Courage, Chickens, and the (Grace and) Blessings of Lifetime Friends

A place in the country…a few acres…maybe some chickens…somewhere for the children to run away their idle hours…peace and beauty to fill our souls as we grow old.

It’s not even a dream anymore.

We are closing on our farmette this Friday.   I think it is going to happen.  I think this is what is supposed to happen, what has been our destiny all along.

“Wild apple blossoms everywhere.”

To say that it has been a roundabout path is a bit of an understatement.   Dan grew up in the country, in the beautifully sleepy town of Galena.  In the early days of our love, he would take me to visit his mom, and we would sit high on a hill as night fell.  Together, we could admire the peace and beauty of the expanses of countryside and the magnificent reflections of the evening lights on the river.  I believe that yearning was stuck in his soul, and over our quarter-century together, there it must have remained, and it began to grow within me.

“We made garland crowns in hiding.”

Two days ago, I drove past Crate and Barrel on the way home from taking Ethan to the autism doctor, and it reminded me of a day half a lifetime ago, when I was 24, just pregnant with Elliott.  When I met Dan, he had a band of friends that he lived with (or nearby) in the city: Cathy, Bob, Beth, Jackie, Matt, Patty, Mark, and a few others that would come and go. Some of these people had been friends from his childhood; they had shared a playpen, performed alongside one another in the school play, and left the small town safety of Galena together at high school graduation to venture forth to explore what life had to offer.

I was the outsider, an extra, a seventh or eighth wheel.  In a short while, though, I was one of the tribe, and probably not just because of our shared love of vintage clothing and eclectic music.  These people, Dan’s people, have been there to carry me through when I had no idea I even needed their help.

We were shopping in Chicago that day, probably for Christmas.  Pregnant with my first baby, I remember feeling a little shaky, so they found a bakery where I ate more than my share of fancy Italian cookies with bright sprinkles, rich chocolate, and red raspberry jam filling.  I also had a carton of milk for the little life inside.  My days, then, already seemed rich and full.

We love our 1924 bungalow.  Here I have lived as long as I have lived anywhere in my lifetime.  We have made this our home: we have painted our walls, hosted parties, planted every square inch of the gardens, and raised children here. This house on South Third Street has been home to 23 children in ten years.  That is a lot of fingerprints, and that is a lot of collective courage housed in the tiniest of beings…the type of courage that noone should expect to need, ever.   We have done our best to love, care for, and support these children, big and small, for however long they have been part of our families.  Though we have tried valiantly to tend to their needs, we often didn’t even…couldn’t even know what those needs were.   And that’s why I am so grateful for the blessings of true friends who are there to carry us along, to offer us a hand, as we try to walk along an often broken path, a path that may lead to nowhere at all.

“We had to lay down where they grew.”

Maybe it’s good not to know what tomorrow will bring.  When the opportunity came and the pieces began falling in to place, we visited the farmette.  Every direction, every way we looked, there was that expanse of peace and solitude.  I could almost feel Dan’s heart skip a beat.  We knew we would be home.  It didn’t matter that the hustle, the noise, and the busyness of the university was just two miles away.  Here, in the grove of trees on Twombly Road, it was light years away, and that was what mattered.

Right now, here, this moment.  That is what we have.  Looking out at those stars in Galena was enough.

After a good cry on this Sunday morning, I understand more than ever that through the love, through the loss, through the transitions, and through the grief, there are no answers.  My tribe has been there for me in so many ways over the years.  Just in this window of time, they have hosted one boy for a summer internship, asking for nothing in return.  They have welcomed my weary grad student for an overnight on his way to a conference, and they have offered an olive branch, playing cards, and some new clothing to our girl who has pushed us…along with her personal demons…far away.  No judgment, but the pure, caring hearts of the people who understood me before I understood myself.

“How I’ve learned to hide, I’ve locked inside… you’d be surprised if shown.”

Just as my Italian cookies and carton of milk made me feel better, the thought…the promise…of a place where we can continue to heal and grow with those we love helps me to know that through the challenges, this is exactly where we are supposed to be.

“But you’ll never, you’ll never know.”

Song lyrics from 10,000 Maniacs, “Stockton Gala Days”


About 1maniac1989

From childhood, I have wanted to take care of children, to bake cookies, cakes, and bread, to hear music, and to tend to flowers in my garden. I am blessed and lucky, and I am able to do all of these things. I live with my beloved husband, Dan, and our many precious children, in DeKalb, IL, which, perhaps in my opinion only, is the most beautiful place on earth. Sincere thanks to anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog.

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