This past weekend I took a trip down memory lane, but they weren't my memories. They were my Grandmother's. She grew up on a homestead that her grandparent's built in the late 1800's in the wheat farming region of Washington State. A young family lives on the homestead now and they have done a wonderful job at restoring this old farm house in this golden place.
We stepped up the stairs onto the front porch. At a distance on the horizon you can see the once bustling wheat town of Ralston, where my Grandma walked through fields to take her piano lessons. Now it is but a sweeping glance of forgotten buildings. Stepping inside the house, the wood floor boards are still original, but were stripped down through many layers of paint. My Grandma was born in this house. It is where three generations of my family members lived and loved. How could this be? I suppose such is the sentiment of history, knowing who breathed or battled in a particular place all the while trying to pinch yourself to believe it so.
My Grandma told me stories of how her family cooked during harvest time; cherry pies, homemade bread, German sausages, and fresh eggs. These were homesteading meals. Hard work wasn't something that was defined it was done daily through chores, farming, and hard labor. Joys were simple such as the taste of a ripe peach off the tree, a nap in the shade, or fresh curtain linens hung on a bright window. Sorrow often appeared too, in quiet and not so quiet places. Times like these seem grand, difficult, and humbling even to the distant observer.
"Would anyone like a watermelon milkshake"? My head turned in anticipation. Sure enough the woman of the house opens the door and walks out with dixie cups and a beautiful pink pitcher. This is hospitality. The sun was beating down and we were drinking watermelon milkshakes while the family visited on the lawn and learned about the improvements that were made to this lovely home. The house was raised three inches on one side to account for decades of subsidence. Sixteen feet were added to one end of the house, but much of the house still claims its original layout. The room where my Great Grandfather played music on his beloved organ and the horse barn where my Grandmother brushed her favorite horse were still in tact. The old trees on the property still stand. The summer house where my Dad played as a little kid on vacations to the farm and the root cellar no longer exist except for the remnants of the rock foundation now surrounding a bed of flowers in the front garden.
I was impressed. The family living in the house now are such a joy and were so welcoming. Their house is a part of history, our history. They are embracing that, building it up, and are keeping a legacy alive. This trip to the farm got me thinking of the hard work of the past and how it has changed over time. It got me thinking of all the valuable skills we have lost over time as a result of convenience and increased mobility. It got me thinking about ghost towns that were once thriving local economies. It got me thinking about the value of place and how well a person can really know home. We can learn a lot from the past, especially when it comes to growing things and sharing things. Is there hope for the town of Ralston? I'd like to think so. I'd like to think that our small agricultural towns could once again flourish. I hope so.