90: From This Day Forward

90: From This Day Forward

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

From This Day Forward

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.

~George Washington

“From This Day Forward” read the message on our wedding invitation. It was 1969; I was twenty-one years old and life was exciting. After the wedding, I moved from Moncton, New Brunswick, to the big city of Toronto, Ontario, where we both pursued our careers. On weekends we drove to car races in our purple Challenger. We traveled across Canada, holidayed in resorts, bought a house in the suburbs and eventually our family grew to five.

One day my husband said, “I think I’d like to buy a farm.” Not long after that, the farm next door to his parents in New Brunswick went up for sale. I loved looking at farms when we went for Sunday drives; the cows looked so peaceful in the fields. We would be close to our families and the ocean. We could go to the beach on hot summer afternoons instead of sweltering in the city!

“Yes, a farm would be nice,” I said, “but what about my beautiful house?” The farmhouse was over 100 years old.

“I promise I’ll build you a new house; building my own house is one of my goals in life.”

“And my roses?”

To that, he replied, “There will be lots of room for a big garden.” Decisions and plans were made, and after fourteen years of climbing the ladder at IBM Canada, my husband Ralph decided to become a farmer.

My brother-in-law Raymond came from New Brunswick to help us move. We packed our belongings into a truck, and with our children — Grant, age six, Andrew, age three, and Melanie, age one — we left the city behind. Three days later we arrived at the farm.

The boys excitedly picked out their new bedrooms and we tucked our baby girl into the smallest of the rooms. I remember thinking she would soon have a beautiful new, larger room.

When I stood in the farmhouse kitchen, I wondered why it was so big. And I wondered why Ralph had been gone so long with the cows.

Then reality hit. Those peaceful cows had to be milked twice a day, seven days a week, at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. And the big kitchen? On hot summer days, I had from six to twelve extras at any given mealtime. It seemed like my stove and oven were never turned off.

One day my farmer stood at the edge of a field and said, “This can be your new garden!” It was 240 feet long! Roses were forgotten; I now had to produce food to feed the family. There was no time to visit the ocean.

The first winter in the old house, we “dressed” our baby for bed and cuddled under sleeping bags as we watched TV in the evenings, than ran to our rooms. One evening, I heard the boys calling excitedly from their bedrooms, “Mom, we can see our breath!” As the second fall approached my husband announced, “We need to expand the barn, and I think we should put a wood stove in the kitchen.” The second winter at the farm was much better. We drank hot chocolate around the wood stove as we planned the location for our new house. Soon it was farming season again, and the new expansion was under construction. When fall arrived, I learned how to cord a pile of wood and had a root cellar with enough vegetables to make do until next planting season. During the third winter my husband designed and drew up the plans for our new house.

By this time getting up for 6 a.m. chores had become routine. The boys had grown strong enough to help with evening chores and before I knew it, my daughter Melanie was at my side, feeding baby calves. On our trips between the old farmhouse and the barn we surveyed the Big Dipper, the Northern Lights and even Rudolph’s bright red nose. One moonlit evening when Melanie and Andrew were making snow angels close to the barn, they spotted Halley’s Comet. City lights paled in comparison.

Soon the new expansion was complete and filled with more cows, but now we needed more crops. I remember the words clearly. “This old tractor will no longer do the job.”

It wasn’t long before a shiny, new green John Deere tractor rolled off the delivery truck into our yard. With the new tractor, the farming season certainly ran much smoother. We even made it to the ocean! It didn’t seem to take any time until Ralph announced, “The crops are growing so well, and the cows are milking so well, it looks like we’re going to need a bigger and better milk tank.”

The milk tank was a good investment. It washed automatically and cooled the milk much quicker. It took pressure off meeting the 8 a.m. deadline for milk pick-up. It also freed up extra time in the evenings and we sat around the kitchen table a little longer, talking about our day.

Finally, we dug the basement for the new house. The same summer, we bought a new hay-drying system. Yes, the cows were milking so well we had to buy more milk quota just so we could stay in business.

By and by we framed the new house, picked out siding, roofing and windows. But then, Grant wanted to play hockey, Andrew wanted a new snowmobile, and Melanie wanted modeling classes. Way too soon there was high school, licenses and extra insurance premiums, and — maybe the old truck wasn’t safe enough for them to drive. We bought a new truck. There were friends and more friends. Girlfriends and boyfriends. When I went to the barn at 6 a.m., I counted the shoes at the door to see how many extras there were. Cheez Whiz, Sloppy Joe mix, and purple Kool-Aid were staples. The old farmhouse became the gathering place.

There was a spell when everything went smoothly. The machinery didn’t break. Good crops were in the barn. The cows were healthy and milking excellent. Teenage expenses leveled off. Ralph said, “This is it, this is the year I will finish the new house!”

Fifteen years have passed, and I am finally in my new house. Outside the wind blows another storm across our fields. I close my eyes and listen to the stillness. No creaking house. No whistling wind. No clinking sound of Kool-Aid mixing in my kitchen. I open my eyes, admiring my beautiful surroundings. A warm fire glows in our new fireplace. Grampie is sitting in his favorite chair, in his shirtsleeves. An angel sleeps in my arms. We are sitting in our new house as grandparents. Is this a dream or is it real? Small fingers reach out and tighten on mine. Reality touches my heart. I brush back the soft curls that cover my granddaughter’s face; I’ve never had time to plant many flowers — together we’ll grow a rose garden.

 

~Darlene Lawson

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