Have you ever read the book All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan? (If not, you can check it out on my book blog, here.)
It is the story of a little farm boy, growing up with his parents and grandparents and thinking of all the places he will take his little sister when she is big enough to go. All the places to love--the favorite spots on the farm.
I thought of that while Scott was showing us around the farm. All the places that meant something to him or Mum, or our grandparents or our great-grandparents or great-great... (this list could go on for awhile).
The farmhouse. Our grandparents added on that addition in the front when they got married.
A young Scott and Mom standing in this spot back in the day.
The side porch and the Canadian flag.
This forge was built by my great great grandfather more than a century and a half ago. They still used it when Scott was little. He remembers turning that hand crank.
It is interesting to think of something being around 170 years after you made it.
Beams made by Douglas hands. For some reason, I kept thinking of Douglas hands. They built this entire farm by hand. Generations of Douglas's, each one leaving their mark.
The pumphouse. Where Scott liked to keep tabs on the garter snakes sunning themselves on the stone foundation.
Pumphouse mechanicals. SO COOL. Doesn't that look like a giant clothespin up there in the middle? Of course, this hasn't been regularly used since before Mom and Scott were born, but they could poke around in it when they were kids and pump some water if they felt like it.
Roof. The bark was still on some of the trees they used as rafters.
The trees and pulley
The hayloft. Where Scott spent many a long hour doing chores.
I love these old beams.
On the way up, Scott was telling us a little about his father's illness. Our knowledge of all of this is somewhat spotty. Even though it seemed so removed from us, Philip and Goldie died only the decade before the most of us kids came into being. And Goldie had only been gone four years when Clover was born.
Whatever the number of years, it was still something that Scott and Mom were sort of processing when we were little. They didn't talk about it a lot. It happened. They didn't want to rehash it to a bunch of little kids. But as the years go by, they tell us a little more. There is nothing state secret about it, some of it might even seem too mundane to tell us. But it seems important to us. Because it gives Goldie and Philip life. In my young brain, for so many years, they were just the grandparents that died. Their death was the reason Mom and Scott's lives took totally different trajectories than expected. Their death was the reason Mom was in Pennsylvania where she met Dad.
But their death was only a little part of them. And in a way, as tragic as it was, their deaths were only a part of Mom and Scott's youth. It was an ending, a crashing crescendo of emotion that still is reechoing in ever fainter ways today. But there was a long build up to that crescendo. If a solid childhood had not preceded the terribleness of those years, Mom and Scott would not be the grounded, successful humans they are today. They had parents who adored them. A large, loving extended family and hundreds of acres of land to roam--land that had felt Douglas footfalls for generations.
There was a lot of good mixed into the heartbreaking in their childhood.
Mom and her calf
Philip and Mum
Mum, Philip, one of his dogs, and Donald, Mom's grandfather.
Scott and Mum
Mom, Goldie, and Philip
Scott, Philip, Mom, and... I think Uncle Arnold. Or not. Not sure who that is holding Mom.
Mom and Scott in the newly finished kitchen
Mom said this was one of the last times Goldie was able to get back to the woods. Her health was poor before Mom was born, and she was having a harder and harder time getting around.
Mom, hanging upside down on the hay elevator. According to Mum, Goldie would have had a heart attack if she had seen this.
Mom and some cousins.
They had a solid, secure place in the world.
Until things fell apart. The first tremors of change were felt in this barn. Looking back, there were a lot of signs that not all was right with Philip, but kids can overlook things. On New Year's Eve, 1970, Philip was feeding the cows grain and finally called to Scott and told him he couldn't do anything more and had to go inside. That was the last time he went in the barn. He died nine months later of a massive brain tumor.
And this dusty, cobwebby place is where it happened. Where their security started crumbling. Scott still remembers where Philip was standing when he set down the wheelbarrow and went inside. Forever.
A letter Scott and Mom wrote to their Dad while he was in the hospital.
Well, sir, as a first calf heifer, Empress is giving 65 lbs of milk a day!!!
I hope to see you soon. School's going good! We do gym every day. I don't mind it much.
I love the little kids selves of those two.
The people who live on the farm now were very nice and welcoming. They gave Scott some old pictures of the farm from Douglas days that the historical society had given them. And they let us tromp around as much as we liked.
This part of the barn was added on just a few years before Philip got sick. They had plans of expanding and put a new milkhouse in just a year before Philip died.
A door with an impressive giant hinge made on the old forge.
The latch and door, worn by repeated openings and shuttings. Every night and morning.
I love that curlicue at the end. I like to think they wanted to make it beautiful, but they probably just wanted to make sure it didn't snag someone's barn clothes.
The addition in the back is the milkhouse they added.
Walking to the back pastures.
I am a fan of all these people.
The drainage ditch where Mom and Scott used to swim.
Cool old pine tree
And this, my friends, is the Canadian Shield. It is fairly level and looks like a concrete pad. But it is solid rock.
Canadian shield walkway
These are Limousin cows. Aren't they a pretty color against the cedars? This clump of cedars was where Mom played as a little kid. She made a little house in there.
A wagon parked Philip parked there, I believe. Which is a pretty good indicator of time passing.
Old curve of wood
Geese on the river. This was called the English River because every farm that touched it was owned by English speaking people. When Scott was little, they dredged this river to prevent spring flooding. Once upon a time it was deep with pike and trout. Once they dredged it, it isn't more than a foot or two deep.
The elm planks. Scott says every spring they would go out and move the planks in the upstream direction. For some reason, the planks always moved downstream. Even though the bridge was level. All the rock bracing was done by Philip and his dad.
Douglas black raspberries. Everything I saw, I mentally put a Douglas in front of it. Rather silly.
Brown eyed Susan
Somewhere here, under the wildflowers, our great-great-great-great grandfather is buried. Not a bad spot.
More black raspberries. JoAnna and I made the mistake of following Scott in to see the foundation of the original homestead. There were a lot of brambles and thistles. Scott told us we better go back before we even got to see the foundation. JoAnna paid the price of her speaking-in-meeting skirt, which got snagged on a bajillion raspberry thorns. But the black raspberries were good.
Fields of our home and native land. At least the Douglas part of us.
When Scott was little, Philip heard about a bridge that officials were tearing out somewhere near by and replacing with a newer model. Philip asked if he could have it, and they gave it to him. They had to float it home down the river and build the rock bracing up to keep in place.
But it has held and is still a strong and sturdy bridge.
It is so weird for us to think of being in this place, where Mom and Scott were kids. Where there is so much family history. We knew it existed, but it wasn't part of our life. As a kid, it seemed like we didn't have much of a family history. And as I was following everyone onto the bridge I thought "I bet Philip never imagined his grandkids walking across this bridge." And a second later, I realized Philip probably built this bridge with us in mind. He probably never imagined his grandkids anywhere else. A good part of what he did was probably with Scott and Jill and their eventual kids in mind. There had been Douglas's on that farm for over a century. And he probably thought there would be Douglas's on that farm for another century. Life had other plans though, and just a decade later, the last Douglas left the farm.
The planks, moving downstream.
I really liked these vines
Connie, getting all the prickers out of Scott's cuff.
There was a barbed wire fence smack dab in the way. We all had to crawl under. Scott was the most photogenic, since the rest of us were in skirts.
An old haywagon. Entirely made by Douglas hands. Except the rubber tires.
Do you see that wheel? Even that was Douglas made. Isn't that so clever?
I had a clever great-grandfather.
I really wanted to take part of this home with me, but I figured the new owners might notice a wagon chassis tucked under my arm.
Through the cedars.
I like cows.
I entirely forget what this building was. I just liked the stone foundation.
Connie got the award for most glamorous hiking-around-the-old-family-farm outfit award.
When they were kids, they would climb out through the haymow window and go all around, holding on to the rope.
The same spot, sans kids.
There is even one window still intact.
This farm is where their childhood took place. But now, it is rather empty. In a way, place is just a backdrop for our lives. And when the principal actors have left the stage, it looses its magic. It becomes a thing again. I felt that so much in this place. And it sort of broke my heart. This was a place that was precious to my family for so long. And now, it is just a farm owned by someone else. The people who own the farm are thinking of selling it and there is a part of me that wishes so desperately that we could buy it. So it would belong to the Douglas's again. And I could treasure what Douglas hands have done. But there is another part of me that recognizes that by wanting to be where they lived and handle the things they handled, I really am wanting to make them alive again. I want to know these grandparents. I want to be able to go back in time and change things. I want to have Goldie and Philip meet ten years earlier, so Mom and Scott would have been older when their parents died. I want to send Philip and Goldie to the doctor a few years earlier. I want them not to have died.
But also, I want to tell them that everything is okay. As Philip was dying, he would have known Goldie was not in good health. She needed someone to care for her. What would happen to Scott and Jill? And when Goldie died, three years later, she would have known that mum and Scott were on their own. And I wish I could tell them that as hard as those experiences were, they didn't break Mum or Scott. All that loving and cherishing that Philip and Goldie had lavished on them paid off. They became good people.
The faith that Goldie and Philip had, faith as solid as the Canadian shield, saw Mum and Scott through. It kept them. And continues to keep them.
I wish that Goldie and Philip could have known all of us twelve grandchildren. Grandchildren that love Scott and Jill as much as Goldie and Philip loved them. Grandchildren that still love that faith. Grandchildren that are still farmers. Grandchildren that would have loved them if they had been given the chance.
And a granddaughter that still cries sometimes, late at night, over the tragedy of not knowing her own grandparents.
But life is still good.
And we have cousins who stop in to see us on their way north and get weepy with us over our grandparents and then laugh over silly, crazy things. And who decide to spray on some dry shampoo since we had to open the back to get wipes out to wipe the manure off our shoes before getting into Connie's Escalade.
We love these cousins of ours. It was so, so good to see them.