Local blogger Kristin Tennant yesterday wrote about a trip to see her family's barn.
It's a pretty powerful piece - I teared up and started thinking about my own family, its barn and the things that have come from it. Our barn was on my grandma's farm near here. For me, it was a source of curiosity, a musty trove full of interesting items (although it wasn't a place to play). It was a symbol of our family and the land we've owned for generations.
Around this time a few years ago, the barn blew down during a ferocious windstorm.
I can't pretend to know why my dad, his brother and my grandma went through when it happened, but I know it was a hard, sad time for them. I know I still miss that barn, dotting the horizon of my family's farm.
I'm lucky enough, though, to have a beautiful piece of furniture my mom and I pulled out of it a few years before it blew down, when I was in junior high. It's a kitchen hutch made of solid wood, with wainscot doors, from an old farmstead house. When we retrieved it, it was layered with old paint and dirt. Small animals had used it for shelter.
My mom and I spent hours in my parents' garage, stripping off the paint and scrubbing away the dirt. We had to get one of the doors reconstructed. A couple still don't close properly.
When we were done, my parents hired a couple high-school students to lug it up to my bedroom. In it, I kept CDs and books and shoeboxes full of photos and high-school mementos. I'm not sure why, but I kept notes passed among friends and organized them by year and sender. I opened the doors and used them as bulletin boards for photos and quotations. I called it the Keeper.
It stayed in my bedroom for years. I knew I couldn't move it until I could be sure I'd be living a while in one place. So when I bought my house a year and a half ago, I paid another friend (and didn't pay Rob, although he did half the work) to haul it down a rickety staircase, onto a truck and into its permanent place in my dining room. When it arrived, my house felt like home.
I now use it for its intended purpose. It's full of glasses, colorful Fiesta dishes and a delicate china set I inherited from relatives on my mom's side. Its drawers hold paper and cloth napkins, placemats and coffee filters. Its expansive bottom cabinets contain my cat's food on one side, serving bowls and pitchers and other such items on the other. It gives me a place to put things I otherwise wouldn't have room for in my small kitchen.
But it has more significance than just a storage space. I look at the hutch and see a piece of the family farm that was saved before the barn's destruction. I remember those long hours my mom and put in together and the blisters that formed on the palms of my hands from incessant scraping. I'd helped my mom with projects before, but this one was for me.
I get my urge to restore and make things from her, and I learned from experiences like this. I told her recently about how I'd get up in the early dawn hours to have time to scrape my floor before work, and she laughed knowingly. She'd done the same thing when I was a baby, when she was working on a much larger linoleum-covered kitchen floor.
I've always heard that as you grow up, you become more like your parents. I see my mom in my actions more each day.
Lately, I've been reading heartfelt (and humorous) tributes written by mothers and daughters alike, in celebration of Mother's Day. I guess this is a belated tribute, to not only my own mom, but to my entire family. I'm lucky to have such a visible reminder of them in my home.