Tuesday, July 13, 2010

She farmed, I Farm Story

In 1950’s Saskatchewan, my Grandmother was one of the many who woke up at the crack of dawn to begin baking the daily bread and buns for the family. She probably had 7 kids at that point, a number I cannot fathom when dealing with my own four on a daily basis, and she went on to have a staggering 13 children before she closed up shop at almost 50 years old.

Life in Saskatchewan was clearly not for the weak or weak of heart. The winters were of the -50 variety, with snow drifts as high as the sheds that held the grain. In the winter, we huddled around the metal bellied stove for warmth before the house heated up, and our uncles  attached the hoods of old cars to the back of the snowmobiles and whipped us around frozen ponds for fun.

I have memories of waking up to the smell of baking every morning, of swimming in rain barrels or the dug out beside the crops when we were hot and dusty from running around. I took in a mouthful of lard once, because my cousin told me it was mashed potatoes. I remember swinging on a rope in the hayloft, from one side of the hay bale lined walls to the other, and the feeling of complete freedom I had when I was flying through the air. Sure, a few of us fell out of the loft onto the hard ground below, but I don’t really dwell on the bumps and bruises. I remember how my Grandma chased us down the dirt driveway with a tea towel when my cousin Bonnie decided she could drive at age 9. (Sidenote: we went to the town 10 minutes up the road for ice cream, and she did just fine. Seriously.)

Because of the way I was brought up, often out at the farm under my Grandma’s feet and surrounded by cousins, aunts, and uncles, I never thought it odd that there were always people around. My cousins’ were, and still are, my best friends, the people I counted on for everything. This was a family that was close, if only due to proximity. Emotionally, it was a different story. I can’t speak for the 13 children, but I don’t think hugs, kisses, and stuff we consider normal now were part of their upbringing. It was most likely a testament to the times.

I no longer live in Saskatchewan, and I haven’t been back there in almost 9 years. I am no longer surrounded by family. Living out on the coast has put us at least 4 hours from my brother and over 24 from my parents. Sometimes I still miss the proximity, sometimes I don’t.

I bake from scratch because using a cake mix just ain’t how I was raised, although I would give the credit for that more to my Grandma than my own mother who thought baking was boring.I do not own a bucket of lard, preferring to use products of the non-animal variety for my baking.

No one would argue that life is different for moms these days, but what I didn’t realize until just recently was how much worse it is.

Back when my Grandmother was producing a new child every year, she didn’t have the lure of ‘life beyond the farm’ to pull her away and make her dissatisfied. If she was dissatisfied, it was due to other things that I was not privy too. Now, I have my iPad in my lap 24/7, and Twitter is a testimony to women juggling children, house, and marriage with apparent ease.  My little window to the world makes me restless in a way that I am sure she wasn’t.
Summer vacations were for running around the farm. I can’t get my kids to run around the yard, despite the 15 foot above ground pool, tube-slided play center with swings, and the trampoline. I don’t remember ever going up to her and saying, “I’m bored.” I grabbed her apron when I was hungry, and I was always hungry, but other than that we were scarce.
99% of the time, rather than go out into my yard and pull weeds from my little garden patch, I plow the fields on Farm Story or We Rule, contenting myself with magic cauliflower and 16 hour crops in exchange for XP. Her garden would take up the entire plot my house sits on, plus my back yard.
I don’t think she ever had time to be bored, and if she was, she didn’t say. It was just the way that life was inside her bubble. I know she wasn’t entirely happy, far from it, but at the very least she didn’t have the distractions we have on a daily basis and the overwhelming discontent that can come from trying to raise children in this day and age.
Technology, in it’s ability to entertain and suck up our entire lives,  has bred boredom. At least at my house.
It’s summer vacation, and my kids are running all over the house, alternating between Lego Batman on the Wii and the sort of sunny backyard. I’m sitting on the deck, watching them, and I’m thinking how much fun that rope in the loft of the barn was.

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