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Homestead Haven

By Jessica Callens

I came home the other day after being away for a few hours teaching piano lessons. As I bumped along that rough, uneven dirt road of ours in that old jalopy of a van, I felt a great sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction in hitting my head on the car ceiling and freezing my hands on the steering wheel as the heater’s futile attempt to warm the van was overridden by the passenger door sliding open every minute and a half? Well, not exactly. I would say it was more a feeling of satisfaction in coming home. Riding in our very own jalopy, down our own dirt road, right up to our own homestead. I swung in past the weathered mailbox and drove slowly up the driveway.
Dad was out doing chores I saw; I’d have to hurry and change before he finished up without me. I still have a passion for tagging along with dad even though I’m nineteen years old. You wouldn’t believe all the wonderful things you can pick up just by tagging along with someone like your dad! (For example, when you fill a pail of feed and tip it back up, don’t hold your face over it because there is a pocket of air underneath the feed. You will get a face-full of blinding, choking, white dust. Come to think of it, I learned that one the hard way…but at least dad explained…later.)
My little brother and sisters met me at the gate; (I’m the oldest of nine) they’d been playing out in the snow for a while by the looks of their rosy cheeks. I was filled up with gladness at their obvious joy at my arrival, and I listened amusedly to their innocent prattle about the momentous farm happenings I had missed in my few hours’ absence.
They’d found the lost kitten somewhere in a corner of the hayloft, and another sow had farrowed! Caleb thought that the heifer might have her baby any time now…might I stay up and watch with them tonight? They had built a new sledding track as well, could I test it out? And the biggest news of all: mom had pasta and fish for supper!
I left the worries of the outside world at the doorstep and burst upon mom cooking up a storm in the warm kitchen. Boy, it was good to be home again! My baby brother crawled across the floor and pulled himself up on my legs. I swooped him up and he wrapped his arms around my neck. There is so much love in a baby hug!
As I defrosted myself over the wood stove, mom handed me a cup of fresh coffee with real cream from our own Bossie. She was filled with motherly concern over the church being too cold for me to teach in, and how everything had gone for me that day. I love to talk about my trials and joys with my parents, there is nothing like it. I am grateful that they are here every single day to help me along the road to adult-hood. Even when I’ve reached that destination, I’m sure I’ll still be sitting with mom by the wood stove now and then, sharing coffee and talking things over. And even when I have a passel of little kids tagging along behind me, I’ll most likely still be tagging along with dad once in a while, learning brand new things.
By the time I had finished collecting loving advice and warming up, supper had finished cooking. I stepped out onto the porch to ring the dinner bell. I’d missed chores tonight, but not tomorrow! I’d be out with the kids carrying pails of feed under the silvery morning stars, feeding my hogs and cattle, petting the horses and romping with the dogs.
I rang the bell and it pierced the cold air inviting everyone to come on in for a hot meal. For a moment I stood shivering and gazed about the yard like I always do when I come home from somewhere. The garden and the stone fence surrounding it were nearly covered in snow, but I envisioned it as it would be in springtime with all the new life bursting from the rich, dark soil. My eyes swept the buildings on our homestead, weathered, yet strong and firm, containing life within them.
The porch swing rocked slowly in the wind as if it were lonesome for summer nights and happy gatherings with music and laughter. Those times would be here soon enough I knew, and I like the swing, looked forward to them.
Snow drifted about the old swing set and clothesline, it filled the flower beds and pond and swept around the Mary Shrine. It was a desolate picture perhaps, but I wanted to reach out my arms and hug it close, for I loved it. After all, it was home – our very own homestead.
My brothers and sisters were trooping in from the barn, so I dashed back inside to set the table. We sat around talking and enjoying mom’s wonderful cooking, and then everyone scurried about the dining room and kitchen cleaning things up.
In no time at all, we were raising the roof with our usual dish-time singing and harmonizing. My sister threw aside her dishtowel and joined my sudsy hands for a whirl around the kitchen to one of our favorite country songs playing on the radio. We were breathless and warm when dad announced that it was Rosary time and we all settled down in the living room. I looked around at the dear faces and thought about the love that binds us together as a family. Somehow I knew that not only was it love that kept us bound, it was the endless and ageless cycles of God-given life forever encompassing us here on our homestead. The rich black soil, the fragrant lilacs, the sturdy pines. Sun-bathed cornfields, fruit orchards and pastures. The animals, their births, their lives and even their deaths. All of us working together to carve a place in the earth to shelter us, sustain us, and in many ways, protect us.
That night as I got ready for bed, I brushed aside the curtain and looked down upon our homestead bathed in wintry moonlight.

Do not let these lovely times be soon to pass away,
But God grant me a home like this to have myself someday.
A home where my children can play and work and earn their daily bread,
A peaceful place wherein love is found - my very own homestead.

Copyright © 2006 Jessica Callens All Rights Reserved

Jessica lives in SW Minnesota with her eight siblings and parents Fred and Sandra.

Visit JessicaCallens.com and take a look at her new book, "Down on the Farm"!