“You belong. Strong people moved to this land, worked hard, and struggled so you could live, so you could belong.”
Each summer my mother said this over the gravestones of her ancestors, honoring those who went before us, were buried deep under the land they loved, and left a legacy for us to live up to. Each story underground a root of my existence. My family tree beneath me.
My Mother still calls that prairie land home, where grasses roll like sea waves and red-winged blackbirds hop from power line to line.
Somehow I belong to that sun-baked earth, sifting fingers through the dark graham cracker crust crumbles like the farmers before me. Good, strong, Lutherans who love a Polka, “Jeg Er Sa Glad,” ladies aid egg coffee, and loud singing from the hymnals.
We felt like foreigners to the land because we had never felt the winters. We spent summers there so mom could watch kids for my aunt and uncle who had to milk cows three times a day. Most day’s adventures ended in swimsuits, back of the old red suburban eating popsicles, swatting mosquitoes.
Flat miles forever, my mom would watch the weather coming and wait. Somehow I belong to that open sky, those rolling thunderclouds, to watermelon smiles and red bobbing curls, to skunk sprayed farm dogs, and Uncle Charlie’s pipe tobacco. And somehow I belong. To the screened in porch, the night sounds of crickets chirping, distant trucks along the highway, unlike home, unlike my own, yet somehow just like me.
The darkness of night can be frightening. You can’t see ahead of you. The past feels safer than the future. It is seen, remembered, over, sweet. I see the stones of aunts and grandmas, of the man from church who used to tease us about listening with both ears. I suppose I long for golden days, the bygone forts of summer. Grandma’s bare feet, white dress, and floral apron plucking snap peas from the garden. She dreamed about the future, now she rests there by the church.
There’s a silence in the sovereignty of seeing through the dirt, of recollecting hopes and knowing I have a spot still on this earth.
Stephanie Platter is a teacher, writer, film critic, and coffee lover who will be hopping a train to the midwest very soon.