Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mama Iva Visits

Last weekend, Mama Iva visited SCRANCH just in time to witness the death of my garden. Yup, all dead, with the glaring exception of the spinach, carrots and parsnips, the season is over.

This includes all my gorgeous flowers, including the California poppies I planted in honor of my home state.  (I’d like to plant Columbine for Colorado, though I believe they prefer high altitudes.) Though today was 83 degrees, we’ve had some vicious freezes the last week or so. Mom’s timing was brutal so I made her look at over 1500 photos from the summer's bounty, just to prove I had been productive.  What a trooper!

Harvesting the last of the Yellow Pear tomatoes.

The last time she visited me, in Denver, she had her own room and bathroom - this time, we both squeezed in to the Mae Flower. Since the Clisby Clan grew up adventuring in The Voyager - another famous camper - she felt at home immediately. Thank god she is low maintenance. (She also brought me goodies from civilization – Twinings English Breakfast Tea, cruelty-free moisturizer and a big ass hunk of fancy cheese: English Cheddar with Mustard Seed – NOM!)
Truth is, I was a bit nervous about her seeing the place. After all, it's her land that I'm messing with here but she assured me: "I'm your mother. I'm not going to criticize" which, in her case, is actually true. But here we were, at the site of her childhood and we’re making new memories, which had to feel good. I think coming here is a bittersweet experience for her – so many changes, a lot of the people from her past – gone.  

But it was fun listening to Mom and Brent reminisce about their days picking gooseberries, running from an evil tom turkey and trying to stay warm over winter. It sounded like a hardscrabble life, one with very few luxuries. Those long winter days and nights ended somewhere in her teen years when my Grandpa Wilbur began a tradition. Upon siting the season’s first snowflake, he would immediately stop what he was doing and return to the house to announce: “Pack it up!” Then, the family would head straight to Long Beach, California – just as I will do in a few weeks.

Mom with cousin Naomi, and a Bloody Mary.
Lake Bemidji
At the start of mom’s visit, we took a quick road trip to Lake Bemidji, Minnesota to visit family. My cousin, Todd, is one of my favorite relatives, he's inherited his dad's winking charm and he always makes me laugh. Plus, he had his cute dog, Kelly, with him. She arrived on the first day of autumn and the leaves were all changing, making for a gorgeous drive to Minnesota.

Me with Todd and Kelly.
Also, I hosted a get together for mom here at the farm, held at the museum shed, and invited a bunch of neighbors and relatives from the area. Symbolically, this was a big deal. My grandfather used to have gatherings out at the museum but it has been many years since there has been any kind of social event on the farm. Brent scored a bunch of long tables and folding chairs from the Neche Fire Department. He also secured a big church-basement-type coffee pot, which, I’m told, was mandatory. Me? I was too worried about beer.

The one thing I did not worry about was food. When you tell a Midwesterner it’s a potluck, you’re done. People brought plates of chicken, crock-pots of ribs, fruit salads, potato salads pies and chocolate tarts. It was incredible. Also, my watermelon was a big hit, so I had a wee bit of farm cred to work with there.

The striking thing to me about an event like this is how the genders immediately divide. The men hung out side for the “man circle” and the women stayed inside. I come from a co-mingling culture so this always throws me off a bit. I remember observing this on other visits but had forgotten. There were also two kids and I tried to keep them entertained my with musical instruments and the chalkboard.

I think Mama Iva enjoyed the shindig and people were grateful to have a reason to visit. Even out here, people get too caught up in their daily grind and forget to stay in touch so I’m glad I enlivened the social scene somewhat.

Brent, hanging orange and purple lights!
At one point, my adorable cousin, Walter (age 92), got my attention. I’d asked him earlier in the summer if he knew the date that my grandfather had purchased the farm. He had no idea - he was a little kid then.

Me and Walter.
During the party, he informed me that he had gone down to the courthouse and looked it up: “April 30, 1927!” he announced proudly. It was the first time I could confirm that the farm had been in the family 85 years. Before he left, he quizzed me a couple more times to make sure I’d memorized the date; I don’t dare forget it now.

And yes, I ate some of that chicken we had slaughtered the previous weekend; it was delicious. (Thanks to Evelyn’s cooking skills and a fabulous Filipino recipe.)

Of course, Mom’s visit was far too brief but she is stingy with her vacation time. Soon enough, I’ll be invading her space in Long Beach, messing around with the plants because I am missing dirt, I’m sure. Still, it felt weird to drop her off at the Grand Forks Airport and then turn around and head “home” – whatever that means.

The Man Circle
Growing up in Southern California, I’m still very much a fish out of water here. I remember visiting North Dakota as a kid and wondering how people could live in such a remote place. “But how do they go to the movies?????” I remember asking.

Never, in a million years, would I have imagined me here, now, doing what I am doing. Some days it’s lonely and other days, I dread leaving, but today was a gorgeous day, it’s a full moon tonight and this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

In Grand Forks, ND.


Anonymous said...

Looks like a great time was had by all. The place looks great! Kirk

Anonymous said...

Oh the familiar of my past too. Love the pic of you and my father. Sounds just like him to check the date. Carol

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