I've been thinking a lot about the concept of home, and the meaning of family, lately. I think I've been obvious enough with the news that my family has grown with the addition of Matthew to The Farmstead. And our lives are better for it.
Not only does he love me and my daughter, he loves the animals. This way of life, living on a working farm, is one that his own soul has been craving for quite some time. He grew up around animals, on land, and so for him, the farm is, in a lot of ways, like coming home.
It's ironic really, because, he is, in more ways than a lot, like coming home. Re-engaging in The Farmstead, not as a single mother trying to survive without giving up her dream, but as part of a team who believes, wholeheartedly, in making something beautiful and productive is mind blowingly awesome.
Matthew and I have very different backgrounds. He is a small town boy, raised rurally, who has lived in Thailand (and speaks fluent Thai), and graduated from one of the most liberal, non-traditional colleges in the country (The Evergreen State College). He can often be found meditating in the middle of the night when he should be sleeping, starts every single morning with yoga, and utilizes a freezing cold lake for swimming. He sings and plays bass in a rock band, once attended a silent meditation retreat where he didn't speak for 10 days, and, I am quite convinced, could live on watermelon and goat milk.
I am an Air Force brat who moved every couple years, spent my life living on military bases, graduated from one of the most strict military institutions in the country (The Air Force Academy) and deployed to Iraq. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow, start every morning with chocolate goat milk, and think jumping in a freezing cold body of water sounds like torture and reminds me too much of all the early morning swim practices my mother championed me through as my swim coach. I can't carry a tune to save my life, one of the reasons I own goats is because they never tell me to shut up, and I do in fact think you can make a full meal out of cookies.
Despite all our differences. Despite the fact that Matthew had no idea what The Air Force Academy was when we met, or that I had no idea where Twisp, Washington was. Despite the fact that we are, truly, from two different worlds, our definition of home lines up perfectly. Because for us, it's not about the things (no really, this man owns like, three things), it's about the people. It's about the family.
We spent this past weekend at my parent's house in Oregon. When I was two years old my parents bought land with plans to someday build their dream house. This piece of land was my one constant growing up. My family spent every single Summer, from the last day of school and sometimes into the first week of school, camping in Oregon. These memories, of learning to waterski, picking huckleberries for dinner, and making shadow puppets on the side of the tent. Sitting around the fire, tucked into my mother, all clean from a fresh bath in the lake, belly warm from a meal cooked in a cast iron skillet, those are the memories that make me feel whole.
My parents did build their dream house and, because my mother had a vision and my father supported her, they have spent the last year turning a corner of their land into a Memorial Garden. Through sheer determination she has been working to bring home the remains of our family members, who were scattered in different cemeteries around the state. She has created a sacred place where we can go, to sit, reflect, and talk about those who came before us. The Memorial Garden, or, as my mother calls it, The Family Garden, is a true heirloom. Eleven grandchildren, all under the age of 9, were present at the dedication. Some of them are biological and some of them came to our family through the incredible process of adoption. As a way to include them in the day's events my mother took each of them into her garden and helped them fill a vase with her dahlias. They were then set loose to place the vases wherever they wanted, as a way of paying tribute to their elders. (Of course most of them chose the very cool hand carved bench at the top of the hill).
These children will never formally meet their great grandparents. But hopefully, through the telling of stories in places like The Family Garden, they will feel a connection to the people who came before them. It doesn't matter that some of them share DNA and some of them don't. We are all family. Yes, genetics are cool, and have an awfully fun way of creeping up to remind us of our loved ones, but they're not the end all and be all.
Matthew is not Giz's father. He has no blood ties to her. But when he fell in love with me he fell in love with her. She calls him Bubba (on her own accord, I know, it's adorable right? How can I argue with it?) and, sometimes, instead of needing me, she needs him. I am so lucky to have parents of my own who have welcomed this man into our family on the sheer premise that he treats me and Giz right, makes me happier than they've ever seen me, and is gainfully employed (in case you're wondering he's an ER nurse who works nights). I know this is a big stretch for my parents, they're both products of the traditional nuclear family and have shared their own marriage for 40 plus years. I am so grateful every single day that they were able to alter their vision for what the universe held for me to include a non-traditional, expanded family. The love and support they have given me my entire life, but especially the past year, can only be described as a blessing.
Which is also exactly how I feel about Matthew becoming part of The Farmstead. I have a partner who believes in what I am doing here not just because he loves me and thinks it's good to support your mate, but because for him, being part of a working farm has been a dream of his own forever. The difference may not seem important, but, having had the first, I can tell you, it matters. In the dark of night, in the cold of winter, in the stress of no sleep...it matters. The kind of progress we have made on The Farmstead this summer is the kind of progress that can only happen when two people, who despite coming from very different backgrounds, work together to make something beautiful.
Case in point. The Farmstead Creamery's new delivery vehicle...
This Summer, which will forever be known as the Summer of Love for me, has been untouchable. It's the Summer I re-fell in love with myself and the Summer I fell in love with him. I have always dreaded Winter on the farm but, I'll be honest, I'm actually kind of looking forward to it this year. I'm not sure what the future holds, but something tells me it's going to be magical.