My mother grew up on a farm in Michigan. She often told us stories about following behind the tractor, dropping tomato seeds into perfectly spaced holes. Her job as a child was to feed the chickens. They raised their own steer, so she had way too much red meat growing up. I can hardly think of a time that I saw her willingly eat steak or hamburger. She always talked about learning a bit of Spanish from the migrant workers who helped them out every year. She also developed a passion for teaching as she taught their children some English.
Growing up on a farm gave my mother different perspectives on life. She was very much into home-cooked meals. She taught me the joys of scrambled eggs with hamburger (a.k.a. heart attack in a skillet, but dammit, it was good!). She didn't believe in wasting food nor resources and had a great appreciation for the outdoors. It also taught her about hard work and dedication, something passed down to both of us.
My mother married a city boy and ended up leading a relatively city life. In a way, it was like they compromised, as our store and apartment were placed on a full acre of land. We did have opportunities to visit aunts, uncles and cousins who were continuing somewhat of a farming life. I have fond memories of being dragged around on an ancient pony named Captain and sitting on Uncle Paul's lap steering the tractor. Weddings were complete with square dancing. I think I was the only one of my friends growing up who had any idea how to do it.
We knew that Mom was slipping many years ago when my cousin finally had to tear down the old barn that her father had built by himself. It was a safety hazard and beyond repair. Every time my parents would go visit my father's mother in her assisted living facility, they would meander over the state line to drive past the old farms. It was a shock when the barn was gone, but Mom relived its demise time and time again, every time they drove past.
When I was working toward moving Mom to the facility where Dad originally wanted her placed, I was amazed by the special courtyard in the secure ward. Painted on the large fence is a farm scene, with a large red barn, just like the one my grandfather had built. At first, Mom seemed to appreciate the fence as a work of art. But very quickly she seemed to think of it as a real farm. I remember hearing her tell some visitors about taking care of her farm and pointing out the window. It warms my heart to know that perhaps she is living back in her heyday on that farm with her parents and siblings.