Once Upon a Farm in Iowa

He’d asked me a couple of times during my foolish, younger days, if I thought he’d been born yesterday.  I was getting older and realizing maybe I had thought so, back then.

It was 2013.  After trying to write something for Father’s Day gift, I came up with a list of questions instead.  I wanted to know his stories.  Too fresh off the keys, I let them sit a while and gave him purple calla lilies instead.  I mentioned it would be nice to ask him one day about life on the farm. Two weeks later we were driving the back roads of Iowa, to the lane I remembered as Grandma and Grandpa’s.



“There used to be a school house there.” he said, as we were halfway down the gravel path.  He remembered a performance of “Pop Goes the Weasel” at a special open house night and the excitement of new school shirts ordered from the catalog.  He’d looked forward to going, but it closed just before he was old enough.  With only a few shrubs and corn left in its place, he painted for my mind the bridge crossing a spring into a tree-sheltered space. There were willow trees and the enchanted school yard he played in long after it was vacant.  I could hear children’s voices through the rustling weeds.



Further on toward the house, the two red barns built on each side of the lane, like a gateway to the farm yard, weren’t there like I remembered.  The cattails weren’t lining the creek.  I was hoping to pick some for my girls.

Just before that place of the missing barns was a corner of field where grandma had a garden.  He remembered how he would go with her and help like a 4 year-old can and loves to do.  He had a few years there with her to himself while the older ones were down the lane at school.  I don’t know that I had ever thought of him so small.

Weather Vane

Farm House


The house was hollow; locked to us, but open to critters through the missing upper window.  I remembered the smell inside, the cuckoo clock on the wall, the plastic flowers blooming year-round, and the scary, hairless cat which held the toilet brush.  I remembered my grandpa in his pinstriped pajamas; the mud room with the enormous freezer holding meat they had raised just past the yard.

We walked out back and imagined the rabbit hutches and more trees than now.  In the shade he’d played with his brothers.  The oldest made impressive, miniature farm equipment and buildings.  When the rain came through, they had a bridge for navigating the creek that would form in the middle of their toy farm.

We followed the terrace along the cornfield behind and I saw corners I never knew.  One bordering creek separated into two and joined again, leaving an island full of trees and wildlife.  It was there that my dad traveled afar.



We walked through corn that was once both pasture and baseball field when work was done.  Over the fence was the neighbor’s field where my dad would catch gophers.  Two front feet brought to the courthouse was 10 cents and the farmer would double it.

Baseball Field

Corn Leaves

Milking Room


There was a lot of empty space.  Lots of stories of “in this spot we did this” or “this used to be there.”  The hen house stood quiet with hay still in its boxes.  A hoop hung from the wall of the milking room, the makeshift basketball court.  There were no wild cats like I had found in bales of hay on visits as a child.

Stock Barn


We talked long, sitting and looking over our sandwiches and rolling fields from the top of the lane.  Singing birds and the swaying grass overgrown accompanied our conversation.


Iowa Horizon


“Farms aren’t like they used to be,” he said.  Livestock and fenced-in farmyards with families doing chores are a rarity and the fields are quiet.  Bigger operations handle the hogs and families don’t live on the land like before.  There’s a lot of space, a lot of empty.

As I reflected on that day in all that quiet left on the farm, in the spaces left wanting, there was something born that day.  My dad and his stories were born in me.



And I’m thankful for my God who sees voids and fills them, makes the unknown familiar.  He took chaos and deep, moved over it, and created.  And I’m thankful that His creation, which can happen by a word, in a moment, is still moving and filling and happened to us on a Once-Upon-A-Time farm in Iowa.

Once Upon a Time
Cute Dad
I love you, Dad.  


I’ll Always Love Them “Bigger”

 Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.  
Proverbs 14:10

Bleeding Heart

     My daughter told me tonight, with shock and shame on her face, that she hadn’t made me anything for Mother’s Day.  We moms always say we don’t need anything but a hug right?  I admit, there was a little twinge of the feeling of being “forgotten,” but it really is ok. She doesn’t know how much I love her and I can’t hold that against her.  I know how this goes.


Together (2)


     The longer I live and the more I experience, I am definitely more thankful for and appreciative of my own mother.  Yet length of days and the swell in my heart over my own children hasn’t allowed me to understand the extent of her love for me as her child.  I believe she will always have the upper hand and love me more than I can know.
     It’s bitter and beautiful all at once, the way life goes.  When my little doll face looks at me sad because she “forgot,” it’s not really a hug that I want.  She used to kiss me on the lips with a smile, love to cuddle, and let me tell her how cute she was.  But this can’t last forever.  She is meant to keep getting taller and moving farther.  I am meant to teach her how to do that well.  It’s bitter and she doesn’t see why because she can never know my joy.  All these memories coming from looking through my own heart, out of my own

eyes. . . 

Sabrina flower 2


     So Mother’s Day may not come with homemade gifts.  I’ll get some extra hugs and I’m happy for that.  And I won’t tell them that they can never know; I’ll always love them “bigger.”