to a farmhouse attic in Calloway county to an antique dresser on the other side of the Missouri and now safely stowed in a desk my mother's father made out of hard rock maple.  I haven't unwound the twine string, but the survival of these letters after more than a half century and many more miles attests more loudly than any words to ties that bind.

When memories fail and words won't come, but she looks for him every day; when they hold hands while watching Wheel of Fortune each evening; when my father and mother still kiss good night; these are the times I catch a glimpse of the more excellent way, a merest hint of the eternal within the mortal, a reminder of the next chapter, 1 Corinthians 13: 

 4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 These two people are not perfect, not always patient and kind, at times provoked, but they are faithful. They care for each other....even when they cannot care for themselves. This and every other long marriage testifies that love bears much and endures all.  Gardens lie fallow and houses stand empty; bodies become fragile and break.....

"for now we see in a mirror dimly...but then face to face." 

 It's a promise.