The farm has always been my home. Even after the years of California sun has tanned my skin and bleached my long brown hair to sandy blond. Even after the years of going home to a house that was surrounded by dozens of other houses, that looked exactly alike, even when move after move has left me disoriented and lost. When I close my eyes, I go home. Home is where my grandmother works in her garden of tomato plants, and tall green corn stocks and carrots that are pulled from the dark brown soil with a single, tug of her hand. Home is where we sit and shell peas and watch the swallows shoot in and out of the old barn with rapid tucks and swoops. Home is where all the problems of my world were enveloped in one strong embrace. It is here the gopher and the squirrel harvest their food for the winter cold and oak leaves fall in orange and yellow flight on mid-October nights. It is where my grandmother and I watch the world develop and decline.
When I was a young girl, I would follow the Monarch butterflies into the fields of dancing clovers. Their wings patterned freeways of black and gold that teased nature into perfection. For days, I could lose myself in the endless games of the summer knowing that she stood yards away, by a window and guarded my safety. I always felt safe, never in harm, never a stranger, never lost.
I was careless, in thought, when my parents moved me from the farm, not knowing that my home would become only a memory. I knew nothing of loss or estrangement or that someday I would board a plane in an hour’s notice, just to miss the last breathe of my grandmother. Maybe that is why I can’t believe she is gone; I never said goodbye.
The farm and she seemed like two entities entangled together in a world of fantasy and eternity. For the old barn to remain standing, and the oak tree to still reach toward the sky, and the brook to still whisper secrets to the breeze is strange to me. How could it go on existing? How can I feel the chill of the evening storm or smell the scent of fresh iris blooms when her voice cannot be heard?
Outside the sound of first rain comes down in tap-dancing patters on the window- sill. The lightning is closer now as it brightens the yard in daylight intensity. The crack of thunder and shoots of light are simultaneous as I emerge from my sleeplike reminiscing. The family gathers in the living room as we’ve done so many times before and I cannot avoid ritual. My mother turns the lamp lights out and we all take our places. The shades are opened and the display of lights is set out before us. All of us watching in amazement and terror as the storm threatens the large oak just outside the window. The room flashes, all of us present in the light, then in a moment we are gone, invisible. I can almost feel her here, with us in the dark. I imagine, once again, that I am a conductor, commanding the roars and claps to arise and dissolve. The last thunderclap strikes out a retreated warning as the stars begin to show above the blanket of smoky clouds. In this moment I realize, that I have been welcomed home.
Welcomed home to a room full of family, a life that reflects her life in its moments of perfection, where each member stores inside of them the energy and experience of living life with her. She is here with us, and with the farm. The entities that travel together through time and space, ever changing, have merged together forever in my memory.