There’s an old saying that “Hindsight is 20/20” and the older I get, the more I believe this to be true. It’s amazing how much our point of view changes as we get older and have the benefit of many life experiences to draw upon.
Over the weekend, it was around 70o and we trimmed some trees in our backyard. In Texas, it’s recommended that people do their tree trimming by early February before the weather warms and the new growth begins.
Working outside doing the trimming and yard cleanup made me think of other times from 15 – 20 years ago when my extended family would come together to do the annual spring cleanup at my grandmother’s small farm.
She was a widow by that time and in her late seventies and early eighties. Usually at Easter, family members would set a date in the middle of May when it would (hopefully) be warm enough in Indiana to meet at grandma’s house to get the yard work done.
I lived an hour away so it was a day I always looked forward to because I would get to spend time with cousins and aunts and uncles that I didn’t get to see very often. Everyone brought food potluck style, so we could eat after we completed the work.
Coffee mugs in hand, we would gather mid-morning with our rakes and brooms and saws and paintbrushes and shovels. Dressed in layers that could be peeled off as the day warmed, we stood in a circle in the back yard as one of my cousins read the list of all that needed to be done. A stray chicken might make its head-bobbing walk over our way to see what we were doing. Soon, tasks would be claimed and divided and off we would scatter like a busy colony of ants.
Our grandmother would be there too, expressing her thanks, giving hugs, and offering coffee or water to all of us. At the time, I thought of it not only as a day to help grandma get some work done on her farm, but also as something fun to do and an opportunity to spend time with my extended family.
The work we did varied depending on what needed to be done. Some years, we painted the black trim on grandma’s white farmhouse and cut down any dead trees on her property. Most years, we raked out her flower beds and planted annuals to go with the many perennial flowers she had, trimmed trees and bushes, roto-tilled the vegetable garden for spring planting, mended fences, and did any other necessary repairs. By afternoon, we would have a large pile of leaves and brush in the lane that led to the back pasture. (Yes, the same lane that inspired the name of this blog!)
When the cleanup was done, we would make our way inside to wash up and have dinner. Cold, tired, and hungry from a day’s work in the fresh air, we were ready to sit and rest with a plate of food.
Toward evening, metal lawn chairs would be pulled up around the bonfire and someone would produce a bag of marshmallows. We would sit together and enjoy the warmth of the fire and catch up on the events in everyone’s lives.
There was always a radio tuned to country music…and singing, jokes, and story-telling. A popular story topic was the various pranks grandma and had played on family members throughout the years. The horseshoe pits were close by and it wouldn’t be long before steel would be hitting steel and grandma would prove once again why she was the undisputed horseshoe champion in the family!
I can only imagine how overwhelming that work must have seemed to an older woman alone and how grateful my grandmother must have felt to have a family who would come and get it all done.
But those days were about much more than a spring cleanup at grandma’s house. The cleanup was merely the task at hand which brought us all together. Those times were about forging bonds and connections with family members and making memories of time spent together that we will each carry with us throughout our lives.
We don’t get to choose the families we are born into. How fortunate I am to be a part of such a caring and devoted group. It’s too bad that most of them still live in Indiana. We could use some help with this February yard work!