The sirens sounded and we wondered what was going on last Monday night. I was in Oklahoma City to emcee a travel show. My friends television’s screen was filled with an excited weatherman and colorful circles and lines. We still didn’t know what was going on. So, we went to bed.
The much older sister called too early Tuesday morning, her birthday. But she wasn’t in tears over her age, she was calling to report all the damage that our family farm had taken during the storm. They had huge trees down in their yard and couldn’t get out the front door. Everyone was OK, but still in shock at what had happened without warning and so quickly.
I came home and husband Doug and I took a drive around to look at the destruction. I cried. I cried for trees. I cried for barns. I cried for all the work that it was going to require to just recover. I cried over the losses from roofs to fences to things we won’t even know is missing until we go to look for them.
My parents lived in the same farm house their whole married life, 63 years. A walnut tree was planted in the corner of the yard. This little tree grew as we did, and one year our dad built us a playhouse in its shade. There were many tea parties, and dolls rocked during the hours and hours spent in our playhouse.
The walnut tree would fill the corner of the yard with walnuts that needed picked up and we could sack up and sell for a couple of dollars. This was our job. A running family story is about how the much older sister would put her hands on her hips and become the pick-up boss. She would point and I would scramble and we would get the work done. Sadly, that giant tree is now laying level, it’s limbs loaded with this year’s crop. It was more than a downed tree, it leveled lifetime memories.
Sister and her husband had an equipment shed, less than three years old, that is just… gone. The tractor and equipment that were housed in it (luckily) are still parked there to remind us of its former location, but there isn’t a piece of siding or pole standing. The tin is scattered over hay meadows like crushed aluminum foil. Three of the pole barn boards are driven into the dirt road ditch like javelins.
A couple of miles south is our grandparent’s family farm. The iconic, big red barn that in recent years has been shared by many in the community for weddings and church services is… flattened. The supporting walls were blown out and the roof collapsed on the pews and hymn books. This was the barn where my Ma Maw would take her four grandkids, all toting bright colored aluminum glasses from the cabinet. We lined up against the wall as she brought the milk cow in to milk. She could balance on that three legged stool, milk that cow, squirt a stream towards the barn cat who caught it mid-air. She would squeeze the white foam into our tin cups, still warm.
We grew up in the hay loft, doing what cousins do, pretending, playing and making memories. The years and miles change us, but we could stand in that familiar spot and get grounded .
Yep, I’m sentimental right now. My heart hurts from the loss of ‘stuff’ but I’m reminded it’s just stuff. I have the memories.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.