This New Year, I’m on the farm worked by my husband’s family since the early 1800s. They settled this area before it was a state, when those willing to move to the outer edge of what was still unsettled frontier. Through land grants bestowed for Revolutionary and War of 1812 service, they staked their claim and built a future for generations to come.
For more than 200 years they have lived, worked, created families, and died on this land. It is the physical manifestation of what it is to be an American. As I look up at the stars so clear in a sky unencumbered by manmade lights, I am awed to be just a small part of that history. Tonight, I saw “Grannie” the matriarch of the Clan Thompson, hold her first Great, Great Grandchild in her more than capable 90-year-old arms. Ivy may not remember Grannie, but I will never forget the look of joy on her face as her twinkling blue eyes reflected in the blue eyes of this 6-month-old baby. Ivy’s grandmother, great grandmother, and great-great-grandmother live on this farm all together—something unheard of in this modern era.
We have lost so much of this critical family dynamic. There are pockets of it that remain, and one is certainly this small corner of South Mississippi. Ivy will grow up learning how to ride a horse, take care of chickens, pigs, dogs, and cats, cook for a large family and maybe even one day she will live here continuing the tradition. She will know about her great, great grandfather, his brothers, and their father who farmed this land. She is likely to live in the home that her great uncles built for their parents, a comfortable space overlooking a beautiful pond and green fields. These are precious moments in a long span of life captured in pictures on the mantle of Grannie’s home.
As I write this, I contemplate that this small segment, 14 years of my personal involvement in this family, is such a small span of the whole. Although I am an interloper, as are my children, she has loved them fiercely along with her other “natural” grandchildren. I don’t deserve to be grafted in as I have, but I am grateful nonetheless.
Last night we stayed in Laurel Mississippi on our way to the farm. Laurel is the setting for the TLC show called “Home Town”. Based on Ben and Erin Napier’s efforts to save and reinvigorate their southern town, this show has drawn millions to the charm of small-town life in the deep south. Despite all the controversy and bitterness of the past few years, it is still clear that American’s are drawn to a life where neighbors sit on their porches, strangers are greeted with a smile and handshake, children are safe to play in their neighborhoods and parks and local businesses are supported. Their efforts have led to a renaissance that is nothing short of miraculous.
In Laurel and out in the Mississippi countryside there is peace and safety. In so many communities across our nation the American dream is alive and well. I think we all long to come home to a place like the farm on Thompson Lane.