“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”
It may shock you, but my dreams never, not even for a minute, included living in Northern Illinois. Life took us here after a combo pack of fortunate and unfortunate events. It went kind of like this:
Fortunately, my husband and I sold our house, with a large profit, in Minneapolis, Minnesota moments before the 2007 recession. We purchased 11 beautiful acres of land near River Falls, Wisconsin and began living our dream amongst the trees.
Unfortunately, my husband lost his job 1 week after we began our adventure on our new property.
Fortunately, we were completely oblivious to the up and coming depressed economy, and maintained a chipper attitude about our transition into our new life.
Unfortunately, we really had no idea what we were doing.
Fortunately, ignorance is bliss. We had no clue how much could actually go wrong in such a short period of time.
Unfortunately, we had no idea that 20 roosters could become such a problem.
Fortunately, we knew to arm our children with a bat before they went out to play.
Unfortunately, I once asked my kids to look for change in the couch to purchase licorice and cheap butter.
Fortunately, they found it and we enjoyed licorice with our movie and cheap butter for I don’t know what.
Unfortunately, I thought I had scarred my children for life by being temporarily poor.
Fortunately, I know better now. We will tell stories for many years to come about our three wonderful and painful years in the woods, living on less than many people piss away in a day.
Unfortunately, there was winter.
Fortunately, there were the other seasons.
Unfortunately, I got tired of living in a travel trailer and sometimes feeling like a second-class citizen.
Fortunately, I learned that we were not second class citizens or otherwise known as “trailer trash” because it was a temporary dwelling. What a friggin relief.
Unfortunately, I learned that some people are stupid and mean. They discriminate against those who live differently than their own money obsessed asses.
Fortunately, I do not usually swear and call people names. Well, maybe I do swear a bit.
Unfortunately, there are so many entertaining and self-deprecating unfortunates that I can’t write about right now. I might have to write a book.
Fortunately, we spent three years listening to owls hoot and scream, watched cows wander through our front yard, identified a million native flowers, gathered my first egg, sold my first dozen eggs, kicked my first rooster, put winter chains on a car by myself, learned how to use collective family mind ju-ju to get up a steep and slippery driveway, transported our first goats in the back of a VW Jetta, had the courage to experience something very different and interesting and learned more about ourselves and our beliefs than any other time in our lives.
Unfortunately, it was time to move away.
Fortunately, I found a teaching job in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, my children hated the south y’all.
Fortunately, a recruiter contacted my husband and connected him with his current job at Melitta in Elgin, Illinois.
Unfortunately, we wanted to get back to River Falls and be near our family and friends.
Fortunately, we are exactly where we are meant to be… right now. We were so fortunate to find a home where family and friends can come to visit with extra beds to sleep in, a pond to fish in, a runway to hit golf balls on, a big kitchen to cook in and chickens and goats to visit. Just a few short hours ago, I was sitting at our kitchen table with my daughters and my brother, father and mother in-law. We ate the zucchini bread that had just come out of the oven, and sipped coffee as I thought about how lucky I was to be right there with them, talking and laughing about this and that.
My grandmother lived away for many years, and our visits to her house in Portland, Oregon are some of my fondest memories. I will not ever forget all of the games played, meals eaten, and conversations had at her kitchen table. I can bring myself back there right now as I write. Looking out her back window as I sat at that table, and seeing and feeling her backyard; the camper ready to be slept or played in, the walnut tree that made such a mess but gave us hours of entertainment, the slugs that I was amazed by but grandma was secretly exterminating, the Oregon flowers, the gates that lead us out on adventures to the drug store, the alley, the smell, the feeling, and grandma, grandma, grandma. I could just eat her up. I love simply picturing her walking her walk, being in her bedroom with her, as she put on her shoes, looking at her things, knowing that she listened to the radio while she laid in bed, wiping counters, being a passenger as she drove her red hot -hot rod, and my favorite memories of the grocery trips, just her and I, where she let me pick out my favorite things, within reason. I liked listening to her in the kitchen while I sat in her comfy old chairs in the living room and watched the old Star Treks with foxy Captain Kirk, and planning when I was going to sneak up to the attic once again to look for treasures. She sure did make me feel special.
I don’t think Grandma J dreamed of moving to Oregon just like I did not dream of moving to Illinois. Yes, we can all probably agree that Oregon is so much cooler than Illinois, but I guess that does not really end up mattering when it is about those moments that fill my whole chest up with love and remind me that this really is what life is about.
And sometimes when I sit at our kitchen table, with those people who I know love me and I love them, I feel like she is right there with us or maybe we are right there with her.