Monday, January 9, 2012

What I Learned Down on the Farm

Most of my friends know how girly I am (swirly skirts, jewelry, makeup, perfume) but they also know I like to be hip-deep in the garden and am perfectly capable of repairing a fence or building a cold frame. I’m definitely not allergic to dirt or hard work. This combination confuses people, sometimes.
Over the holidays I did a lot of reflection about how I came to be the person I am now, and I realized something: Though I officially grew up in darkest suburbia with my parents and sister, I learned my life values from my grandparents in the time I spent on their farm.

How much time was that? If it wasn’t a school day, I was there. As a family we spent weekends and school holidays at the farm. My mother sent me out there for long stretches during the summer as well. (She once even tried to give me away to my grandmother, after my sister was born and Mom decided she liked the new child better. Grandmother declined; that’s the only time in my life I ever heard her raise her voice to anyone.)
A small family farm is hard work with little room for frills or foolishness, though there was usually time for play (I was a kid, after all). I spent my days wearing blue jeans and covered in dirt, hay and manure. From my grandparents, especially my grandmother, I learned most of the values that have carried me through life. Those values helped me get through all sorts of things that, at the time, I didn’t believe I could survive.
This blog post is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, Noreen Crews, one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. She passed away a few years back but her common-sense approach to life, and her unconditional love, still live on in me.

In all the time I spent with her, all the dumb things I did, she never framed any experience I had with, “And the moral is…” In fact, she rarely talked about lessons learned at all. She simply lived her values every day and encouraged me to do the same.
I’ve collected up a few of the things I learned on the farm, to share with you. Perhaps you might find them useful, too.
-You have sense. Use it.
-Everyone has limitations; some are just more obvious than others. Don’t let your limitations define you and never use them as an excuse, only as an explanation.
-The difference between people and trash is not what you have but how well you take care of it.
-Don’t stand there waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Figure out what needs doing and do it.
-Assume you’re capable of doing (or learning to do) whatever needs doing until proven otherwise.
-If you choose to have children, do not behave as if they are a nuisance, a bother or something to escape from. You chose to have them. You are an adult. Act like it.
-If you say you’ll do something, do it. Your word is your bond.
-Dream all you want but take care of the real-world stuff first.
I wouldn’t be here today - literally - if it weren’t for the values Grandmother taught me. The best tribute I can give her is to share those values with my own daughter, and be thankful for the time I spent on the farm.