November 4, 2013
Sometime around 1961 my maternal grandparents moved from next door to us to a farm west of Butler, PA, about an hour’s drive away. I don’t really remember their moving. I don’t recall if I was sad or dejected. And I have no memory of moving vans, or boxes being packed or any of the other accoutrements that go with hauling all your earthly possession from one place to another. But I surely remember the excitement of seeing their farm for the first time. It came with all the “farm stuff.” There was the farm house with no indoor plumbing, the barn, the chicken coop, the pig pen, the land that stretched as far as a 7 year old could see, and of course my favorite… the outhouse (a two seater I should add).
There are so many recollections from there. It is without question THE place in my childhood where my best collective memories occurred. I know I have mentioned my grandparents farm previously, but allow me to recall a few things that I may not have included. As you are reading, allow your memory to wander to places in your past that might be similar.
We spent many Saturdays and full weekends at the farm (and weeks in the summer). The fun of going there was always preceded by the impatient anticipation. It seemed like the hours dragged before we piled into the car for the seemingly “forever ride.” My mom would often stop at a bakery on the way and buy “Monks Bread” for us to munch on the ride. Monks Bread is still made by monks in a monastery in New York. It can’t be purchased in any stores around here any longer but I was surprised to see that it can be obtained online. Imagine… monks online. Makes me think of the old Xerox commercial… but I digress.
When we got to the farm we often had to take a trip to a spring about ¼ mile down the road. The “spring” was just a pipe protruding from a hillside near a ditch. We would fill gallons and gallons of glass bottles for the weekend (the bottles had green translucent caps… who knows why we remember these little things??). There was something really adventurous about that whole “spring thing” for someone my age. Kind of like roughing it I suppose. As I mentioned there was no indoor plumbing at the farm nor was there a water pump anyplace on the property.
Spending time at the farm with my cousin Glenn was always a highlight for me. We saw each other “inconsistently” over the years. Sometimes it would be from one weekend to another and other times months would go by. You know, there are people in our lives that require no “catching up,” i.e., we can be away from them for sometimes years and we start right up where we left off. Glenn has always been that way for me. I am grateful to God for him and what he has meant in my life over the years.
Glenn and I would always nag my grandfather to put up a tire swing in the front yard. Why he didn’t just leave it there I don’t know. With all of the gadgets young people have now it’s hard to believe we could keep ourselves entertained for hours with a rope and a tire. We also played croquet from noon till night. Glenn was always better at sending my ball a country mile away when he got that opportunity. I never got the knack of hitting my ball with the mallet in order to send his into orbit. It would always dribble a few feet away… in essence wasting my turn… not to mention hurting my foot. If you don’t know how to play croquet you won’t know what I’m talking about. I should add that I am still resentful about that whole “ball into orbit” thing. J
The barn was a place of great adventure. There were always loads of hay bales neatly stacked in the rafters. And “trap doors” and “secret hatches” down to the level below. I don’t know when I learned that they were used for feeding animals. For a 7 year old the barn was just a place of swinging on bull ropes, running from one level to another, hiding in hay and… well… snakes. Yeah, our adventures came to a screaming halt the day a rather long black snake was seen lounging on a hay bale. I honestly don’t remember ever enjoying ourselves again in that building.
My grandfather never really “farmed” his property. He leased the land out to other farmers for growing crops. In the late summer and early fall we often helped with hay bailing. As a kid it was great fun… and hard work. I remember it was all I could do to lift a bale of hay up onto a moving flat trailer. Why is it that it’s always more fun to do someone else’s work than your own? I don’t know either.
Even though he never “farmed” per se, he did keep a few pigs and loads of chickens. I remember one Saturday when he told me to come with him. My mother knowing what was coming said to me, “Don’t go with him or you will never eat chicken again!” He grabbed two unsuspecting chickens from the coop and a hatchet and unceremoniously put their necks in between two nails on a log and… well… you know what happened next. He handed the first one to me and told me to hold it by the feet over a barrel as the blood ran out of the “stump.” You would be amazed at how hard that is, at least for a 7 year old. Those chickens are strong. After decapitating the second one he said, “Wanna see something?” and he threw the chicken into the barn yard. It must have run wildly around for 30 seconds… thus the phrase. I will never forget seeing the severed heads lying at my feet and watching the eyes slowly blink as life gradually slipped away. Sort of a sad, “What happened here?” kind of moment. I should add… I love chicken.
There are many, many more stories about the farm that I could recount, and maybe will sometime in the future, but the idea here is not to focus on my life. The idea is to focus on yours. Why was the farm REALLY a great place for me as a child? Again, for many reasons but none more than this one: It was safe. Not physically safe, but emotionally safe. When I was there I didn’t worry about whatever 7 year olds worry about when they feel threatened. There were no adults there yelling at me constantly, there were no bullies there… outside of the aforementioned croquet incidents…, there was no mess there, there was no divorce there, there was no tension there… there was just the people and place that allowed me to know peace. I know it sounds kind of crazy… what 7 year old needs to know peace? THEY ALL DO! AND THEY NEED TO HAVE EMOTIONALLY SAFE PLACES!!
Truth be told… that is not just the case with 7 year olds. Every one of us needs to have a place of safety and peace. Where or what is yours? Seriously, do you have a place that allows for you to just be alone and to experience solitude and peace? If you don’t, you need to find one!! I mean it. Without that you will torture yourself emotionally.
But more important for this essay is the notion that there is something other than a “place” of peace… there is a “person” who brings about peace. Remember, the Christian Faith is not about a “what” or a “set of rules”, it is about a “who”… i.e. who do you know?
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Acts 10:36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
Romans 5:1 ] Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It seems clear to me that “peace” comes in the person of Jesus… and in knowing Him. The last passage listed above is an interesting one. Basically it implies that this “peace” will not be understood by those outside of the faith i.e. “transcends all understanding.” And frankly, that has surely been my experience. Those outside of Christianity do not “get” how Jesus can bring peace. As a matter of fact they tend to think of Christians as a little naïve. Sorry, can’t explain it.
It is good and maybe essential to have a place of peace. It is eternally necessary to know the One who brings peace. I hope you know that peace in your soul.