No Place Like Home For The Holidays
The holiday season brings a wave of memories of time spent with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents celebrating together in a farmhouse in west central Illinois.
When I close my eyes, I can smell the big cedar tree decorated with tinsel and simple ornaments. I can feel the icy wind making my cheeks rosy from running and playing in the yard and barn.
Like many of the people my age who grew up on a family farm in the Midwest, I moved away from my home state years ago. At 60 years old, I still get a wave of homesickness from time to time, especially during this most wonderful time of the year.
Although they are too few and far between, I do treasure my visits back to Illinois and my parents’ farm.
Crossing the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Louisiana, Mo. and driving through Pike County, Illinois, my heart always begins to beat a bit faster. There is something about the familiarity of the area where I grew up which brings back a rush of emotions. When I cross the Illinois River and enter Scott County, I sometimes feel like I never left.
Like many of my generation who grew up on family farms, my childhood was idyllic. My parents worked hard, and there were times we did without things we wanted, but I never remember needing anything. If my siblings and I were cold or hungry, chances are it was because we were engaged in building a snow fort, riding a sled or running through the timber on a brisk winter day.
Many of us may remember home as the place where we learned to ride a bike, drive a tractor, plant seeds, tend to a garden or a field of corn or haul hay. Home is the place where our journeys begin, and for most of us, a safe place offering protection against any ill will the world throws our way.
Growing up in a working farm family instills passion, love and respect for land, livestock and the environment. It builds character, teaches responsibility, instills an excellent work ethic and an understanding of life cycles.
It is a bold statement, but I do believe most children raised on farms or in rural communities are safer, harder working, healthier, more creative, less dependent upon others to survive and more generous than their urban counterparts. On a farm or ranch, if we fail to feed and water our livestock, the consequences extend far beyond those that might occur if we fail to take out the trash or do the dishes.
I remember fondly, and with reverence, the pastures, crop fields, gardens, barns and house where I was raised. I also remember fondly the farmsteads of grandparents, aunts and uncles where memories were made.
I hope those of us with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or any other children are taking advantage of the opportunity our farmsteads and ranches provide to show those children the meaning of “home” during this holiday season and throughout the new year.
In addition to owning and operating Rocking P Ranch near Jamestown, Mo., Cyndi Young is the farm director and ag operations manager at Brownfield Ag News. This opinion column was originally published Nov. 30 in Young’s Two Cents Column in AgriNews.