Back on The Farm

So we headed to The Farm for the weekend. Kates and Pheebs had been back there a couple times in the last few months, but it was my first time back since last fall ... I'd been looking forward to this trip for weeks.

On Friday night, we couldn't get on the road fast enough. And a trip that usually takes us about three hours took four hours thanks to a driving rainstorm and some fog. ... But always, when our drive ends, there's nothing like the serenity that envelopes us when we pull around the bend and the old farmhouse appears, sitting quietly among the rolling hills and forest with lights glimmering through its front windows.

Phoebe wasted no time settling in. She bounced and danced endlessly around the living room, in between tinkering with an old toy telephone and some rings set for her on the fireplace mantel. She also got into Grandpa's library; apparently she was feeling some spiritual reading for her bedtime story.

At 11, we settled into bed. Surrounded by a pitch black country side. No city lights. And all was quiet.

* * *

On Saturday morning I was awoken at 8:30 -- which I'm sure is the longest I've slept since before Phoebe was born -- to Phoebe jumping on the bed, giggling and shouting her trademark "Wee!"Kates had instigated Phoebe's jumping by turning on the iPod to "We Are the Sleepyheads" and the two of them danced around the room together to get me out of bed. It worked, and I must say it was a terrific and fun way to start the day.

Once they left the room, I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the music that continued to play and feeling ... at peace. Eventually, I got out of bed and took some time to just gaze at the surroundings ...

We had pancakes for breakfast and enjoyed watching the animals that ventured through the backyard. The horses grazed at the creek just outside the dining room window. We saw a badger and a pheasant, and Kates' father told us a story about a recent encounter he had in the yard with a 4-foot-long black cat.

With plans to attend the village of Viola's annual Horse & Colt Show, we left the farmhouse later in the morning and drove the rolling hills and curving passes of Richland County once more. The leaves on the trees were just starting to change and hadn't yet hit the brilliant peaks we experienced last fall, but our drive was scenic just the same. Phoebe obviously enjoyed the hills and curves as well, sending out a soft "wee" over every peek.

In Viola, we gathered at Grandma Perry's home before walking into town. We hit the Legion building for the chicken dinner -- plates piled high with a quarter pieces of chicken, baked beans and coleslaw. And then we picked a spot to watch the parade. For a couple hours, we watched the police and fire vehicles, marching bands, antique tractors, floats representing the local businesses and the horses -- always marking the end -- pass by.

It was a classic Americana ...

Finally, it was time to hit the carnival rides. ... First, Kates took Phoebe on the kiddie train; Phoebe had a grand time handling the steering wheel and pressing the musical buttons inside their little train car ...

Then, I got to take Phoebe for her first carousel ride. At first, she wasn't so sure about sitting atop that big white horse, and she squirmed for what seemed like forever before the ride started. But when it did start and that horse began gliding up and down, the look on her face was priceless. She held tightly to the pole, but her wide smile and the endless "Wee!" said it all. ...

We ended our carnival experience by taking Phoebe on the giant slide. Even I wasn't so sure about that one, but the carny politely gave us the "slow" mat, I climbed the big staircase with Phoebe, and then another carny at the top of the slide helped us settle onto the mat. We pushed off and I felt my eyes widen over the initial rush, but we slid down without wiping out and I was told at the bottom that Phoebe was smiling the whole ride.

Eventually, we were back at Grandma Perry's house, where a larger contingent of the family was now gathered. We caught up on each others' goings-on. Ellen told us about her neighbor's unschooled children and their porn-loving mother. We teased Lauren and the girls about the way they were torturing the goldfish they won. And Phoebe entertained the crowd as usual.

Later, back at the farmhouse, Kates' parents had left, leaving us to share the farmhouse with Orrin and Kelli for the night. We made sandwiches, shared Phoebe's Cheerios and listened to music while chatting about jobs, TV shows, and other life occurrences. And after awhile, with Phoebe bathed and put to bed, we settled in for a movie ...

We watched "The Bank Job," an excellent film -- which is based on a true story -- about a band of villains who conspire to steal whatever they can from a vault of safety deposit boxes in a London bank. Here's the trailer.

I loved it. ... Certainly, these guys were not as smooth as "Ocean's 11," but the premise, with all the planning and the eventual heist, is just as thrilling. Plus, the story doesn't stop when the deed is done. The film also captures the aftermath in the authorities' chase of the suspects, an unveiling of corrupt cops and their cronies, all of which leads to a satisfying ending. ... It was obvious how much all of us liked it when the credits started rolling, and we all leaped toward the TV to read the small print that detailed the characters' lives after the ordeal.

* * *

When Sunday came, Orrin took a turn at making us pancakes for breakfast. Then, we finished out the morning by hiking to the top of the bluff, where we planted the pine trees -- finally! -- we brought back from Glen and Heather's wedding last November.

Kates and I were prepared to leave around lunch time. But we changed our minds upon realizing the Packers were playing at noon ... So we got Phoebe down for an early nap, and we raided the kitchen for chips, crackers, cheese, trail mix and wine coolers. Kates made nachos, and Orrin made salsa. The Packers beat the Rams, and we tried to put off our leaving time as long as we could ...

By 4, the car was packed, we got Phoebe buckled in and we said our good-byes, driving onto the country roads in a steady rain. We stopped for gas, I picked up a Mountain Dew to get myself caffeinated and soon we hit the interstate ...

Along with a wall of traffic. Suddenly it seemed like we had picked the worst possible time to drive home. It took us two hours to get through the first 50 miles of our drive. Hungry and needing a break, we pulled off the road and made a pit stop for dinner ...

We thought the worst was behind us.

Until we traveled back onto the interstate and started seeing the lightning bolts flashing ahead of us ... We drove straight into the heart of what I can only describe as a fierce storm. For about one hour of intense, white-knuckle driving I felt like our little Forrester -- with Ingrid Michaelson music as a calming force on the iPod -- was the Edmund Fitzgerald. And the rain drops that were pounding our car could only be compared to the frogs falling from the sky in "Magnolia." For a few minutes, the visibility was so bad that my only hope was to concentrate on the red taillights of the car directly in front of me. It was, without a doubt, the toughest driving I've ever done -- beating out The Summerfest Storm of three years ago and the snowstorm we navigated a couple years ago to get to Grandma's house for Christmas.

Phoebe -- I don't know how she does it -- had slept through the entire thing. ... We pulled into our driveway shortly after 9 a.m., unpacked and settled into the peace and serenity -- of our own home.

No comments: