i lived with my grandparents for two years after my parents divorced. i went through first and second grade at a school where my aunt was a teacher. you see, my family owns a vast amount of land in their rural town, and everyone lives beside one another, separated by a single field between each home. starting out on the left is my grandparents' house, then a field, then my great-grandparents' house, a field, my aunt pam's house, and behind all those is my great great grandmother's home which is hidden among the trees behind a place we lovingly call "the big rocks."
my uncle michael was only a teenager when we lived with him, and he had a go cart we'd ride through the pastures after school. that is, until my papa decided to plant pine trees in "our" field - the one between our house and his. i was very frustrated with him for encroaching on our paths. he did, however, plant the rows of trees accordingly around one single path between our two homes. i remember it like it was only yesterday. but it wasn't. my papa died in 1997, a day after my last visit with him. only days ago i stopped by that field which is no longer a field and stared up into the branches of these trees he'd planted and was suprised by the tears that filled my eyes, and by the passion in my heart for this land that symbolizes my family.
my grandmother is very passionate about this land. we speak of it often, and she loves to tell me how she's leaving all of it to us. she also loves to ask everyone what they're going to do with their land - i think secretly she's afraid that my mom or aunt sheila will sell it. they moved away and came to love bigger cities, and i suppose she thinks their ties aren't as strong as pam and lance's. but i know better. as much as any of us (myself included) come to enjoy "city" life, there is an inexplicable peace that comes over all of us when these houses, pastures and woods come into view. i have told several people that because we moved so many times in my childhood, i hate to be asked where i'm from, because i just don't have an answer. but in my heart i know this is where i am from. i come from these people.
my mema, who has never lived more than 8 miles from where she is right now since the day she was born. my dada, who fought in several wars that he won't speak about and supported a wife and 5 children since he was 18. my mama hilda and papa, who married young and built their house, planted their own gardens, orchards, and vineyard. my aunt pam, who is strict (and i thought mean, when i was younger) but secretly has the biggest heart of anyone i know. my aunt sheila, who is the life of the party wherever she goes and has always been drop dead gorgeous. my uncle lance, the bike riding, leather wearing "rebel" who shocks you when you hear his big wood pecker laugh. and my uncle michael, who was the most troubled of them all; the "baby" who loved to terrorize us. and that's only three generations. they all have children of their own now, and their children have children. right now we have 5 generations of living relatives who get together 4 times a year. scattered to the winds? maybe, but not too far away to come home. i am in love with these people. and in awe. because they have taught me everything i know about loving your family and neighbors and not forgetting where you've come from. i am so proud to have all their blood in my veins, i could just burst.