I’m spending Valentine’s Day this year at my grandparent’s farm in eastern Montana. Though I miss my honey who’s back working and going to school in San Diego, I can’t think of a better place to celebrate the day of love than at my grandparent’s home (if you believe that Valentine’s Day is about love and not sweetheart candies and sappy hallmark cards).
I spent my day in the midst of four generations. My little cousins plus my older cousins’ kids all came over with a couple of my aunts and uncles, and pretty soon there were six laughing and dancing kids bouncing around the living room.
This scene has been a consistent one since I was a baby. The couch has been replaced and the carpet is no longer a green shag material, but it’s the same living room window, the same view, the same love.
My grandparents have lived in this house since my mom was young. Over the years the house was expanded, as was the land my Grandpa farms. They married young and started having kids right away as was the norm back then, and over the course of the next 22 years, they gave birth to ten children.
A couple Christmases ago, my Granny was sitting at the kitchen table (the same one that’s been there since I was a child) and said “I guess we did something right. All the kids keep coming back.”
It’s not hard to see why. Love from my grandparents is constant and effusive. Though my Granny was still raising her own kids when I came along and though my Grandpa has a sometimes gruff farm man demeanor – the laughter and love was never hidden. I never doubted that I was loved growing up, and the branches of that tree and the love felt extended to my aunts and uncles and all my cousins.
In Montana, it didn’t matter that there were scary rattlesnakes and coyotes howling in the night, I felt safe. I’ve always felt safest in Montana. There’s something to be said for the farm life. It’s a dying life, being taken over by conglomerates and corporations, but there are still some thriving family-run farms out there and my family is an example of this. I consider myself extremely fortunate that my siblings and I – the “city kids” as my Uncle Brent always calls us – were lucky enough to have the homebase of the farm.
The farm has been a constant staple of my life. Though my mom was one of only a few of those ten kids who moved away, every summer she piled my three siblings and me into our van and drove us across Minnesota and North Dakota for several weeks of farm living. A farm is a place where everyone comes together. Every day my granny would put on a feast that fed my Grandpa and uncles who were farmers for dinner (which is lunch on the farm) and supper, but it wasn’t just them coming in and out of the house. My cousins who lived nearby and other aunts and uncles plus some of the other townsfolk would be constantly in and out of the house. It was open to everyone. My memories of Montana summers and holidays at the farm are full of laughter and constant conversation – the adults at the table and the kids screaming in the living room (until my Grandpa yelled louder than all of the kids to be quiet) or running around outside.
Today as my little cousins all played in the living room, I watched my Granny still give them hugs when they’d start crying and my Grandpa tease them into giggles the way he used to do when I was little. I also see my Grandparents share laughter over inside jokes and share the quiet comfort that comes from nearly 60 years together. They’ve created a family that spans several generations that still love and cherish each other enough that we all get together multiple times a year. That’s love and that’s what Valentine’s Day should be all about.