Posts Tagged ‘farm’

With Flying Colors

Monday, August 1st, 2011

airplane

By all accounts, Baby’s 1st Flight was a success.

Sure, there were a few bouts of excessive wiggling accompanied by the occasional ear-splitting devilish squeal. And there were also a few crankypants cries when Miss Cheeks was trying to nap and not able to get as comfy (e.g. flat on her face) as she would have liked.

goodie-bagBut those goodie bags did the trick with garnering the goodwill of nearly all of our airborne neighbors, excluding the sourpuss elderly couple who clearly were too good to be sitting back with all us riffraff in coach.

They certainly charmed the 3 teenage boys who sat behind us on the flight home. They received their bags o’ sugar with exclamations of: “No way!” “For real?!” “Awesome.” And my personal favorite, “Dude. I’m totally tweeting this!”

When we landed at O’Hare, I had a few bags left and passed them out to the flight attendants and pilot on our way off the plane.

 Turns out that was an excellent decision, because the day after we arrived home, a special FedEx package arrived for Lucette. aa-letter

The letter reads:
“Dear Lucette,
I received a phone call from the crew on your recent flight from San Francisco to Chicago. They were all so impressed with your grace and gentle spirit on your first flight.

On behalf of American Airlines, it is an honor to include you among our loyal customers.

We wish you a lifetime of safe travel and joy discovering the world.”

The package included a “My First Flight” certificate complete with AA wings and a gold pendant for a necklace.

I admit, I got a little verklempt over that one. Such a nice gesture, and completely unexpected.

Lu’s first trip to her Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois was quite eventful.

pizza

First, though, we had to stop at Lou Malnati’s and introduce her to real Chicago pizza.

Safe to say she’s a fan. (And she made her daddy proud with the amount of pie she put away.)

 The week that followed was full of hot July weather, lots of swimming, lap chickens, meeting horses,horse mooing at guernsey cows and winning over a black lab named Charlie, who became Lucette’s devoted servant after noticing the copious amounts of food that were tossed over the side of her high chair.

Even though she’s too little to remember, I showed her the house I grew up in out on Palmyra Road and introduced her to many of the places that were the landmarks of my childhood.

We’ll do it again when she’s older, I’m sure. But this time, her first time, will stick in my mind.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, a business idea for Public Relations Plane Kits for Babies is in the works, thanks to my entrepreneurial sister. I’ll keep you posted.

welcome-to-farm
-Lo, who says that a lap chicken is a chicken who sits in your lap, of course.

Down on the farm

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

mood: sleepy | drinking: water

tractor1

There is something about going back to the farm that never gets old.

I haven’t lived there for at least 15 years now (and have no intention of moving back), but I love to visit. Of course, the actual farm I grew up on is now home to strangers, and the big grey house where all my childhood memories took root is now painted a trendy shade of purple.

My parents moved to a different farm, 8 or 9 miles away from our old home, when I was just a year or two out of college. But they’ve been there long enough, and I’ve visited often enough, that it’s endearingly familiar.

This time I went back with Bean in my belly, and my sister and nephew in tow. The little guy is now nearly 3, and old enough to get really excited about things like tractors and horses and big piles of sand.

Every day we were there, as soon as my nephew saw my dad he’d say, “Papa, I ride tractor? I ride big tractor? I ride bucket tractor?” And my dad, the ever-obliging grandpa, would prop Jude up on his lap and drive a never-ending series of tractors up and down the driveway.

Watching my parents as grandparents is delightful. Although, as my sister pointed out on this visit, my mom would never have given us all those sugary treats when we were kids. We had to suffer through “chocolate chip” cookies festooned with nasty carob droplets. But my nephew? He gets the real thing. Plus brownies. And M&Ms. And ice cream cake.

Now that grandchildren are making their appearance, my mom and dad are beginning to rearrange their lives in preparation for an eventual westward move to California. Even if Jude were the only grandchild, they’d make the move, but now they’ve got Bean due to show up soon, and later this fall we’ll meet my sister’s second child.

It will be amazing to have my parents just an hour or two away, instead of thousands of miles. Just to be able to make impromptu plans that don’t involve plane tickets and rental cars would feel miraculous.

But I’ll admit it, I’m going to miss showing up at the old stomping grounds. I’ll miss the red barns and the Midwest accents and drinking “pop” instead of soda.

I’ll miss the thrill of seeing, after years of absence, sights that used to be as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.

I’ll miss the sense of history embedded on every backroad. Here is where I learned to drive, as did my father before me. Here’s where I had my first kiss, where I earned my first paycheck, where I ran barefoot chasing lightning bugs.

I love San Francisco, and I have 10 years of history here, now. And soon Bean will be making all of her childhood memories here, in our little house by the sea.

But part of me will always be a farm girl, able to scale fences and bridle horses and remain totally unfazed by the presence of poop. And I wouldn’t change that part of my history for anything.

-Lo, back to the city life.

Home on the Farm

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

thefarmMood: Rainy day delinquent
Drinking: Mint & honey tea

As long as there’s no great March snowstorm to keep me earthbound, I’ll be picking up my bags at O’Hare in a couple of days and pointing my rental car west, toward my parents’ farm.

My grandfather passed away several weeks ago, and the relatives-in-charge opted to postpone the memorial service until “spring”. I don’t know exactly why they consider Illinois’ version of March to be spring, since anyone who’s spent a winter or two there knows better. But the date has been set. So I, along with several other long-lost relatives from various states betwixt here and there will be traveling through the snow this week to pay our respects.

I’m always happy to return to the small town where I grew up. (As long as it’s for a visit and not for good.) I like to drive the roads that I used to know so well, the roads that used to make me feel like such a big fish, and see what’s changed since I last passed that way. Palmyra Road always has a few surprises. For one thing, it’s not even called Palmyra Road anymore. I think they changed the name to Prairieville Road a couple of visits back.

When I was a tiny thing, it used to be called Rural Route 1. Then, for the duration of my childhood and teen years, it was Palymra Road. Home of “Son Shine Acres”, which is where I lived from age 2 to 21, give or take a few months here and there when I was at college or pretending to live in more exotic locales like Indiana.

My parents owned a big grey farmhouse and 1.5 acres of land which housed a huge garden, a dog kennel, a chicken coop, a horse barn, and my dad’s oversized garage. For most of my childhood, we also rented the 10 or so acres of land across the driveway, which included a silo, barn, and several large outbuildings, as well as a pond, a giant cottonwood tree, and a couple of acres of rolling green hills.

I learned to ride a horse there (and broke my arm getting bucked off a donkey there). I spent countless hours carrying 5-gallon buckets of water from the well up by our house all the way down to the big red barn, which didn’t have any running water for a long time. In the winter, when the pails of water would slosh down my legs and freeze inside my boots, that path from house to barn seemed 5 miles long.

The picture above is the view from our kitchen window out over the yard, down the lane, ending at the big red barn. My dad took this photo on a winter day when I was only 4 or 5. For most of my formative years, this view comprised the largest part of my world.

My parents don’t live at 497 Palmyra Road anymore. They sold the place and moved on when my sister was in college. My bedroom with the dusky blue horseshoe wallpaper belongs to someone else now.

But every time I’m back in town, I drive the old blacktop, turning right off Route 2 by the Shell gas station, up Lord’s Hill (which seems so small now compared with San Francisco inclines), past Vitale’s Holstein farm, and then slowing down for a look as I drive past the scene of my first bike ride, first snowman, first puppy, first costume party, first horse, first skinned knee, first kiss, first driving lesson, first mulberry, first falling star, first everything that makes a childhood a good one.

It doesn’t look like much anymore. Some of the trees in our huge front yard are missing now. The Son Shine Acres sign is gone. There are no more beagles in the backyard. And who knows what ever happened to my favorite bike, the one with the banana seat and the handlebar streamers.

But it’s still a magical place to me.

So I’ll be seeing you soon, old homestead. And you, too, Sterling Girl(s)! Leave a light on for me. I’m coming home.

-Lo, who still knows where Erwin the bird is buried out in the apple orchard.

Cool and the Gang

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Mood: Daydreamy
Drinking: Sweet Green Tea

I’m really not all that cool. There have been a few people, recently, who seem to think I register rather high scores on the coolness meter, but they would be very mistaken.

It’s true that I have hidden sometimes behind a shiny cool veneer, but it’s just for show. The slickness is only skin deep, and it doesn’t last long. Peel it away and you’d find a bona fide dork hiding beneath.

I’m fine with it. Having accepted my innate lack of cool, I’m much more at ease than I used to be, back when I thought coolness actually counted for something. Back when I thought I might be able to do more than fake it.

In high school (because that’s where it really gets embedded, doesn’t it?), I was well known for my lack of anything even remotely resembling cool. I had the wrong clothes (from second-hand stores), the wrong hair (bangs weren’t poofy enough), the wrong hobbies (I rode horses instead of boys), the wrong attitude (I turned term papers in early), the wrong everything. But the beauty of it was that back then, I was too clueless to care.

I spent most of my time daydreaming about being an Olympic-level equestrian, flying over fences on my thoroughbred steed. (In reality, my “steed” was a second-rate Quarter Horse named Fantasia with blue eyes and a penchant for biting.) When I wasn’t thinking up four-legged fantasies, I was hiding up on the roof by the chimney or behind the big chair in the living room, nose buried in a book, ignoring my mother calling me to dinner.

I spent so many hours reading, my mom called me “Bookworm”, although she said it with equal parts pride and exasperation. When my sister and I were little tots, mom was the one who took us on weekly trips to the Dixon Public Library. We would fill up an apple box with books, only to return the next week and exchange them for more. By the time I hit junior high, I was sure that I had read every single book in the children’s section at least twice. So I moved upstairs to the big “adult” books.

I got good grades, I studied hard, I won essay-writing and speech-giving contests, and I never went on any dates. By the time I graduated high school at age 17 (wearing tafetta and green eyeshadow), it was just starting to dawn on me that maybe I should be paying a little bit of attention to boys. Or my hair. Or something besides my horse. (What is it about girls and horses, anyway?)

I made a little progress in college. Mastered the art of mascara. Purchased my first pair of non-hand-me-down jeans (at WalMart). Actually ventured out to a bar once in awhile. But I stuck to my tried-and-true formula: Keep your head down, study hard, get good grades, graduate. I did manage to move on from horses to boys, but I was extremely gunshy. There was a boy in my poetry class who asked me out for “coffee” so we could talk about “poetry”, but I was so scared of the prospect of sitting across the table from a guy I didn’t know, alone (horrors!), that I turned him down and scurried away, hair in my face and eyes on the ground. (I can’t remember his name, but always wonder what would have happened if I had said yes.)

I could take you through the whole excruciating evolution from farm girl to gothling to potty-mouthed poet, but the point is… (what is the point? I thought I was going to write a post about kids today and how they don’t read enough books, but now I’m stuck on the cool train.) The point is that I’m not cool.

Cool is the girls who could flirt effortlessly. The girls who knew how to french inhale. The girls who giggled at my granny panties because they had been wearing leopard-print thongs since sixth grade. The girls who shaved their eyebrows off and then drew them back on, flawlessly,with charcoal pencils. Cool is equal parts confidence and cruelty, beauty and bully, rebellion and reason. Cool is completely put together without giving a shit. Effortless perfection. Brazen misdirection.

Cool is the people I was fascinated by but couldn’t stand: the cheerleaders, the mall rats, the guitar players, and Linda Mocklin, who won every trophy at every horse show, her dark hair perfectly in place, while I trotted behind, sweaty and disheveled, hoping Fantasia wouldn’t buck me off this time.

Cool is the people I wanted to be: the purple-haired punks, the waifish ballet dancers, the girl at the Green Mill Slam who recited her poem, eyes closed, two perfect nipples poking through her threadbare white tank top, and Star Le, who always looked like a diminuitive goddess come down to earth, her ink black hair falling just so, dainty wrists bent at all the right angles, her porcelain skin glowing against the dark.

I have gotten lucky and fooled a few people along the way, although the deception is no longer premeditated. But I’m really, really, really not cool. I’m a nerd. A dork. A misfit. A wallflower… I love to dance, but prefer long nights at home reading a book. I love to get dressed up, but I never look perfect. I love to buck fashion trends and do my own thing, but I leave no Gwennabes in my wake. I love to write, but have no bestsellers. I love to rebel, but start no revolutions. I love to smoke, but I never inhale.

You can only be cool if you’re not really trying. You can only be cool if you don’t really care.

And though I don’t try, and I don’t care, and so for the first time have an actual shot at it, being cool is no longer relevant. I’ve discovered something far better and more satisfying…

Just being me.

-Lo, who attended high school football games to stare at the cheerleaders.

Brokedown Girl

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Mood: Ever-changing
Drinking: Water to melt the vicodin

I was twelve the first time it happened.

Like millions of other twelve-year-old girls, I dreamed of owning a horse of my very own. I would have even accepted a pony. What I got was a donkey.

His name was Jackie. He lived for years on the farm of some unfamiliar relatives. I ended up at their house, along with my family, for one of those generic end-of-the-year holiday celebrations that bring all the unfamiliar relatives together, the overly-attentive uncles, awkward cousins, and busybody aunts with their sweet corn casseroles and green jello desserts.

Being the loner tomboy type of twelve-year-old girl, I wandered out to the barn to inspect the herd of lumpy sheep and long-eared goats and hide from a blue-haired and frightening great aunt. And that’s where I met Jackie the donkey, lumpy and long-eared and bored out of his fuzzy little burro brain.

Somehow I convinced my dad that Jackie wouldn’t be as much of a “hayburner” as a horse would be. He was smaller, for one thing. Almost pony-ish. And somehow my dad convinced our cousin-twice-removed Martin to part with his much-ignored donkey in exchange for two tens and a five.

And that’s how it happened, the first time I broke my arm. Because donkeys are really nothing at all like horses, and Jackie had no intention of making my equine dreams come true.

I’d try to gallop off into the sunset and he’d plant his tiny hooves, do a little fancy bunny hop with his back legs, lower his stubby neck and whoop! Off I’d slide, right between those rabbit ears. Which was great fun, in and of itself.

Yep, it was all fun and donkey games until the day our friend Nathan wanted to pony up and ride double. I hopped on first and my mom hefted Nathan’s bulky bottom up into the air. He had barely touched down when Jackie decided he’d had enough and showed us all a new trick ? a very fine impersonation of a real bucking bronco.

Nathan flew right back off the way he came and immediately set off howling.

I hung on for a few more seconds before sliding off Jackie’s other side and slamming my shoulder into the ground much harder than I ever thought possible.

My first broken bone was just a cracked humerus requiring only a sling and the indignity of wearing button-up flowered pajama shirts to school. My mom took over pigtail duty and I remember only a few aspirin and a quietly persistent achiness.

This second time around isn’t nearly as cute. Boy isn’t very skilled at ponytails, although he does try hard. And I’ve got more than one bottle of doctor-prescribed painkillers and plenty of pain to kill.

There was no bucking burro, either. Just me and a four-wheeled ATV and an unfortunately placed sand dune.

Here’s how it happened: Boy, LeeLoo, and I went down to Pismo the weekend before last to meet up with my sister, her just-home-from-Iraq husband, and their marshmallow of a hound dog, Yoda.

The plan involved a lot of food, fun, and four-wheeling on the Oceano dunes. It did NOT involve me snapping my left wrist in an unnatural manner whilst hitting a mogul kind of, um, fast and hard.

But here I am, a one handed typist, with my ulna and radius bones broken at the wrist joint.

Tomorrow I’m going in for surgery to become part bionic woman as they insert a metal plate to hold my wrist together. I’m hoping this means future fun times in airport security lines!

In the meantime I’m trying to come up with a good technique for covering the keyboard with just five fingers. Oh, and I’ve got a skull and roses sling on order. No pajama shirts this time.

Wish me luck, internet!

-Lo, who got not only riding lessons, but an actual horse out of the last broken bone mishap. Wonder what I’m gonna win this time?

The Season of Objects

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Mood: Stuffy
Drinking: Liquids

I haven’t celebrated Christmas at “home” for five years. That’s mostly because Boy and I have been busy making a home of our own here in San Francisco. So every Christmas we do the present thing and then throw the Loo in the Jeep and drive up (or down, depending on our mood) the coast to see what we can see.

Christmas at the beach. It’s better than snow.

But this year, we’re breaking with our little tradition and heading back into snow country…all the way back to Illinois. We’re going to spend the season with my parents, assorted grandparents and friends, and my most favorite sister.

See, said sister (who is also a Californian now) has been husband-less for over a year, since right after her wedding when her brand-new-husband was shipped off to Iraq. He won’t be home until next year, so we’re all going to attempt to make up for his absence by doing the big family Christmas gathering thing.

Truth be told, I’m excited to see a little snow. Not so excited about the accompanying cold (which I got my fill of in New York a couple of weeks ago), but everything else will make up for it.

Not one to break with tradition, I’ve managed to come down with my usual stuffy nose, sore throat, and hacking cough just in time to return to the homestead. (This happens *every* time I go back to Illinois.) So I’m celebrating the season with pocket packs of Kleenex and steaming mugs of TheraFlu. ‘Tis the season, after all.

And speaking of seasons of glitter and giving, I have a little something for my Internet world. A shiny new present that will be waiting for you all on Christmas Day, not under a tree, but here on this site.

M and I just finished editing our 6th cinepoem, “Object”, late last night. So it will be up in time for Christmas, on the cinepoems page.

So after you’re done with your stockings and cheer on Sunday, come visit me here. I promise you won’t have to wear any red sweaters or take any photos with a leering “Uncle” Bob under the mistletoe.

Just sit back with your ‘nog and watch a little “Object” in action.

-Lo,who thinks sugarplums dancing in anyone’s head is just kind of weird.

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Thursday, June 9th, 2005

Mood:
Drinking:

I’m going home.

Or rather, going back to the place that used to be home. I’m attending a conference in Chicago next week for a couple of days and am leaving early so I can spend the weekend with my parents and celebrate my Dad’s birthday with movie popcorn and Star Wars. (He took me to see all of the original Star Wars movies when I was little. We had a mutual affection for R2D2.)

I don’t get back to Illinois that often. And this time I get to see both my hometown AND downtown Chicago. Love ’em both. Although I’ve been warned that it’s very hot and sticky there. And coming from Fog City, I’m not so good with the hot and the sticky anymore.

I get to see a few old friends while I’m back, but since I’m only there for a few days and much of my time is taken up with the conference, I don’t get to see everybody. So if I’m there and I miss you, I’ll take a rain check for next time.

I find that each time I go back, I’ve forgotten one more detail. The name of a freeway. Directions to a friend’s house. How to survive the humidity. The details get fuzzy from disuse.

Everything looks smaller, too. The school I spent 13 years in is so shabby and miniscule! It’s difficult to believe how much time I spent within those walls.

I find myself hoping that I’ll run into people I used to know. And that they’ll have a hard time recognizing me. Sometimes I hang out at the Super Walmart (small town social center) a bit longer than is really necessary, just in case I recognize an old face. There’s a certain ex I would LOVE to run into, just for curiosity’s sake. I haven’t seen him since we broke up, oh, seven years ago or so. It would be interesting. Or maybe just horrifying.

But whatever happens, I’m determined to get my fill of Dairy Queen (they don’t have DQ in San Francisco) and some real Chicago pizza (West Coast pizza is very sadly lacking). I’m hoping to catch a good midwestern, too. (They don’t have thunderstorms in San Francisco, either.) Rain, yes, but without the bright violence of lightning and the shuddering rumble of thunder.

My dad and I used to sit in the swing on the front porch and watch the rain move in across the fields. Count the beats between the flash and the roar.

Sometimes my sister and I would run screaming through puddles, lifting our faces to the weeping sky and shrieking, fiercely, with the simple joy of being alive, being young, being completely soaking wet.

Just a few of the details that have not yet gone fuzzy.

-Lo, who knows how to make the ice cream curl on a Dairy Queen cone. Years of practice.

Embrace the Farm Girl Within

Tuesday, January 18th, 2005

There was a time, in the height of my gothling glory days, when I would do almost anything to keep you from finding out where I came from. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t really ashamed of my hometown, etc., but it was a pretty feeble effort and failed rather miserably. See, it’s hard to be all melancholie and the infinite sadness with your long black skirt and piles of black eyeliner if people know that you used to be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It kind of ruins your gothy credibility. So I stuffed that adorable little skeleton in a musty closet and hid it as best as I could.

Of course, now that I look back on it, I can see all the drama for how silly it was. Now I know that Tom the Vampire was really a band geek from the suburbs who wore pink button-up business shirts with pocket protectors before he got his dentist to fit him with fangs. And Tink the twirling goth princess didn’t come spinning out of the womb wearing combat boots and lace dresses. Somewhere, in some small town, she’s the biggest dork in the yearbook.

All the arty little white-faced kids started getting their Siouxsie fixation and Bauhaus t-shirts at some point when they were still wearing polo shirts. Some of us just got started with the fishnet and eyeliner a little sooner than others. The rest of us had to play a bit of catch up and hide a few more preppy pictures, that’s all.

As for me, I grew up in a small little Illinois town in the cornfields that bears the singular distinction of being the Hometown of Ronald Reagan. Actually, I didn’t really grow up “in town”. I didn’t even grow up on the outskirts. Nope. I was a real live farm girl. I grew up baling hay and picking corn, chasing barn cats and riding horses. And yes, even milking goats. (Which is easier than milking cows because goats only have two spigots.)

It was an idyllic childhood, really. I had no reason to complain. Most girls my age asked for a pony and got the plastic version with the dollshair mane. I skipped right over the whole pony business and went straight to the real deal–a big, tall horse. I spent the summers brown and barefoot, finding the newborn kittens hidden in the haymow, picking strawberries in the garden and hanging overalls up to dry on the line in the backyard.

I got stung by the bees that hid in the white clover and I got kicked in the jaw by my sister’s obnoxious white pony. (His name was Buckwheat.) I’ve stepped on a nail and caught my pants on barbed wire. I won ribbons and trophies at 4-H fairs and county horse shows. I learned how to deliver baby goats (baby goats are called “kids”) and sew a fancy dress. I’ve canned peaches and packaged sausages. I’ve gone on foxhunts and hay rides. I’ve seen chicks hatch, puppies birthed and horses die in their sleep. I could climb a fence faster than most boys, drive a tractor before I could drive a car, jump a horse over a 4-foot gate and run barefoot on gravel without even wincing. I was a farm girl. No doubt about it.

I tried to deny it for a long time. Once I got all citi-fied and learned how to hail my own cabs, I thought maybe it was dorky to be a hayseed. Everyone seemed to think that you were smarter, sleeker and more sophisticated if you were spawned in the city. Especially if you were going for the my-skin-is-as-pale-as-the-moonlight-by-which-Lestat-hunts look.

There was a time when I would have given anything to be more Nicole Blackman than LaDonna Witmer. I wanted heroin friends and street smarts, KMFDM tours and childhood trauma. I wanted to have a better excuse for my darkness.

But even farm girls have their demons. You don’t have to have a miserable childhood in some dank tenement to be morose. You can grow up in the sunshine with puppies and kittens and still sit in a corner and cut yourself. Just because you have a happy childhood doesn’t mean that you can’t understand the depths of despair.

It’s all a lot more complicated underneath than it looks from the surface. And as far as my story goes, I’ve come to enjoy the contradictions. I mean, it’s kind of cool to know Rodeo Queens and Vampire Boys all at once, you know?

But where is the point in all this rambling babble? I have no idea. I seem to have lost it somewhere between Laura Ingalls and Emily Strange. Here’s my wild stab at wrapping it up:

Somewhere along the way, in the midst of all this growing up, I’ve come to embrace it all. All the pieces of me, from the little blonde tomboy pretending to be Princess Leia with a lightsaber, to the awkward teenager who knew much more about horses than boys, to the fledgling little goth girl who started stuffing her closet and makeup box with black. They are all part of me now.

There’s still an excess of black in my closet, but I just bought a dress that’s lime green. I’ve still got my Nine Inch Nails bumper sticker, but I’ve got Gwen’s new CD in the stereo. Somehow I’ve interwoven the farm girl and the gothling, the melancholy and the sunshine, the poet and the tomboy, the ruffles and the combat boots. It’s all mixed up. It’s all me. And I think it’s turning out alright, after all.

-Lo, who isn’t even sure what her real hair color is anymore, anyway.