Locations of 

visitors to this page






Main Page
7/22/2007
Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
I'm from Louisiana and proud of my heritage. My family has been in Louisiana about as long as Western Europeans have been in Louisiana. (Both sides. Remember, my family tree doesn't fork much.) I have ancestors who fought in the American Revolution and the Civil War, including a rather notorious and famous Civil War-era ancestor who will remain nameless here. (Hint: His initials are J.D. and he has buildings and schools named for him all over the South, including U.S. Route 1 in Virginia. Knock yourself out on Google.)

My ancestry also comes with plenty of negative baggage - slavery and hundreds of years of institutionalized and socially acceptable discrimination. But when I think of New Orleans, my family, and my Louisiana, I think of food: crab and crawfish boils, gumbo, and crusty french bread. I think of music, cemeteries, beautiful architecture, trees draped in Spanish moss, lazy wet heat, family parties, and belonging. There is always a sense of ownership and belonging. Those are my people.

Those people now belong to my sons and, although I no longer speak with a Southern accent, my sons will. Every time I hear Hollis drawling "yeeeaaaaahh" into a two syllable word, it makes me smile. It reminds me of who I am and who my sons will be.

For an Air Force brat, a sense of belonging is important. When I went off to college, I never knew how to answer that first and simplest of all questions: "Where are you from?" A truthful answer could take a half an hour of explanation. Sometimes I said "Louisiana," but that required its own detailed explanation. Sometimes I took the easy way out and said "Nebraska," where my parents still live and I went to high school. But to be honest, I hated to tell people I was from Nebraska. I still do.

When I left Nebraska for college in Miami, it was with the expectation that I would never really live there again. It wasn't my home. I didn't belong. And frankly, I thought it was pretty boring. When I thought of Nebraska I thought of long stretches of flat highway, corn and wheat fields, smelly cows, dust, and maybe, if I was feeling charitable, pioneer Nebraska with a whiff of Little House on the Prairie.

If you contrast the mystery and excitement of Louisiana in the 1600's and 1700's, with the dusty plains of Nebraska in the 1800's, I thought the choice was clear.

Nebraska sucked.

I did, however, end up back in Nebraska, where I met and married T, a born and bred Nebraska farm boy. T and his brother grew up helping his parents work their family farm in Southwest Nebraska. I'll admit that he does have some exciting ancestors sprinkled in there, including Christopher Wren, but I thought that his ancestry and background paled in comparison to my own.

I couldn't wait to leave Nebraska, to view it from my rear view mirror as I drove away for good.

I began to look at Nebraska differently only by seeing it through T's eyes. When we were dating, he took me out to his parents' farm. We tromped out into the middle of a field and T turned to me and told me to stand still and listen.

At first I heard nothing.

No cars, no phones, no planes in the distance, no mechanical buzz of any kind. I didn't hear any of the myriad of sounds we all hear every day and ignore in their constancy. It was a bit freaky, that silence.

Then I heard the wind in the grass, birds twittering, a faint mooing, and my own shallow breath. There was movement all around me, in the air, the trees, the field, the shifting light. But it was still. Suddenly I understood what my husband loved so about his corner of Nowhere. I began to understand the man who would be my husband.

Don't get me wrong, my T has no desire to lead the life of a farmer. It's hard work. Harder than anything I've ever done. And in many cases farming is a direct route to bankruptcy and heart break. Only those who farm bigger or, in some rare cases, smarter, survive. But T loves Nebraska. Much of his love is, of course, caught up in his love for his family, but it's also the love of a way of life and a certain type of person.

Farmers are entrepreneurs, only without the attitude of entitlement. They take risks as lofty as the Las Vegas high roller or the venture capitalist. But farmers don't keep planting or ranching for the love of money. They do it for love of the land and of family. They have a deeply ingrained sense of responsibility to the earth they keep and the people they feed. It took me a long time to understand that.

While we were in Nebraska last week, we helped my in-laws pack up their house. Several years ago they sold the family farm, although they retained ownership of the house and the land around it for a time as part of the sales contract. Two days ago they closed on the sale of T's boyhood home. I know that the sale was undoubtedly harder for T's parents than for T, but still it hurts him. He wants to show the boys his history and the loss of his home means a loss of some part of his childhood. A part he assumed would always be there waiting for him to visit.

But still, T's parents will be nearby in my mother-in-law's childhood home, a place that is still a part of T and the story of his life that he will share with our sons. So now, T is beginning to talk to the boys about farming and tractors, cows and chickens, pivots and irrigation. He is teaching them the language of his people. He is showing them a piece of their history.

H&H are thrilled with anything involving both animals and heavy machinery. In fact, Hollis was in tractor overload on our trip. He spent hours staring out the car window as the scenery passed us by - the scenery I thought of as a boring stretch of flat highway - watching the cows, asking about each piece of farm equipment and the "big sprinklers" (the pivot irrigators).

In knowing and loving my husband, I've grown to know and love his state. Watching my sons discover Nebraska is something else entirely. It's wonderful to watch Hollis's eyes light up when his daddy promises to let him ride a tractor, pet goats, or chase chickens. What boy wouldn't love that?

But I also hope that the boys will someday see Nebraska through their father's eyes. They won't just see chickens to chase and cows to harass. One day they'll look over the rolling hills from their great-grandparent's house in Southwest Nebraska and they'll feel that wonderful silence. They'll understand a piece of their father they could never know without standing there in that spot and listening to the sound of nothing.

One day Hollis and Holden will think of Nebraska and its heritage with a sense of wonder. They will see the floods and the drought, the feast and famine of farming, the flawed beauty of what was once the wild west.

They will belong to Nebraska as much as they belong to the South.

The road ahead.

Labels: , , , ,



27 Comments:

Blogger bubandpie said...

This post is so evocative - and the photos are spectacular. My ex-husband was offered a job in Omaha a couple of years before we split up. I've often wondered what my life would be like now if we'd taken that job.

Blogger slouching mom said...

Beautiful post. And bubandpie is right -- gorgeous photos!

Glad you're back, lady!

Blogger flutter said...

This was absolutely wistful and evocative and just beautiful.

Blogger slouching mom said...

Oh, and J.D.?

TheJ.D.?

Shite! That's pretty cool, even to a Northerner like me.

Blogger Jill said...

Great post.

My dad's from Kentucky and even though I only lived there for a year, I feel like it's part of me. How great that you are embracing both Louisiana and Nebraska for your boys. They'll appreciate it.

Anonymous PT-LawMom said...

What a beautiful post. It's hard to find "home". We moved around a lot when I was a kid, both internationally and within the U.S. Someone recently asked me which was my favorite and I realized that as a kid I would have had a quick answer. Now as an adult, it's not so clear cut. I can more clearly see the benefits and downsides of each place. Perhaps we just need to get far enough away from the difficult memories to gain perspective?

P.S. My husband's parents are farmers in Central America. I never really understood what living off the land truly meant until I visited them. You're right -- it is very, very hard and you have to have a real entrepreneurial spirit. Thank goodness my husband seems to have been blessed with a good business head as a result of his years growing up as the oldest boy on the farm.

Anonymous Emily said...

Welcome back. It sounds like a lovely trip and a lovely place to visit.

Blogger Amy W said...

Sounds like the trip was well worth it....

I grew up knowing the farming world (only in Virginia and dairy farming) and it was extremely hard to see my Grandmother auction off that beautiful piece of heaven.

Blogger Sunshine said...

What a wonderful love letter to Nebraska. Growing up next door in Iowa, I can relate to those "it's so boring here" feelings, but now with children of my own I'm raising, a lot of the things I took for granted as a kid are suddenly very different. The quiet serenity and peacefulness of a country morning...knowing you will NEVER be up as early as a farmer who is out, busy, growing your next meal. Well, it is something very special, isn't it?

Blogger Quirky said...

Great to have you back -
My family is from Louisiana, and though I was born and raised in Georgia, I spent so much time in Louisiana that I have always thought of it as a second home. For all of the negative parts of its history, it is still a wonderful place. I even did my senior thesis in college on Creoles in literature. It was delightful to drive through some of the rural areas of Louisiana that are the settings for some great literature.

And now I'm married to someone from Iowa - which is a place I had never had any interest in at all. And through her, I am beginning to be enamored with that flat land as well. Isn't it lovely to learn to love a place by seeing it through someone else's eyes?

Blogger Part time Mommy said...

beautiful

My son is the same way. We took a much similar trip last year. My uncle is a farmer. A big farmer. A very well off farmer. And big C was on tractor overload too. It was great fun. I'm sure your boys had an absolute blast.

Blogger CPA Mom said...

wow! what a way to come back to blogging. A powerful post and one that makes ME take a new look at Nebraska.

But I'm glad you are back!

Blogger Julie Pippert said...

This is lovely, truly.

Now THIS is what Nebraska ought to use to entice visitors...not jokes about carrying around an extra 35 lbs!

Someday we'll have to compare family trees. We can't both be from the same area, ancestry there for the same length of time with similar heritage and not somehow be related. ;)

I'm so glad your boys will have some connection but as a rootless person in many ways, I so grieve when I hear someone lost their childhood home, especially a cool one like Ts.

And WELCOME BACK!!!!

Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Oh LM,
My husband is from Saskatchewan. How I learned to love that prairie and that way of life and what it meant for him and his ancestors. We live so far away from all that now and my husband's parents are dead. Miss M won't ever know those big skies and that rustling silence. It saddens me so much.

Lovely, lovely post and lovely vacation.

Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I love the way a sense of place and belonging can rise up to claim us.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

B&P - Thank you! I had about 270 photos and it was hard to pick my favorites for this post. And now I wonder if I might have met you in real life if you'd moved to Omaha....

SM - Thank you! I love your new profile photo, btw. And yes, the J.D. My hubby gives me lots of flack for it!

Flutter - Thank you! I think wistful is an excellent description of my feelings, so I'm glad that came through. I lack confidence in my ability to elicit emotions from my writing.

Jill - Yes, I understand exactly how you feel about Kentucky.

PT Law - Yes! I really had no clue how difficult farming is before I met my husband. No clue at all.

Emily - Thank you. It was a good trip, but exhausting.

Amy - Ah, yes. I know what you mean.

Sunshine - Yes. I could say the same things about Iowa. The topography is a bit different, but the people are the same.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

Quirky - I completely agree. It's a wonderful place for all its problems and poverty. Louisiana has such a rich, vibrant history. And if your family is from La, we're probably related in some way!

Sheila - Ah yes, you know exactly what a toddler hopped up on farm machinery is like!

Angela - Thanks! You really know how to stroke a girl's ego!

Julie - You have no idea how excited I am to be back. I missed this! And you know, we've really got to start comparing. I figure I'm probably related to half the state in one way or another (if not more.) Hell, my parents are distantly related. (VERY distantly, people! I swear I only have 10 toes.)

Oh, Mad. I'm sad for Miss M too. She would so love it.

OTJ - Exactly. That's it exactly.

Blogger PunditMom said...

Beautiful post. I felt the same way about my parents' Pennsylvania farm and couldn't wait to get the heck out. But PunditGirl loves to visit, ride the tractor, "feed" the cows and generally be my dad's shadow. It's a good thing for her.

Blogger Ally said...

Growing up as a farmgirl, but now living in the city, I really appreciated this post. You've captured perfectly the pain and beauty of American farming. Well done!

Blogger jen said...

ah, sister. you are back. i missed you. what lovely pics and what a terrific tribute of love for your man and for his home.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm sorry i didn't get to see you this trip back....next time!!!

Christi

Blogger painted maypole said...

The pictures reminded me of my grandparent's Illinois farm... all the running through the fields and hiding in the corn that we did... nice.

Blogger Trisha said...

Thank you, from a Nebraska girl. It's really nice to see a post about our state that doesn't reek of derision. True, I have left the borders of the state, but Nebraska will always be a piece of my heart. The first time I took my Denver born and bred husband home, he was shocked at how many stars there were in the sky. Now my kids stare in wonder at the lightening bugs and the million points of light in the sky when we visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Anonymous Paige said...

This post was really wonderful and spoke to a lot of the feelings I have had about my home, the Pelican State, which is now just as much a part of Avery as it is me.

Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

PM - I didn't know you were a farm girl!

Ally - Thank you.

Jen - Thanks! I missed everyone too.

Christi - I'll email you!

Painted maypole - I was afraid I'd never find them if I let them play in the corn!

Trisha - Yes, all the stars still shock me there.

Paige - Yes, Louisiana is such a special place for me too.

Blogger Busy Momma said...

Great post, got tears in my eyes. My parents sold the home that they've owned since I was about 7 and it was so hard to leave that special place behind-so I can kind of understand what T must be feeling right now.
How wonderful that your boys got to see the farm tho.

Blogger jen lemen said...

love these pictures and this story. thank you so much!

Post a Comment

<< Home

Lawyer Mama
Made by Andrea Micheloni
footer