Every summer growing up, my family journeyed from Chicago suburbia to my grandparent’s farm in southern Illinois. They called us “city kids,” and we couldn’t wait to indulge in the expansive freedoms of country life. Grandpa’s antics left us in constant stitches while Grandma’s love-laced culinary prowess nourished both body and soul.
We’d spring from the wood-paneled station wagon t0 a sporadic chorus of moos, oinks, and cackles, while honeysuckle, tomatoes heavy on the vine, and sweet corn tickled our noses. I’d affix myself to Grandma’s elbow, an eager sponge mirroring my mentor’s every move. From sunup to sundown she labored, transforming each morsel of food consumed with tireless hands.
Woven into the daily demands were simple pleasures, like piling onto the front porch swing at the end of the long day. Grandparents first, followed by a layer of grandchildren, and topped off with the latest litter of purring kittens. The swing’s chains creaked in time with chirping male crickets claiming their conquests. An occasional freight train rumbled down nearby tracks as we kids marveled at stars not visible back home. Sometimes, a puff of cool air bored through the wall of humidity, teasing us with anticipation of a brewing storm.
When bolts of electricity splintered the horizon in flashy zigzags, we’d count out the seconds until thunderous vibrations rattled the windows of the tiny farmhouse. Scooching closer together, Grandpa would captivate us with another tale — some more far-fetched than others — but any eyebrows raised in Grandma’s direction only elicited a collaborative grin. They did eventually own a television, but I never recall watching it. Even as children, we were astute enough to know what we’d be missing out on in the real world.
All these years later, the wisdom seeded in the heartland of my youth seems more relevant than ever: Log off, power down, and cherish life’s golden moments because summertime slips away in a blink, and once the harvest arrives — We Can Never Go Back.