Monday, December 01, 2008

Fragments from the Bitchin' Wife's Past

My parents decided to drop out of the "rat race" back in '76, leaving their nice life on the North Shore of Chicago for 500 acres in southwestern Missouri. They had four kids, a sheepdog named Daisy, a pop-up camper and a firm belief that they were doing the "right thing." I was three years old when we moved and my first memory of the dairy farm was my fourth birthday party. Because of my ongoing love affair with cake, surprisingly, I can't remember what or if I had one, but I do remember that I got a set of jacks and a paddleball and I thought they were the coolest things ever. I remember carrying them around with me in a brown paper bag because I was afraid my sisters would steal them or mess them with them in some way. We didn't have a lot of personal space as we lived in the pop-up camper, but I thought it was all very exciting because I finally not only got to sleep with someone every night, I had to (more importantly someone had to sleep with me)! Everyone was working hard to get the shack that existed on the property into working order for us to move into before the snow started to fly. I don't actually remember working very hard, I was only four, after all, but I do remember staying glued to my daddy where ever he went. I remember going to the vet's with him and getting very embarrassed when I realized I was hanging onto the vet's leg and not my dad's. I remember getting in HUGE trouble when, after Dad said no to a gumball from the machine at the feed store, I went back to the machine when he was busy with the salesperson and begged pitifully from strangers until I got one. :) I remember riding around the farm with him on the tractor, usually perched on the rim over one of the rear tires, but on special occasions he would let me ride in the bucket and he would raise it up super high and then lower it down, within inches from the ground that was racing by, until I squealed and laughed. I remember the dog ate my favorite stuffed hippo and I cried when I found its stuffing spread across the lawn.
I can't recall when we finally got into the house, but I thought that the attic room I shared with my two sisters was pretty awesome. Especially since they had twin bunk beds and I had a full size bed to myself. But then I also recall that Mom made my sister Jenny sleep with me sometimes when I complained about being lonely or scared (because it is scary to be only 10 feet away from them?). It was really cold in that room during the winter as our main heat source was the chimney from the wood burning stove in the living room (that was the only heat source for the house) that ran through the middle of the room. I remember waking up and running to the chimney to plaster myself against it while I got dressed.

I found a couple pictures of the old house and one of me from when I was four or five, I can't tell. It was taken of me (center of the photo) and my cousin, the little guy in the red overalls, as we were riding on a 4th of July parade float for 4-H; it was promoting milk, naturally. I was on the "wholesome kids" milk float, my sisters rode on the "nasty kids" float that featured skeevy youth, with blacked-out teeth, drinking coca-colas!

Ah, the dairy life!! It was an idyllic childhood, spending lots of quality time with family, animals, the land, and lots and lots of books. I truly got the best of both worlds when my educated, middle-class parents decided that their kids should grow up without all the bourgeois trappings that they had the foresight to see were becoming the mainstays of a materialistic life in the suburbs. They wanted us to know that life isn't about what you wear or what you drove, but who you are and what you can do with your talent and brains. I feel like my husband and I are at this crossroads with our kids now and I wonder how my parents ever came up with the strength to walk away from it all....


  1. Wow...can you imagine what it must have took to make that decision and move? We live in a different time...but it's tempting...
    Loved this post Amy...great one.

  2. Totally cool parents. AND YOU WERE GORGEOUS!!! Still are, if you ask me :))

  3. Kel: It was a beautiful life!

    Jay: They had a lot more testicular fortitude than I do. I may be packing up the house when my oldest boy is 12 and getting in trouble with the city kids, though!

    Braja: My parents are really excellent and cool. Not in a hippie "back to the land, dude" way, but in a "our kids and quality of family life has to be of paramount importance" way. I am extremely close to them and my siblings. (And they both were and are gorgeous.)

  4. Beautiful post. Loved it. Great photos.

  5. Amy,
    I think you had it better than my husband. He went from the "projects" in Detroit when his Mom was getting her Masters degree to Evanston, IL when he was in Elementary school. He jokes that he was born a poor black child and then he moved.

    It certainly makes for a more free childhood (living in the country) I feel like I have the best of both living on an acre, but walking distance to town.

  6. This is the second post I've read today about people who decided to run off and live in a slower, more basic, way of life. I've been trying to get my hubby to run away with me for 5 years now. Kids are grown and/or getting an education, and I'm ready to slough off this area and find something else. I was originally looking to go to Montana, but the hubby loves his job... how do you fight that?

  7. I am now nostalgic for a childhood that wasn't mine.

  8. What cool pictures! That house sounds awesome.

  9. Wonderful post! My dad came from a large farm family on the Missouri/Iowa state line and I have wonderful memories of spending winter holidays on the farm and helping milk cows, feed piglets, butcher hogs (I was that chick in 2nd grade that came to show-and-tell with hogs' teeth in a box...yah, I was rock star even then), begging my dad for every farm kitten I could find, and "testing" the pond ice with my sister. Those were the days...

  10. Ann: Thanks!

    Sarah: That must've been fun. Not. I have good friend who went to Evanston public school and it sounded like a North Shore hell-hole of snobbery and rotten kids. (No offense, H., if you are reading! You know I love you! ;-) An acre within a stone's throw of town sounds fab.

    Wabbit: I think when economic times get tough, people start yearning for the simple things. The economic crisis in the 70s was definitely part of the equation for my parents' move out of the city and back to the land. Montana is so beautiful--Good luck!

    Pearl: You know, on a farm, that naughty Liza Bean of yours would've been dealt with the old-fashioned way! With a burlap sack and some rocks. I'm just sayin'. ;-)

    Kristina: We called that house a lot of things, but "awesome" was never one of them! :)

    Temple: Pig's teeth in a box?! That made my day LOL! Your family farm sounds awesome. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I love that your parents were brave enough to check out of the mainstream to put y'all in the real world.

    That's amazing!

    Thanks for stopping by my humble blog!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Amy it takes an easier kind of "strength" to walk away than the harsh kind of strength required to stay...two different strengths, but trust me, the former is the winner. You experienced the results, you oughta know...

  14. btw i love how when you go to YouTube to see your vids, in the column next to yours it says this:

    Pam & Tommy In SMokin Hot NEw HOme Video!!!
    01:31 From: pamhott4
    Views: 9,907

    I'm just sayin'... :))

  15. I love hearing about the farm. I want to hear the one about you falling in the milk vat again!

  16. Hey I just gave you an award, lady! check it out!

  17. I loved your story. I almost started to cry !! A pop up camper? Really?What about the bedding? Did you still get your 400 count sheets? I think every one has to find their own way, drastic change or baby steps. I had to live in a Tee Pee , with my hippy dippy parents !! Now I own 3 homes ..... and never want to camp again go figure.

  18. Thanks, everyone, for such wonderful comments. I really appreciate it!

    And, Braja: honestly! You're going to blow my cover!! ;-)

  19. Finally got to your blog tonight and that pretty much clinches it. You ARE brilliant.

  20. My mom actually st sent me an email regarding this post, I thought I'd share it:

    Thank you Amy for understanding why we took our family out of the comfortable suburbs for the family-centric farm life. Unfortunately, the family farm became an anachronism over the 27 years that we lived there. When I had to go to work off the farm was the end of my farm-life fantasy and the beginning of the daily financial struggle that most farmers face to stay on the family farm and actually keep on farming.

  21. This is an amazing post. How did they do it? I feel just like you, like we are at the same crossroads. We are taking the plunge, but only 5 acres. chickens, pigs and cows. four boys and a girl. Your post made cry, thinking maybe this really is a great move. I know it is, it's an adventure, and a pretty exciting one. very scary, though!

  22. What a great way to grow up, and to know you appreciate it.
    visiting via BPOTW, I'll be back!
    Stop by my blog, I'm having a giveaway!

  23. What sweet memories. And such wise parents. We move around so much with my husband's job. I wonder what we'll do once we settle down. I don't want my girls to be caught in all the materialistic trappings, but I know what kind of trouble kids can get into in a small town. My town probably wasn't as small as yours, but with little to do except hang out with each other...trouble wasn't too far behind. How did your parents deal with that? Looking for more wisdom!

    Thanks for submitting your post to BPOTW!
    Vicki (of BPOTW)


Thoughts appreciated. Advice welcome. Douche-baggery scoffed at then deleted.