I recently joined a Farm Wives Support Group on social media. Its been enjoyable to be a part of this group and share stories, concerns, problems, and solutions. I wish this had been around fifty years ago when I was a brand new farm wife.
Many of the posts are about trying to do it all; raising children, helping on the farm, working off farm jobs, trying to keep up with household chores. A recent post brought lots of comments on working the farm with family, sharing responsibilities with family, and trying to get along.
Which leads me to a story which has been a long time coming and is long overdue. The story of my mother-in-law, Florence. Along with my own mother, Florence was my support group.
Florence was born in 1915. Her mother died not long after she was born and she was raised by her maternal grandparents. Her Father had been a soldier in WWI and carried the burdens of a soldier with him, He returned home from the war, lost his wife, and found himself with a newborn baby. What happened next? It’s hard to say. Florence’s father later remarried and had two sons. But Florence remained with her grandparents.
There are pictures of little Flo with long curls, big hair bows, and ruffled dresses. There are also pictures of her with flocks of sheep and horses. Young Florence was as smart as a whip. Her grade cards proved that and her abilities and spectacular memory helped convince everyone that this lady was smart. When she married and produced four boys (an engineer, a farm/business owner, and two attorneys) everyone said they got their smarts from their Mother..
I didn’t meet Florence until I met her third son and fell in love with him. And that’s really where this story begins.
It was the summer of 1971. My fiance and I had set a date for our wedding. Florence and her husband, Henry, were looking for a house in town so that when I married her son, he and I could live in the farmhouse and they could retire in town. Unfortunately, time was running out and they still hadn’t found a house. She took me aside one afternoon and said, “You two can move in with us after the wedding. You are more than welcome. But I wouldn’t recommend it.” Then she gave me a look that I became quite familiar with over the years. “Read between the lines” is what that look said to me.
There were 4 weeks left before the wedding and my future husband was busy… farming. So Florence and I went apartment hunting; our first adventure together. I had no clue where to look but Florence did. She had already circled several apartments for rent in the local newspaper and we began to drive around and look at the possibilities. She saved one for last; I have a feeling she had already scoped them all out before we went searching. The last one was an upstairs apartment, very small, very cheap, and the landlords were willing to sign a short term lease for as long as we needed it. It was obvious that Florence was already acquainted with the landlord because while we were signing the paperwork, they had some great conversations. Thanks to Florence, we had a place to live.
Our next adventure was furnishing the apartment. We went to yard sales and again Florence knew which neighborhoods to visit and where we could find some good deals. We picked up some odds and ends mainly for the kitchen. I still have the cut glass fruit bowl purchased for twenty-five cents and the aluminum strainer, which was a dime. We had a hand-me-down bedroom suite (the one my parents started up with) and a couch and a chair from Rogers brother and his wife, an old TV, and a wooden kitchen table and chairs which had been in the basement of the farmhouse. Roger and I went shopping that next weekend and bought a brand new refrigerator and stove and a recliner. We were good to go.
Fast forward several weeks. The wedding took place. We moved into the apartment. I started my first teaching job. And the In laws found a house. Things were starting to fall into place. On a rainy, fall afternoon I finished up at school and headed back to the apartment. I climbed the stairs slowly… it had been a long day. When I opened the door … the apartment was empty. We had moved! Everything was gone except for the kitchen table which was loaded with the contents of the refrigerator and the cupboards. Since I was not notified that we were moving I can’t really tell you how it all happened. A few years later I asked my husband about that day. “It had rained and harvest time was fast approaching. I called a couple friends and they were not busy so we got several pickup trucks and loaded everything up and move it to the farmhouse. The same thing happened on the other end of the move…. My in laws had already moved a few things into their new house and Roger and his buddies had moved some of the big items. One thing I am sure of, my mother in law was not involved in moving anything out of our apartment. If she had, she would have packed up all the food and the contents of the refrigerator and brought it to the farmhouse.
I drove out to the farm and there she was trying to make sense of everything that was happening. She didn’t get any advance notice either of the move until the trucks started to back up to her back door. The best part of the story and the story that I heard over and over again through the years was Florence explaining how they had moved her washer and dryer … both still full of clothes.