When we were kids, as the end of the school year approached and summer was almost in reach, the excitement in our house would begin to mount. We knew we would be going to ‘The Farm’ for our holiday. At the time I believed we were rich beyond belief. None of my friends went on a driving trip, pulling a homemade tent trailer. None of my friends had been to New Brunswick. None of my friends got to help milk cows, and put in hay, ‘go out over the hill’, and even sleep in a hay loft. None of my friends went to The Farm. Uncle Roy and Aunt Muriel’s farm.
It didn’t matter that I, and several of my siblings were extremely motion sick and spent most of the three-day car journey in a less than glamourous state. It didn’t matter at all. What mattered was that the journey took us to our beloved cousins and their home, The Farm. The Farm was a dairy farm as were many of the farms in Kings County, located just outside of Sussex, along the Kennebecasis River. When you operate a large dairy farm, you don’t get to go on holidays away from the farm. Cows need milking morning and night and this ritual keeps a dairy farmer firmly tied to the farm. To us as kids, this of course, was all part of the intrigue. It seemed as though our cousins lived such a glamourous, adventure-filled life and we just could not wait to be a part of it.
Our days on The Farm were full. We loved being able to join in with the work. Getting up early to go to the barn for milking was magical. Finding new-born kittens in the hay loft felt like a far better ‘attraction’ than any we might have found in Disneyworld. Our days were full of farm chores, fresh air and freedom. Our evenings were spent building forts ‘out over the hill’, playing baseball, coming up with pranks and singing together in the kitchen. It was magical.
We had six cousins on the farm and two more just on the other side of Great Uncle Frank’s house. Our grandparents lived there too. We too had six kids in our family at that time. We loved that we were exactly the opposite of Uncle Roy’s six kids. Their order was three boys, followed by a girl, boy, girl. We were three girls followed by a boy, girl, boy. Somehow that made us feel even closer. We usually only stayed on The Farm for about ten days but by the time our holiday there ended, there was crying and grief of the deepest kind. Each year we vowed to write letters to keep in touch. As the months of each year went on, the letters dwindled but the memories did not.
You can imagine my shock then, the first night Mary arrived at The Farm for her weekend visit in August when her text arrived, ‘THE FARM IS SOLD!!!!’.
This shouldn’t have been a shock. We knew my cousin Terry and his wife Marcia, who took over the farm from Uncle Roy and Aunt Murial years ago, had put the farm up for sale quite some time ago. But a big, now very modern dairy farm does not sell over night. So, when one year and then another went by without a buyer, I put it out of my mind. Even last year, when Jim and I stopped in for our visit during our Canada 150 Tour, knowing the farm was for sale didn’t mean I really believed it would sell.
The truth is, in the last forty years, I’ve only been back to The Farm three times. That is, in person. In my mind, I’m a regular visitor there.
For me, The Farm was so much more than just a place to go for a holiday. The Farm grounded me, and all who went there. On The Farm, however we showed up was absolutely perfect. No judgements were ever made and no expectations were put upon us. Oh, we had to tow the line and follow the rules but never did we believe that we were not enough just how we were. It was a place of incredible acceptance. It was a place I felt I could be myself at my best. It was a place I learned about nature and about the natural cycles of life. It was a place I found great peace. And it was one of the few places where after our mother died when I was just ten, I continued to feel ‘seen’.
When Jim and I got married and talked about our dreams for how our life would be, I wanted us to create a home that had a feeling like The Farm. I wanted people to feel welcome and accepted in our home. I wanted dreams to thrive in our home. Jim had not been to The Farm; he had not met my East Coast relatives. It took us fifteen years to save the money to take our children there when they were eight and ten years old. It was well worth the wait. Jim fell in love with it and with my cousins and aunt and uncle just like I knew he would. I think his favourite part of our visit to the East last year was standing in Terry’s newest barn in fascination, watching the robots milk the cows. In my mind, my Grampy was sitting on his little milk stool doing the same.
I’m guessing that my heart will eventually catch up to my mind on the selling of The Farm. It really is time. It is part of the life cycle of this place. Once I’m done feeling sorry for myself, I know I’ll have an abundance of gratitude and comfort knowing the memories I have of this place have helped make me who I am, have helped create the home I live in, and have given me confidence to believe that I am enough. That’s a pretty good harvest from one Farm.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘Where is The Farm in my life?’
Elizabeth is a life and leadership coach in Calgary, AB. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups and she creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you or your organization to figure out how to bring The Farm to your table.