Down a long dirt road, beyond fields of corn amid the gently rolling plains outside of Tecumseh, Nebraska stands an old farm house. As the sun sets against the endless sky, a little girl sits on the roof and dreams about leaving that dusty corner of her life to see the wide world.
That little girl is my mom.
My family and I had the honor of accompanying my mom on a recent trip to her past. We flew to Kansas City and rented a car for the 2 hour drive to Tecumseh, Nebraska. The old farm house was torn down long ago and replaced by a large electric transmission tower. The one room school is barely standing and is home to rotting desks, a rusty boiler, broken blackboards, ticks and a few snakes.
The town has changed very little since I visited there as a child. I remember falling in love with Susie Rummel only to be told that cousins can’t marry. I remember the smell when we visited my great aunts Mamie and Frances and their dog Bun Bun. I remember hanging out with the sons of my mom’s best friend Lila Mae Hutt. One summer we drove in one of the Hutt’s hot rod cars to a river outside town and threw M-80 firecrackers into the water. “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright played on the radio. I still cannot listen to that song without thinking of that day.
But this weekend I could not superimpose my narrative over that of my mom’s. Hers was too overwhelming. The stories, the enduring friendships, the video of her high school graduation, the flags flying in the court house square, the happenstance meeting with an old classmate as he left the town post office, the cemeteries-all harboring a million cherished memories.
My mom did leave Tecumseh to see the world. She went to Cottey College; worked as an artist for Hallmark cards; met my dad who was a student at Kansas City Art Institute; moved to Oklahoma City and raised four kids who adore her. She has carried with her, and passed along, so many of the hard earned traits she learned growing up in Nebraska-community, self reliance, good humor, and how to dream.
I wonder what she was thinking as she visited her past. Are there thoughts of unresolved grief over a father gone too soon; friendships that have diminished with time; the enduring but disconnected love between 5 sisters? And what does she do with those thoughts?
I think she does what her own Mom would have taught. You put them in their proper place- as part of the composite that makes you the beautiful person you are today. And you celebrate the present. And you look straight ahead. And you move forward. Hello future.