Our sixteen-year-old daughter got a scholarship from the German government to spend her senior year of high school abroad. We are honored, but I am losing the last year of having my girl at home.
Every part of the farm has been shaped by the presence of my daughter. I walk by the garage, and I remember sitting in there with my eight-year-old girl courting wild and orphaned kittens. We spent hours in the garage, trying to keep our delight quiet when little pointy ears rose above the rolls of carpet where the kittens slept.
I walk past the dilapidated grape arbor and remember my daughter industriously harvesting Concord grapes from neglected vines. She gathered bowls of them to share and made juice at a time when she still unleashed much of her gusto near me. For years now, she has thrown her impressive energy into things like advanced placement classes and sprinting and speech meets. For some a long time now, the grapes have ripened without swaying her attention.
By the gravity feed wagons, I remember her dressed in my green coveralls, carrying five-gallon buckets. Although she is still not quite as tall as I am, she grew into those coveralls a couple years ago. My husband and older son could not tell the difference between me and my girl when they saw us from afar wearing coveralls. It is the way we move, they say. So as I walk around the farm, I make a reflection of my daughter.
The whole farm spreads out around me, large and green and carrying on in spite of the fact that my girl is going away. The hens enjoy the twilight of evening, scratching the ground and cocking their heads to watch me carefully as I stand by their fence. They do not know my girl is going.
The sky, the trees, even the chickens suggest the journeys I make to the hen coop and back trace the map of a life lived in love. But I remember the first time I looked into my baby daughter’s face with its tiny rosebud lips and large hazel eyes. “She is beautiful,” said the midwife with quiet awe, and I knew it was true. I threw my heart into that beauty with the faith that it could always hold all the love I had to give.
These hens who look through the fence at me won’t be here forever. I have survived many flocks of hens. The leaves of spring will ripen and fall. This year will pass, and then another, and our boys will grow up too. Even the farm itself will finally pass from us, maybe when we are old, or maybe much sooner. We never know.
So I will continue my journeys between the house and the coops, embodying the people I love with the way that I move. I will see my children all over the farm, whether or not the farm still holds them.