I don't write a lot about where I came from. It isn't a conscious thing. I thought I'd come a long way from that farmer's daughter in southern Michigan. Turns out I haven't.
I was born and raised in rural Michigan. Born to a family of dairy farmers, I was expected to help when I could. Responsibility was a big deal. Everyone had to pitch in where they were able. From shoveling manure and cleaning the barn to feeding calves and baling hay, my hands have been in it all. I remember spending a day or two over one summer caring for a calf that was born and needed some extra attention. I took a bag with snacks and books to the barn to lay with this precious little bundle. It wasn't a hardship. It was something I loved.
I grew up with a menagerie of animals. Cows, calves, pigs, rabbits, peacocks, a pony, a lamb, chickens, ducks, geese, cats and dogs. And I LOVED it. At the moment, I didn't appreciate it for what it was...a learning experience. I learned that it was my job to take care of these beings if I wanted them to take care of me. Sure we ate the pigs, cows, and rabbits, but it was the cycle of life. I have a deep appreciation for the cycle. Death and birth was a big part of my life. Doesn't mean it's easy for me, it's just an understanding. When I lose one of my dogs, I will go into a deep depression that lasts for days, sometimes months, but I do understand that they don't live forever.
I also had the opportunity to grow up with my original parents. There were no "steps" involved. (That happened later on.) I got to see the love and devotion my parents had for each other. Through the toughest of times, they were there for each other. They fought. They argued. They fussed. But the most important thing: They loved. Each other. Us kids. Life. We were never financially rich, but we were rich in love. My parents laid out an example of love that I have tried to replicate in my life. Unfortunately, not everyone was raised with that sort of love and they don't understand it.
Holidays were spent in the kitchen with my mom. I've always said I am my father's daughter, but I'm just as much my mother's as well. Side by side in the kitchen, we'd cook dinner, bake cookies, clean up after the meals. Most of what I know I learned at my mom's side. But it was more than just cooking or baking. It was life lessons that I carry with me. I learned fractions by doubling recipes. I learned that the most special ingredient you can put in the things you cook is love. And I learned that how you feel as you bake/cook can translate over to the people who eat your food, so be careful with your emotions.
I remember wearing farmer hats and my grandpa telling me, "You are gonna get cauliflower ears." I literally thought my ears were going to sprout cauliflower. LOL I was the only granddaughter and being a tomboy was...well, not what was expected. I've always been a jeans and t-shirt sort of girl, but as I've aged, I gained weight. So, I hide it. Wearing hats fell by the wayside. I left the farm and left all of that behind. I turned my back on who that girl was and forgot a lot of who I was.
I got married and moved into town. Never really made it back to the country. However, I've lived in several different places and have spent the majority of my life searching for who I really am. It is funny that I found her on a back road in rural Wisconsin with the radio turned up and the wind blowing through my hair, the scent of cow manure in the air.
Do you wanna know who I am? I am that barefoot country girl who loves walking through the grass, catching ladybugs, and feeling a breeze ruffle through my hair. I am the ponytailed girl in a camo ball cap climbing into her 4-wheel drive looking for a little mud. I'm the girl who shoots her whiskey straight, likes her steak medium and on an open pit, and will dress up pretty to sit in a church pew on Sunday morning. I am who I have always been...a farmer's daughter.
One final word before I end this. I remember watching "Designing Women" and Suzanne Sugarbaker said something that has stuck with me all of this time: "To you, my child, I bequeath two things. One is roots. The other is wings." I've learned that after all this time, my wings have led me where I needed to go, but my roots run deeper than I ever dreamed.