Our Rural Roots

Always Light The Candles

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Birthdays are a big deal in our family.

My Grandma June started a tradition when she required every family member to be present for a birthday dinner--regardless of time of year or age of the individual. Birthdays are made for celebration.

What complicates this rule is the majority of our family’s birthdays fall in April and October, and we raise corn, soybeans and seed corn. Everyone knows farmers aren’t supposed to get married or have babies during “those” times of year. Grandma June didn’t hold with fieldwork frenzy excuses though.

I remember arriving at Grandma’s one Sunday afternoon to celebrate Dad’s birthday. It was the height of harvest. Grandma June had pork chops ready for the grill, scalloped potatoes warming in the oven, rolls piled high in a basket, green beans simmering on the stove and homemade chocolate pies perched on the counter.

My dad, grandpa and uncle were picking corn across the road. We watched the dance--the combine crawling across the field and the tractor and loaded wagons heading off to the elevator.

The elevator closed at 5 p.m. on Sunday, yet the clock chimed five times, then six times. We played cards, talked, took care of odd jobs for Grandma and waited.

Finally, the lights from the field dimmed, and the men shuffled up to the house, tired and covered in dust. When we finally lit the candles, it dawned on me that the birthdays might dictate the day we gather but not the reason.

What Grandma June recognized is the need for us to be present with each other, to share our day-to-day and appreciate the work that has made, and still makes, the farm possible. The foundation her traditions instilled will be there this spring and hopefully the next, when we light more candles and celebrate what really matters--family.

Katie Pratt writes, tweets, farms and “likes” agriculture from north-central Illinois. Find her blog at theillinoisfarmgirl.com, and follow her on Twitter (@KatiePratt4).