My Family's Farm: A Story in Wool
My paternal grandparents were farmers, in Ohio. As long as I knew my Grandmother Rouse, she was in a wheelchair. She had developed Multiple Sclerosis sometime around the time I was being born and I never remember her anywhere but in the wheelchair, in the front room of her house.
Even then, she was a comforting and gentle woman. She was fond of the grandchildren who ran through her house, yelling and making chaos as a houseful of grandchildren can. We rode ponies, we picked cucumbers and plums and generally ran wild in the hills of their farm.
There were a lot of grandchildren in the Rouse family. The five children produced in excess of 20 grandchildren, with my uncle Jack being the most prolific. I am pretty sure there may be a few unclaimed out in the world who belong in my paternal family line through Jackie.
I took photos of the farm, which has since been sold, when I went back to Ohio for my Maternal Grandmother's funeral. I walked, alone, around the buildings and barns. Even though it was February, the smell of tractor oil and old hay and long dead animals permeated the air.
I peeked into the windows, trying to see if anything had been left behind. I tried the door handles to see if the house was unlocked.
I wanted to see if my uncle Edward's name was still engraved in the window frames in the dining room, a left over from when he was a young boy and the origin of a story of my grandfathers rage at finding his youngest son carving the window frames he had made, and the whipping delivered after the discovery.
I wanted to see if I could see the space where my grandmothers tapestry of JFK hung was discolored. Or the spot where the picture of Jesus praying could be discerned. I wanted to smell the house and feel like 5 year old Dawn. Maybe I would even go into the basement, a place I had never gone past the top of the stairs for fear of what might be down there.
No, Nothing. No way in. So I wandered the grounds, looking, thinking, smelling. A house my grandfather had built himself, at the corners of four counties so my grandmother could look out of each side of her house into a different place.
A place where I had climbed trees with swings and eaten plums after being warned that too many would make me sick. A place where I had wandered the gardens to find cucumbers to slice and place in vinegar for dinner, only to disturb sleeping garter snakes under wide leaves. A place where I had ridden horses, bareback, through fields, or sat underneath old trusting ponies slapping horseflies before they could bite. A place where I fell in manure, and got caught up in barbed wire only to have my aunt wash the wounds with Mercurachrome...leading me to believe that the cure was much worse than the injury.
This was my family's farm, and to honor them I made a rug of my memories. A rug that will live in my house, and the house of my daughter and granddaughters so they can see what I saw.
Writer, Thinker, Nap-Taker and almost Doctor of Early Childhood Education. Dawn also hooks wool rugs. This is her 4th large rug. The next two rugs planned out are of her Maternal Grandmothers gardens, and her Rabbits inside a traditional Nova Scotia pattern. Dawn strongly believes that textile arts are part of a feminist tradition.
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By Karen Ballum