Spring thaw brings fond memories

We’re amid a spring thaw. It is that time of year when the ground is stuck in that in-between state of not quite frozen and not quite solid. It is the time of year that always makes me a bit melancholy; I’m sad about the disappearance of snow for another year, but excited about the arrival of spring and summer.

In my new house, my three large picture windows overlook my grandparents’ farm and fields. These windows provide me with stunning views of the evening sunset and breathtaking morning sunrises. However, the one view they do not provide is the puttering of the old farmer who used to live there.

As a little kid I can remember countless hours spent with my grandfather zooming around on the four-wheeler, waving at every car that passed us on state Route 88. My grandfather, with his signature hat that always had the bill turned up, was a frequent sight on his four-wheeler or tractor doing the early spring work around the farm and became somewhat of a local legend. As I entered school, I became a bit embarrassed that everyone, including boys in my class, would stop to shoot the breeze with my grandpa whenever they saw him.

Kids at school would say, “Christen, I saw your grandpa out today. I waved at him. Why does he wear his hat like that?” At first, it made me feel awkward, how could my grandpa be known by so many people? Didn’t he think it was weird that people he knew, and some he didn’t even know, would wave or stop and say hi? In my high school years, it became some routine that I became proud of him; my grandpa was something of a local celebrity and I often introduced myself, not as a standout sports star in my own right, but as Joe Letwen’s granddaughter.

Now, I have this amazing opportunity to live directly across the road from his home and he’s no longer there to wave at or watch. Sometimes, if I’m not paying attention, I think I see him out of the corner of my eye on his four-wheeler or tractor. Every time it is a figment of my imagination (I’m not crazy… yet) or a car speeding by on Route 88. I wonder if anyone who still drives this route frequently misses waving at the old farmer with his turned-up baseball hat. Because I know that I do and now that I live across the road, I wish I could change history and buy this home a bit sooner, so I could see my grandpa drive by one more time, hat up, tractor in first gear, puttering along the path from the Other Place to home.

Yet, a part of me doesn’t want to change a thing. My students and friends know where I live, and they have taken to honking when they drive by. It’s like the modern-day version of a wave and every time they do it, I smile. It reminds me that the ideas of community, love, and respect are still present in our youth. That the news doesn’t do justice to our youth; they still drive by and honk and on occasion, even stop by to chat. I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, pictured myself taking the place of my grandfather as the local neighborhood character, but it seems I have seamlessly stepped into this role. So while many of us pine for simpler or safer times, or the good days, I think we need to take a step back and re-evaluate. Just like on the farm or in life, there is a circle.

The old move on, the youth move up, and the world continues to turn. Instead of moaning and groaning about what used to be and what isn’t, we need to embrace the here and now, and look for the positives in each moment. Even though my grandpa is gone, in a way, he is still with me. With every honk, wave, or quick stop to chat, the lesson that I should have learned years ago rears its head. It’s not who you are, or what you do, it’s how you make people feel that keeps them honking, waving, and stopping by to chat.

Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.

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