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The farm is home. It is warm summer nights on the porch, the family gathering together. It is mosquitoes buzzing, hovering above exposed skin and moths crowding around the incandescent lights, their grey wings beating frantically. The adults are talking, reminiscing, while sitting in striped lawn chairs. Green stripe. White stripe. Green stripe. White stripe. A torrent of voices flow, forming a river. The children submerge themselves in the swell and listen to their mothers, their fathers, their aunts, uncles and grandparents. Their voices are a blanket wrapped snugly around the listless children; their tired eyes grow heavy with sleep as they are embraced by the familiarity of it all.
The backyard measures time. Everyone has roots here. The grandparents bought the land. Bought the house.
The house had been small. One room serving the purpose of two rooms, sometimes three. Wooden floors coated in dust. Wallpaper peeling from the walls, yellowed at the corners. Appliances outdated and rusted from generations of use. Spider webs occupying each nook and cranny, their silk sticking to the grandfather’s fingers as he moved them outside.
The backyard, vast. Acre upon acre of fertile land, waiting to be cultivated. Empty pastures, ready to be filled. Filled with dogs, filled with chickens, filled with horses, filled with life.
At the time, the grandparents had been young, but with that youth came an unconditional love. At the age of eighteen, the grandmother had come to see the farm alone. She was worried, for she was pregnant and the life growing inside of her had no place to call home. She saw the backyard, saw her daughter playing there. Saw her riding horses in the pasture. Saw her collecting eggs from the chickens, being chased from their coop from the leaders of the flock. She saw the house, saw her daughter growing there. Saw her taking her first steps across the family room, from the arm chair the grandfather sits tying fishing lures to the couch the grandmother occupied. Saw late nights on the telephone with girlfriends, discussing boys, discussing clothes, discussing teenaged life. She had found her baby a home.
The house was bought. The floors swept, the walls painted, appliances replaced. The spiders found a new place to live. The daughter was born, and soon after a son.
They were raised there, in the house, in the backyard. They knew the meaning of a hard day’s work. They mucked out stalls, hours spent with shovels in hand, battling flies for space to occupy. They mowed lawns and collected acre upon acre of hay. They had blisters that turned to calluses, hands rough with the scars of farm life. Muscled arms and tan lines forming white t-shirts on their robust bodies. Hair bleached blond, in places, by the sun’s beating rays.
These children grew. One day the daughter was a toe-headed child, the next a woman, soft curves outlining her body, blonde hair curled and coated in hairspray. The son had gone from a gangly boy to handsome young man, a man full of life and the desire to explore the world.
They left the farm. The grandparents were left alone as their children began to make their own paths. The son explored drugs and alcohol, relationships that led no where and parties bursting at the seams with drunken college students.
He found home in crowded rooms. Smoke hanging in the air, kegs on tables and chairs, red plastic cups littering the floor. Young women scantily clad, looking to fill voids broken homes and broken hearts had created. Young men offering a band-aid, a night of pleasure to make up for a lifetime of pain.
He married a woman with a mess of blond curls resting at the crown of her head, features protruding from a face hidden behind a mask of make up. They had a child, but the son had hardened. He’d become entangled in drugs, in sex, in addictions. He had lost everything. He’d been reduced to a man dependant on his family to provide the roof over his head, the food in his belly, and the cigarettes in his pocket.
He drank black coffee, its bite a parallel to his own bitter resentment. It was nearly impossible to find time where a coffee mug wasn’t buckling under his grasp. When the caffeine made his hands shake and his thoughts bounce aimlessly against his skull, he’d get out his smokes, light one and forget, if only for a moment, everything he could not bare to face.
The daughter had lived her life differently. She went off to a university, pursued a degree in psychology. She was known by name in libraries and in coffee shops, felt a sense of comfort in the routine of her study groups where she was regularly surrounded by text books, by double-shot lattes and by fellow students straining to read from bloodshot eyes.
Her nights were spent writing papers. She would examine each word, each sentence, as if the necessity for thoroughness was comparable to that of a surgeon performing an intricate operation. She explored the mind and its many complexities, growing in her understanding of others and herself. The daughter felt the hands of humanity reaching out to her, seeking contact, seeking someone to touch their lives in remarkable ways. And she did.
She met and married a man, a carpenter, who fathered her child. The son and this man had witnessed the births of their children; together they bore witness to what the wives went through. Felt their pain rubbed their backs and clung tightly to their hands and the last strands of their independence as contractions rippled through their wives’ bodies. Their foreheads glistened, sweat and tears mixing with anticipation. The men encouraged, supported and coaxed as their babies entered this world. They were newly made that day, as their babies opened their eyes and cried, the wailing welcoming both men to the duties of fatherhood.
The grandparents now had two granddaughters, the children. They too would see the farm as home. They would spend summer days barefoot, running across the lush, green lawn. Hunting for slugs in the flower garden, catching lady bugs and counting their spots. Eating turkey sandwiches on picnic blankets, having campouts under the fir trees.
They would build snowmen together, creating a life for their frozen companion. Rocks for eyes, for buttons on his coat. A carrot nose. Snowball fights would break loose, the neighbors would come, would pack snowballs tight and the children would fall to the ground and turn red with chill and laughter.
They would run around the house. Games of tag interrupted with fits of giggles. They would jump on the beds and try on the grandmother’s clothing; play with the grandfather’s fishing lures.
They would spend summer nights on the porch. Summer nights listening to the adults, hearing the story of their past and present. Hearing about the roots of the family, the seeds the grandparents had planted. They had grown, grown taller than the red barn, taller than the fir trees. They had grown, grown into such summer nights.