I am sure that it's a furniture company that uses the slogan, "home is where the heart belongs." But for me it hasn't always been the case and it certainly wasn't when I was a rebellious teenager. I couldn't wait to leave home and the last thing on my mind back in the 60's was my heart.
But each year as I grow older there is a bigger and bigger part of me that yearns to visit and connect with my family and the home I resented as I grew up.
Home for me was the windswept prairies of southern Saskatchewan, just north of the Montana border in Canada. My father's family ranched in the area and raised registered Angus cattle and my mother's family were dirt farmers where they carved out beautiful fields of wheat and oats from the dry plains.
At first, when I started returning to visit the family I called it my annual pilgrimage back home, but over the years I dropped the derogatory connotations. Unfortunately the last five years each visit was a return to visit a family member who was very ill or attend family member's funerals including my mother, stepfather and brother.
But this year my return visit was a celebration and a very happy event. My grand niece graduated from high school and following the graduation exercises and activities we held a family reunion.
This year I took my youngest son along with me. Every time I visit there is a part of me that connects more and remembers more of the positive things that happened as a child, instead of just the things that I couldn't wait to get away from. I find it more and more important that I be part of the family.
The first stop this year was the community cemetery. I stop every year and each time I visit it seems another community member has passed on and I pay my respects. I now rejoice in the fact that there are two cemeteries connected to each other there. That's because when I grew up there were two separate cemeteries; one for the Catholics and the other for the Protestants. I never understood the animosity between the two religions and remember questioning why each church had to have their own cemetery. The fences have come down, the rows of shrubs that kept them separate are all gone and a common gate now welcomes guests into the graveyard.
As I sat back and observed the interactions of the many generations at the family reunion I realized how I have moved through each of them myself. It wasn't that long ago that I was the high school kid or the college student home on break. Then a few year's later I came home to show off our baby son. I remember when my mother was the age I am now and I dreaded becoming that old.
The family still has its students, and it seems as though every niece and nephew have new babies. I chuckled at the aunts and uncles who awed over the newest little ones and told everyone, "he is the spitting image of your dad" or "your grandpa."
As my son and I sat around visiting with my uncles, brother, cousins, and nephews, I also realized that they were still talking about the same things they were discussing 30 years ago, when I was his age. The conversations are still about cows and wintering, hay and calf prices, the problems with the Saskatchewan government, the moisture and new line of bulls.
We also had the chance to visit the old homestead where my parents lived following their wedding in the early 1940's. Now almost 60 years later the old homestead shack I came home to as a baby still stands, along with other barns, graineries, the well and even the clotheline. All these remind me of my first years on earth.
I took my son to my favorite place in all of Canada and it hasn't changed one bit in all these years. As a little boy I remember walking up the coulee above the house to a hillside lined with birch trees. There I would sit for hours in the tall grass and watch the crystal clear water come out of the rocks. The spring still trickles down the hill and other than the trees growing much taller, little has changed since the days I was a child.
This year, because of all the rain, the hillsides were greener than I remember and as we sat talking about growing up, two deer made their way through the grove of trees and quietly drank from the spring-fed stream.
It reminds me that there are few things that never change. However, the people that observe or experience them, seem to change every day. This is one of those examples.
The little freckled face boy that sat there some 45 years ago has been through incredible changes, but his favorite spot where he would retreat to find some quietness and calmness is still there.
For me its necessary and important that I go back and remind myself that there are still quiet places I can retreat to. It is important for me to show my children a life that they will never know or even understand. They are not only a generation younger, but they grew up in a city setting, had many athletic and employment opportunities and experienced friends from an early age, a chance that I never had.
I am confident they have found their own quiet springs and I am sure that they too will one day take their children back to the calmness in their memories as well.