By Granny Eardley Jan 15, 2016
One of the special activities our grandchildren enjoy when they visit, and may remember when they’re grown, is picking the berries on the Serviceberry shrubs. Each year as the berries plump and ripen, and go from green to red to almost purple, they would rush to pick the berries before the birds ate them all. Seeing them excited to be in the yard, watching them enjoy the natural environment, will often cause me to reflect on being in my grandpa and grandma’s yard.
My grandma was sixty seven when I was born, older than I am now. We spent a lot of time with her and grandpa while we were growing up. When I was six we lived with them for over a year during mom and dad’s divorce. Their little plot of land was the main place I could have fun, and use my imagination. They had a few acres with a pasture that held horses, and a few cows grandpa would raise, then sell to the butcher for meat. One of the best memories I have of their land was the huge red barn. It gave me a place to play, and a place to learn about the natural world. A place to dream. Most of all that big red barn gave me a place to feel safe.
The barn was located at the end of a long dirt driveway. There weren’t any trees planted near the barn, but the smell of fresh grass, flowers, and moist dirt, would help me feel happy. As I headed towards the barn, I would usually pass by the shed to the right. It needed to be inspected for anyone inside who may follow me into the barn. Standing on my toes, peeking inside the dirty window, I could see if any others were close. My siblings, cousins, and I would often play in the barn together, but I also enjoyed the times I could be alone. Sometimes I just didn’t want any of them following me, especially my siblings. The solitude I felt during these times gave me the opportunity to dream of the future.
Once I knew the coast was clear, I moved on towards the large double front doors of the barn. Walking through the front doors would send me into near darkness. It usually would take a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the change in light. My lungs would expand and I would breathe in deeply that fresh scent of hay. Just inside the door was a wooden shelf where grandpa would store some of his tack and saddle. While I loved the smell of hay, I also loved the smell of old leather. The older the better.
Mixed in among the tack and saddle was a lot of dust and spider webs. I didn’t mind. I didn’t enjoy running into a large web, but I do remember I loved watching a spider spin it’s web. I was curious how the spider could have that much web inside. Where did it come from? Would it ever run out of web? I didn’t know what it was called back then. I guess you could say that spider taught me patience, and patience was a virtue I had been told I needed to learn on more than one occasion. With everything that old big red barn gave to me, the most treasured memory, is the feeling of safety it provided. It was my “Safe Haven”. There was no hitting, no yelling, no abuse in that barn. Those old, sometimes broken walls, let me know everything would be alright.
After walking past the tack and spider web, going further into the barn, would bring me to it’s center. At this point, I could frequently see a few rays of the sun slipping through some of the slats of the wood siding. In the light from the sun I could see dust particles flickering about, pretending they were magic sparkles of light. Light that would grant me my wishes. To the left were horse stalls, and to the right the ladder to the loft.
The ladder consisted of rungs being attached to two posts going from the floor to the ceiling. Stepping up to the first rung was difficult for the small body of a six year old. As I moved to place my foot on that rung, my knee would come up almost to my chest. My arms would stretch high above my head for the next rung and pull me up. I would climb each rung carefully, and once reaching the top, fall backwards into the hay and straw.
Oh how I loved the straw. Even though at times it was scratchy against my skin, it was also soft and fluffy and would encircle my little body. I could almost disappear. I could hide. Laying in the straw, being still, I would look up at the ceiling of the barn and listen to the crickets. I would pay attention to my body. My heart would begin to slow down, my muscles would relax, and I would embrace that feeling of calm. My mind would wander, dreaming of my future. Would I get married? How many babies would I have? Would I live in a mansion? Would I have a pony? The dreams of a little girl.
Now, here I am at sixty, again asking questions about my future. How should I live the remainder of my life? How long will I even live? Should I leave a secure job I don’t enjoy to pursue another dream? With more practice, could I make it as a writer? In some small way have I already made an impact? Did I avoid many regrets?
See grandchildren, life really is that journey I kept talking about. It isn’t only the destination. We are never too old to question. Never too old to change directions. Never too old… Period!
And grandchildren, I have many more stories about that old big red barn and their land. I hope they don’t bore you, but instead give you a sense of connection to your history.