I graduated from high school when I was still seventeen years of age, and worked part-time at a book bindery in our small town during my senior year. After graduation, it just made sense to continue full-time at the bindery, while keeping my eyes open for a better job in a larger town or even a big city. I had been hankering to get out on my own for several years and had even given some thought to attending college, but the idea of going into debt never appealed to me. On top of this, I was so introverted that the social aspects of school were very difficult for me. In many ways, I was so uncomfortable around people that being in any large crowd or having to meet new people terrified me to the point where I suffered physically. So the summer after I graduated, I remained, comfortably, at the small book bindery, saving my money and dreaming of how my life would be.
Recently, when FD and I set out on a trip to West Texas to fetch a great-niece who had just turned seventeen, I remembered those days of long ago. During a Christmas get-together at FD’s sister’s home last year, the topic came up of Haley possibly spending some time with us this summer. So, a couple of months prior to finishing her junior year in high school, Haley contacted us to confirm our offer and ask if she could spend the month of July with us. It had been a rough year for her personally, and she was really looking forward to having a place of refuge to come to, and a place of comfort. I thought about how many times I wished I had had a place to escape to at that age so, of course, we said she was welcome to come visit.
I knew I would have to slow down my busy pace and make time for Haley while she was here. We had talked about things she wanted to experience. Maybe if the game warden brought an orphaned wild critter she could help raise it. She hoped to try her hand at some cooking and baking. She had never gardened or harvested and put up fruits and vegetables for winter. We talked about FD and I taking her senior pictures and purchasing some special clothing for her to wear for the photo shoot. On top of everything, I knew she would flourish with some rest and quiet time. Haley has a younger brother and sister back home, and I knew all too well, having had a brother and four sisters younger than I, that being the eldest carried a lot of responsibility, which was often overwhelming. Oh how I had yearned for some quiet space when I was Haley’s age – some ME space, in which to regenerate and rest my mind.
Once she arrived, Haley seemed to settle in with us, and with life at the ranch, quite easily. For the most part, I found her to be self-entertaining, so I was able to go about my usual tasks and not worry about her. But she was also quick to help when I needed a hand in the kitchen or assistance with a little housekeeping.
On the weekends, we spent quite a bit of time in the pool, talking about life and Haley’s plans for her future. Late afternoons found us preparing meals in the kitchen and having lots of fun tormenting Uncle FD when he got home from work. Many evenings, I finished up dishes while Haley and FD went to battle each other in the pool shooting hoops. Haley never has been able to out shoot her Uncle, but she has learned to block his long shots with some impressive jumping skill. Yeah… girl power – that is what farm girls are all about!
We still have another month with our girl of summer, and Haley is still revealing her personality to us. It takes time to get fully comfortable with people you are just beginning to figure out, but she has found her niche in the day. We all have our daily rituals that give us comfort and security – and Haley’s has been about learning all sorts of new kitchen skills. We are still working on getting her to participate in the gardening, harvest, and putting up winter stock, but not everyone enjoys those aspects of country life. And I cannot blame her for not being too keen on the idea of getting out and working in the heat and humidity that Oklahoma summers are famous for! Overall, I think it has been a good and therapeutic time for Haley, and she looks quite healthy and bright.
And for me? I certainly did not expect Haley to come as a teacher in my life. But, once again, I find I have been presented with a visitor who has arrived to help me understand that maybe there was room in my world to see life from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old girl again. A view revealing that I might do better to slow down and enjoy the good times, rather than tear through the day trying to complete my “to do” list come hell or high water. Haley has helped me see that my rigid ways and my tunnel vision about finances, and time, and waste, might be just a little extreme. And she has caused me to realize it is a lot of fun to occasionally fall off the Paleo meal wagon and eat something sweet, something totally not cavegirl appropriate! Most of all, Haley has managed to break through my tough exterior with five little words that she sometimes yells across the room, or sneaks up and whispers in my ear – “I LOVE you Aunt Lori!”
No, I never imagined this summer would be about revisiting the age of seventeen, or about learning to loosen the apron strings of my busy, 50-something life. But I am very glad that it has been…
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…