Christmas Greetings from the Farm

On December 24, 2013, in Commentary, Life, Personal, by Chris

Christmas Wreath
It’s Christmas Eve at the farm on Willow Road. The temperature barely got above 20 degrees today, but a strong sun melted off the dusting of snow we got last night and its reflection off the white and fallow fields made it hard to look outside today. But now the light has mellowed and the afternoon shadows have lengthened, and I sit in the living room as a Christmas Eve dinner of salmon with Meyer lemon is being prepared (don’t worry, I’ll be doing the dishes!). We may even get down the road later tonight for a bowl of Jim Laramie’s marvelous homemade gumbo!

The quiet and much slower rhythms of the farm are a welcome change from the frenetic pace of the city. Most of the farm implements have been covered up for the winter and the farmers in Saline Township take a grateful sigh of relief now that the season’s crops have been harvested and the winter wheat has been sowed.

It’s interesting and a little sad, though, that the Christmas rhythm out here got a little slower this year. We normally would have been out the door not long after breakfast today, making a round of visits to the older family – especially my aunts. I said my last goodbyes to my Aunt Cora a month or two ago, and her sister Pat has moved down south to be with her children. And so our family’s world got one orbit smaller this year.

I’m seeing it along Willow Road as well. One by one, the dairy farmers let go of their herds until the nearest operation is three or four miles away. Our neighbors (and my adopted parents) have finally divested of their hog operation after nearly fifty years. After abusing their bodies for so long, they said that all they would feel was achy after a long day tending the farrowing house and finishing barn.

Even my Dad is getting to an age where he doesn’t want to bother with a lot of things these days – and at nearly eighty-three, he has every right. I came out a couple of weeks ago and got a Christmas tree up and the traditional wreath on the house, more for my own nostalgia than anything else. Now that he has throttled back on his volunteer hours up town, many of his days are spent with crosswords or books in the quiet of the farmhouse, coffee or an occasional breakfast with friends and afternoon cribbage with his girlfriend, Sue.

And it would be really easy for a guy of this age to begin to despair of life. With friends and family of his generation passing away and the natural physical inconveniences that come with age, retreating from life can seem like a reasonable choice between a lot of unsavory alternatives.

Dad RecordingBut it took one of those silly recordable storybooks you buy at the Hallmark store to remind me of a more hopeful trajectory of a life well lived. Jocelyn had picked it up last year during the post-holiday liquidation of all the Christmas merchandise. She brought it along to the farm, intending to record the story for Julia to follow along and learn about the Nativity; but I suggested we have Dad do it. It’s not much fun to think about, but one doesn’t need to have skill in actuarial math to realize that we will outlive him. I thought it would be a nice way for Julia to remember her grandfather on a special day.

So Dad and I sat down at the kitchen table while Julia was napping and recorded the story; but the weight of it didn’t really hit me until later when I played it for Jocelyn. It was a tinny, digitized recording depicting a childish, sentimentalized version of Jesus’ birth, but its pricelessness brought us both to tears within the first few words.

Behind that simple story – from the promise that love finds a way to the final words of my father’s love for his granddaughter – was the voice of nearly eighty-three years of experience. Those years had seen many things – marvelous and tragic – from living through the Great Depression and a world war to serving his family and community through the country’s meteoric growth. There were, to be sure, glimmers of the prosperity in his voice, but it was the heartbreaks that he lived through that imparted its weight and depth.

And it was the story my father read of an improbable birth in a place fit only for animals and castaways that reminded me: despite the frustrations of life and the slowing, painful pace of age, Love played the ultimate trump card that overcame the separation from everything good that is the ultimate fate of us all. Love did not give up on us, even while we were still shaking our fist in defiance. Love loved anyway, sacrificed anyway, became vulnerable despite humanity’s track record and pitched his tent among the lowliest, yet could still run circles around the mightiest.

Love came not to condemn us – any of us – but to save us. Because each life that walks this planet is of inestimable, intrinsic worth.

And I heard – again – the wonder of this Story read in the quavering voice of my father on a cold Christmas Eve.

I give God thanks for all of you and wish you all the best this Christmas.

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11 Responses to Christmas Greetings from the Farm

  1. Mike says:

    Lovya brother. Merry Christmas and a good year in Jesus Christ to all!

  2. Bill Kiser says:

    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. May God’s Grace shine on CR in the coming year as We bring healing to those He brings to the CR minostry.

  3. Pat Lange says:

    Beautiful! Merry Christmas to all the Cooks!

  4. Sheela says:

    Merry Christmas Chris Jocelyn and Julia from the Wrights. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story once again this year!

  5. Smitty says:

    Of all the days of the year, Today, on His birthday, while you’re walking in the Garden of Life, stop and smell the roses. Inhale the breath of Jesus. Carry it with you. Enjoy the day of days. Share with family. Believe. Life is what we make it. God bless you, my friend.

  6. Pam says:

    Chris, Once again so well done. You always leave me with a tear in my eye, when you write of your dad or the farm. I detect so much gratitude for that old farm, your dad and the surrounding neighbors & relatives that nourished you richly. God bless your family in 2014! Keep writing!

  7. Nick & Amy says:

    May the love, grace, mercy & peace of Jesus be the Christmas presents the Cook Clan take into the New Year. Thank you for your reflections and reminders of God’s enduring love.

  8. Kenneth Tanner says:

    So good, so true. Peace to you and yours on the farm this Christmas!

  9. Sarah says:

    Wonderfully written, Chris. I pray you had a great visit and a very merry Christmas! Thanks for sharing this piece of it with us.

    And what a treasure that recording will be! My “Grampa” went to be with the Lord a few years ago. I’d give almost anything to hear him recite his version of the Catholic pre-meal prayer (same script but intentionally putting emphasis on all the wrong words, as is a patriarch’s right) one more time.

  10. Dana Curtis says:

    Chris, you are so gifted with language. I appreciated your description of life on the farm with your dad and the tenderness of him recording that book for Julia. Funny thing is I recorded a book for Christian and Sterling and I can’t stand to listen to my voice! Happy, happy, happy New Year!!

  11. Jennifer Munson says:

    What an endearing and beautiful tribute to your father, and all those who have worked for generations to provide food for our tables. Thank you for sharing your Christmas Eve with all of us!

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