By Kristi Powers
The red dawn peeks through the dense morning fog as Irene makes her way slowly down the stairs. She has been a farmer girl from the day she was born and has lived on this farm all 85 years of her life. As she shuffles over to the coffee pot, her thoughts turn to one particular day thirty-seven years ago. Her eyes twinkle at the memory still so fresh in her mind. Could it be that Kim was only three years old the day her and her family moved in to the small house on the farm next door to them? She remembers how polite the shy, blonde beauty was from the moment she met her and in her most respectful tone called out, "Hi Mrs. Sommers." However, all the adults were soon laughing as Kim turned to Eddie, Irene's husband, and called him "Mrs. Sommers" also. Even though she was promptly set straight that a man was a Mr. and a woman a Mrs., her three-year-old mind could not quite grasp that fact and she often mixed up their titles.
That is how Eddie and Irene received their nicknames from the Conway Family who moved in next to them. From that moment on they were always affectionately referred to as "Mr." and "Mrs." by the four neighbor children.
"Mrs." remembers her initial apprehension to having a young family move in next door to their very busy farm. She can't suppress the smile that spreads across her face as she reminisces...it worked out pretty well after all. All but one of her own kids moved far away upon graduation from high school. That is why the Conway kids became more than neighbors... more than friends... they were like grandchildren to "Mr." and "Mrs."
She pours the hot black coffee in her cup and smiles some more...
She can still hear the giggles that always followed the loud knocking on her door every 1st of May. As she opened the door she could see the shadows of the children hiding behind the bushes waiting in grand anticipation for her to bend down and pick up the May Day baskets that were proudly sitting on her front porch. They were always made out of paper and most years were bursting with dandelions. She would always make a big show of how much she loved the hastily made baskets and would "ooooooh" and "aaahhhhhh" over the loving creations. She didn't even mind that some years the paper baskets were chock full of flowers from her own magnificently tended flower garden!
Irene's thoughts are interrupted as the door slowly opens and Gary, her youngest son steps in to check on her. Gary has taken over the operation of the farm since her beloved Eddie died nine years ago. She hands him his customary morning cup of coffee and they laugh as they reminisce about the Conway kids growing up next door to them. They remembered the many crayon-scrawled, hand-delivered invitations that were placed in their hands inviting them to attend the plays put on in the Conway basement. They never missed a production and would patiently and lovingly, applauded every song, play and dance routine.
As the last drop of coffee is slowly sipped from Gary's mug, their thoughts turn somber. They know that today, of all days, is a hard one for the now grown neighbor kids.
Gary excuses himself to check on the crops on this muggy day in July. As he makes his way down the path leading to his fields, he looks at the neighboring house and can just make out the large moving truck through the light fog that is still lingering in the air. The truck is almost packed and ready for the long drive. The silhouettes formed by the fog make the memories appear in his mind even stronger as they play out like slow moving pictures. He passes Kim's Tree.... the tree where the oldest Conway child was most often found. The tree was Kim's refuge, whether she was just out exploring or getting away from the duties that are always attributed to the oldest child of any family.
In his minds eye he can see April, the creative, sensitive second child, singing or playing an instrument.
He smiles as he remembers little Rickie, who's face was always pressed up against the kitchen window as Gary would pass by in his tractor. Rickie loved everything about the farm and would spend countless hours asking questions and learning from "Mr." and Gary about what it took to be a farmer. He learned that farming was, at times, a hard life, but that nothing could compare to the simple satisfaction of working in the fields and growing something that you yourself have planted. It is in these fields that Rick, as an adult, would learn the value of farming in a small rural community. A place where a farmer is still taken at his word and will drop everything, even during harvest time, to help out a fellow farmer in need. Help, which is never officially "asked for" but is always freely given.
As Gary makes his way down the path he comes to the stretch affectionately called "The Lane" by Kristi, the youngest of the Conway kids. Being the youngest and not having as many responsibilities as the older children, "The Lane" is where Kristi spent most of her time. Gary would often see her walking barefoot down this stretch with a line of cats trailing her. Gary nicknamed her the "Cat Girl", a name which stuck with her all through childhood.
If she was not in the lane, she was with Rickie, sitting on the steps in the barn fascinatingly watching the new birth coming alive before her eyes...
As Gary gets to the end of the lane, the sun is slowly burning the last of the fog away and he can clearly see the Conway house now. It has been four and half years since the Conway kids' father has passed away and their mom has sold the house, leaving and following her new love to Florida. With the selling of the house comes the end of an era, but not the end of the memories. The memories are one of the few things that can not be taken away, nor can the love that was sown into four kids' lives.
As the Conway kids think back on their childhood years they realize how incredibly fortunate they were to grow up in this setting. A place where not only their parents loved them but that next door there lived Mr. and Mrs. and Gary, who, together with their parents, gave them more happy memories than most people get in a lifetime.
They will always know that they grew up blessed.
Copyright © 2010 by Kristi Powers
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Writers note: While the memories I have of growing up on the farm with my siblings are true in this story, I do not know the thoughts of Mrs. or Gary on the last day of having our family own the house next door. I remember this day so vividly, as it was very foggy that morning, which just added to my mind's thoughts of the last morning on the beloved place of my childhood. I still walk the lane, at times. Whenever there is something really pressing on my heart, or a burden that I can not seem to bear, I walk up that lane and sit at the feet of Christ, and I watch the sun set in the stillness and quietness of the one place, besides heaven, I still consider home. I hope you enjoyed this story! From my heart to yours! ;c)
About the Author:
Kristi is happily married to Michael and they have three boys. Her writing appears in ten inspirational books, including many in the Chicken Soup series, and their own book entitled: Heart Touchers. Kristi is also homeschool mom and fills her "free time" doing youth ministry and absolutely loves her "job" as a CASA volunteer!
To read more of Kristi's writing visit: http://www.hearttouchers.com/