Since then, nothing has prevented my return to see how The Farm was doing without me but I couldn't. Silly, huh? I wasn't ready...for 33 years apparently! Then this year after checking out of the National House Inn during our anniversary trip, the Mr. said, "let's go find the farm." And I was ready. Only, having not been there in 33 years I didn't know where it was! All I knew was the city of Addison and Devil's Lake. Devil's Lake was where we'd go swimming during the summer. So we entered Addison into the GPS and when we hit the city limits we followed the signs to Devil's Lake (so deep in the middle it went all the way to hell. True story, my grampa told me so.) The once public beach is now occupied by Lakeview Condominiums. Behind the Lakeview sign is the grocery store where my gramma put me in the cart and then ran up and down the aisles, ultimately tipping the cart and dumping us both onto the floor. Gosh, she was just about my age then. We circled the lake as I tried to channel my six year old self and figure out how to get from there to The Farm. With nothing more than instinct, believe it or not, I found it.
And unlike most childhood memories, it looked just like I remembered, albeit with bigger trees and the wrong people living there! I had a hard time not making the Mr. drive up the long drive way and turn right to park at the back door. The picture that shows the corner of the house? The window at the back on the second floor was my bedroom.
We drove home down the familiar road passing many of the same land marks I used to watch for to gauge our closeness to The Farm or back home again. The Prehistoric Forest is for sale. The Stage Coach Stop was closed for the season, and being auctioned for good. This, by the way, is where the Mr. was photographed with Paul Bunyan. I almost had him convinced to climb the fence into the old park but he thought better of it.
The Irish Towers where there was a crocodile hanging in the staircase was vacant and sad looking. Apparently today no one is amazed by tall buildings or scenic views of farm land.
The Dairy Queen we never stopped at is there ("you don't need ice cream!") as was the Mc Donald's we never stopped at ("we're almost there and you can have a sandwich!") The small towns were there. I think some of the fear that had settled into me was that it would all be erased. But it waited, maybe for me to say good bye without tears?
As we sat in the truck on the dirt road in front of The Farm, the sadness never came back from that day so long ago. The dreaded dissolving into the ugly cry didn't happen. This time there were no tears. Just thankfulness, happiness and peacefulness. The bumpy road felt entirely familiar and the farms spread out from ours to the highway seemed like they had been held still for all this time. Somewhere along the line between 1975 and today, The Farm returned to its rightful place in my heart...a place of love and joy.
As we rode from Devil's Lake to The Farm I remembered the deep sleepiness after a day of swimming in the cold lake and laying on the hot sand. There would be hot dogs and potato chips for dinner, eaten still wearing a bathing suit that was now dry and warm against my skin. I told the Mr. I was pretty impressed with myself for finding my way since most of my experience was from the back of an El Camino! I found my way there, but that had never been a problem.
As we pulled away from The Farm, I knew the way back to the highway too. Turn right, turn left, turn right...
In all the ways I needed it to be, it was the same. Even the same peace and happiness and belonging to this place where the residents have no idea I ever visited. But now I know that I was visiting.
I know the way home now too. And the roads that used to carry me in the wrong direction with sadness in my bones carried me home this time.
We pulled into our new old driveway and my joy was the same joy as that long old gravel drive once brought me. We opened the door to home and it felt just as sweet as The Farm.
To everything, a season.