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Feeding on the past

May 30, 2013 - By Betty Starks Case

Happy Memorial Day. (Used to be).

I thought I'd finally hit a legal holiday with my bi-weekly column schedule. Again the holiday was added to a weekend. But isn't it a great one for family visitors?

So far, three groups have come. And we've enjoyed every minute. The weather has been ideal, my mate's lovely flower gardens beginning to bloom, and birds hatching babies from beautiful blue eggs in the apple tree.

Our visitor season began with Son's and Daughter's arrival and generous assistance in any jobs that needed attention around our home. It was lovely to have them here and, as always, hard to let them go. They leave gifts and goodies and warm memories to make our lives easier and better.

We weren't lonely for long. Niece and Husband, Nephew and Great Niece whom we hadn't seen for years soon arrived to fill in the gaps and take us through many trips down memory lane.

Niece and Nephew had played with and watched after our son when the cousins were young, all often tended, fed, and guided by their Grandma Case. They loved the reminiscence of Grandma striving to keep her precious brood safe from an open irrigation ditch, letting them sleep on the back porch, shoot cherry seeds at the ceiling, and eating fried chicken fresh and tender from the farm -- cage-free, no hormones, no antibiotics.

In conversation, we worked our way through a broken family marriage, beautiful children sadly moved from one relative to another, and the frequent shifts from a familiar school to a new one filled with strangers.

"If we'd known, we'd have taken you home with us," we said, blinking back tears.

But life had long since taken us in other directions.

Their story, typical of many families today, was more rare in those long ago years.

Yet these children grew into wonderful adults -- polite and thoughtful toward others, often, I noticed, expressed by remembering a waitress with a special "thank you" and an extra tip.

We drove out Pavillion way where our families had lived -- remembered, and wondered about the people who own and farm the land today.

Grandpa and Grandma Case bought their farm in 1936. My mate and I later owned the adjoining farm where these youngsters had lived in early years. Memories clung to every acre.

Remember the old saying "You can't go back?" You can, they learned. But only in memory. Time creates its own version of change.

Grandpa and Grandma Case's hard-earned l60 acres, purchased for $300 in 1938, sold in about 1960 for $16,000. In more recent years, we're told, it sold for $400,000.

Wonder what was gained beyond the exchange of bigger funds?

We drove around Pavillion and the school our families attended long ago, then much smaller and simpler, now an expansive education complex.

No objections to change here.

As we delved into the past and my mate's and my family's early connections, we found we can hardly sort or separate them today.

When my brother heard Ned's niece and nephew were coming, he said, "Bob and I were in the same grade. I want to see him."

We spent a lovely evening in my brother's home sharing memories. When the rest of us were ready to leave, the two classmates lamented, "But we're not done yet. We've only finished fourth grade!"

My younger brother phoned, "Judy was a pretty girl. I remember my brothers arguing over who might be her boyfriend."

None was old enough to date. Buds of romance had begun to form, but only in their imagination. I'm told the conflict was settled in a basketball competition.

I noticed that Judy seemed much more adept in history, geography and science discussions than most of us. Did she have a sharper brain beneath that white hair? Or what?

Surprise -- she'd home-schooled most of her 13 grandchildren.

This family had only been gone an hour when another niece, husband and grandson drove in, their visit far too short, destination miles away.

My mate and I are happy that so many younger members of our families come to visit. It's almost as if they come to feed on the past, as if they find nourishment in the sense of security and peace they find in a part of their family that has slowed a bit from life's hurried pace.

But then, we're about all that's left of this combined family's "olderly" generation.

Family history and memories may prove one of the most valuable gifts we can hand on.

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