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Down on the farm

mood: sleepy | drinking: water


There is something about going back to the farm that never gets old.

I haven’t lived there for at least 15 years now (and have no intention of moving back), but I love to visit. Of course, the actual farm I grew up on is now home to strangers, and the big grey house where all my childhood memories took root is now painted a trendy shade of purple.

My parents moved to a different farm, 8 or 9 miles away from our old home, when I was just a year or two out of college. But they’ve been there long enough, and I’ve visited often enough, that it’s endearingly familiar.

This time I went back with Bean in my belly, and my sister and nephew in tow. The little guy is now nearly 3, and old enough to get really excited about things like tractors and horses and big piles of sand.

Every day we were there, as soon as my nephew saw my dad he’d say, “Papa, I ride tractor? I ride big tractor? I ride bucket tractor?” And my dad, the ever-obliging grandpa, would prop Jude up on his lap and drive a never-ending series of tractors up and down the driveway.

Watching my parents as grandparents is delightful. Although, as my sister pointed out on this visit, my mom would never have given us all those sugary treats when we were kids. We had to suffer through “chocolate chip” cookies festooned with nasty carob droplets. But my nephew? He gets the real thing. Plus brownies. And M&Ms. And ice cream cake.

Now that grandchildren are making their appearance, my mom and dad are beginning to rearrange their lives in preparation for an eventual westward move to California. Even if Jude were the only grandchild, they’d make the move, but now they’ve got Bean due to show up soon, and later this fall we’ll meet my sister’s second child.

It will be amazing to have my parents just an hour or two away, instead of thousands of miles. Just to be able to make impromptu plans that don’t involve plane tickets and rental cars would feel miraculous.

But I’ll admit it, I’m going to miss showing up at the old stomping grounds. I’ll miss the red barns and the Midwest accents and drinking “pop” instead of soda.

I’ll miss the thrill of seeing, after years of absence, sights that used to be as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.

I’ll miss the sense of history embedded on every backroad. Here is where I learned to drive, as did my father before me. Here’s where I had my first kiss, where I earned my first paycheck, where I ran barefoot chasing lightning bugs.

I love San Francisco, and I have 10 years of history here, now. And soon Bean will be making all of her childhood memories here, in our little house by the sea.

But part of me will always be a farm girl, able to scale fences and bridle horses and remain totally unfazed by the presence of poop. And I wouldn’t change that part of my history for anything.

-Lo, back to the city life.

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane


I’m going home.

Or rather, going back to the place that used to be home. I’m attending a conference in Chicago next week for a couple of days and am leaving early so I can spend the weekend with my parents and celebrate my Dad’s birthday with movie popcorn and Star Wars. (He took me to see all of the original Star Wars movies when I was little. We had a mutual affection for R2D2.)

I don’t get back to Illinois that often. And this time I get to see both my hometown AND downtown Chicago. Love ’em both. Although I’ve been warned that it’s very hot and sticky there. And coming from Fog City, I’m not so good with the hot and the sticky anymore.

I get to see a few old friends while I’m back, but since I’m only there for a few days and much of my time is taken up with the conference, I don’t get to see everybody. So if I’m there and I miss you, I’ll take a rain check for next time.

I find that each time I go back, I’ve forgotten one more detail. The name of a freeway. Directions to a friend’s house. How to survive the humidity. The details get fuzzy from disuse.

Everything looks smaller, too. The school I spent 13 years in is so shabby and miniscule! It’s difficult to believe how much time I spent within those walls.

I find myself hoping that I’ll run into people I used to know. And that they’ll have a hard time recognizing me. Sometimes I hang out at the Super Walmart (small town social center) a bit longer than is really necessary, just in case I recognize an old face. There’s a certain ex I would LOVE to run into, just for curiosity’s sake. I haven’t seen him since we broke up, oh, seven years ago or so. It would be interesting. Or maybe just horrifying.

But whatever happens, I’m determined to get my fill of Dairy Queen (they don’t have DQ in San Francisco) and some real Chicago pizza (West Coast pizza is very sadly lacking). I’m hoping to catch a good midwestern, too. (They don’t have thunderstorms in San Francisco, either.) Rain, yes, but without the bright violence of lightning and the shuddering rumble of thunder.

My dad and I used to sit in the swing on the front porch and watch the rain move in across the fields. Count the beats between the flash and the roar.

Sometimes my sister and I would run screaming through puddles, lifting our faces to the weeping sky and shrieking, fiercely, with the simple joy of being alive, being young, being completely soaking wet.

Just a few of the details that have not yet gone fuzzy.

-Lo, who knows how to make the ice cream curl on a Dairy Queen cone. Years of practice.