Saturday, November 21, 2015

Guest Post: The Icy Front Steps

So, my Mom asked me to do a guest post with memories of my first Thanksgiving on the farm. Here goes nothing.

It was November of 1989.  She and my Dad were to be married a month later, and I'd never really been outside of Georgia, much less in Wisconsin in late November. My first experience at the farmhouse was slipping on the icy front steps and falling flat on my rear end.  Add to that the stress on a nine-year-old kid who'd experienced the most traumatic year of his life of meeting a house packed with strangers who were family-to-be, and you had an interesting scenario, to say the least.

There's a picture floating somewhere in existence of about 872 people (that might be a mild exaggeration) seated around the dining room table that Thanksgiving day, with me at the end, trying my best to mask my deer-in-the-headlights look with a smile.

So, to summarize my first Thanksgiving at the farm, I bruised my tailbone and felt awkward. Doesn't exactly make for a heartwarming holiday post, does it? :-)

But, honestly, my fondest thoughts of the farm actually have nothing to do with the farm.

Throughout my lifetime, from the day I was born, I've lived within the reality of what many would call a "blended family." The people I knew from the start as my older sister and brother were adopted; I knew that, but I also knew that it didn't matter. There was no prefix or qualifier to our relationship. They were just my sister and brother, as far as I was concerned.

Still, though, that was all I'd ever known. It's a different story and a different lesson when you're suddenly thrust into the unknown.  When your mother and sister have been killed in an automobile accident, the family you'd known all your life forever altered, and mere months later, you find yourself clear across the country seated around a table full of strangers, it's hard to imagine that table full of strangers actually becoming family.

But, that's exactly what happened.

And, it wasn't a marriage license that made it happen; it was love--love that a lady showed in marrying a widower with two sons, and simply claiming them as her own; and, love that her family showed in staking that same claim on me.

If you were to ask my grandparents right now how many grandchildren they have, they'd simply answer, "thirty, and six great-grandchildren." No steps. No halves.  No difference.

You see, the farm is where I first really started to learn what's become a defining lesson in my life:  blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood; and family isn't defined by bloodlines or legal documents. Family is what you make it to be through the love that's given and received.

In the years since then, my family has grown even more. I've gained siblings and nephews, aunts and cousins I never would've imagined.  But, it all began in that crowded farmhouse on that snow-covered Thanksgiving. Maybe the front steps were a bit icy, but they led into the warmth of home and family.

--Brian Farmer