Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 29, 2023
Closing a chapter
The iconic green John Deere tractor and cultivator moved up and down the rows of corn until the driver stopped to make an
adjustment. A shaggy, yellow-haired dog joined him, wagging his tail and pausing to "smile" at the camera.
The scene shifted abruptly to a picnic with young boys playing baseball and little girls cavorting with a beach ball next to a lake.
Just as suddenly, there were images of children "swimming" in a cattle tank followed by scenes from several weddings.
My brother Dave's girlfriend Marilyn had been my co-conspirator in my plot to surprise my siblings with some home movies from our younger days. At the beginning of December, I had given her a few reels my uncle Stan had shot and she took them to a company that processed them into a digital format. To the "show," I added another movie made by my friend Bryce of 13-month-old daughter Mariya on our family farm. I decided a pre-Christmas gathering at Mariya and wife Miriam's home was a good time to share them as it would be the last time we three Freelands would be together this year.
Everyone's attention turned to the big-screen TV, eager to see what the surprise was. The earlier scenes were pretty grainy, a few were over-exposed, and only Bryce's had sound. Yet it was fun to see family members, many of whom are now gone.
"Hey, where's the narration for this thing?" niece Larisa's husband Keenan asked at the beginning.
"Yeah, we should have grumpy uncle Stan talking," Larisa responded.
Stan, known for his self-deprecating humor, would often say something negative, only to have Aunt Kay say, "Oh, Stanley, you don't mean that!" It was part of a game they played throughout their nearly 72 years together. Never having children, they lavished love and attention on all of us nieces and nephews.
And, through the decades, they were the ones who captured us in movies.
I had been wanting to get those movies digitized before something happened to them - or us. This year was as good as any, for Dave, Gaila and I were closing a chapter in our lives. We sold the house and outbuildings of our "home place" farm in 2021, and the land a year later. This year, we decided to dissolve our legal partnership so our children and future generations wouldn't have to deal with the complications when one of us dies.
The young man on the tractor was Dad, just three years older than Mariya is today. The yellow-haired dog was Sandy, Dad's companion. The picnic was at a nearby lake. In a watermelon-eating segment at one of our family's farms, Gaila and I, both in red dresses, eagerly ate slices, while 35-year-old Mom, hamming for the camera, shared a slice with grandpa Robert Freeland's cousin Guy.
The ball players were brother Dave and various cousins. There apparently was little pitching talent in the family as more often than not, the ball struck the batter. Stan, then 36, joined his nephews in the game. In other shots, he and Kay took turns pushing Gaila and me on our farmyard swing-set.
As kids, we eagerly "swam" in the cattle-watering tank, laughing and splashing the whole time, disregarding the scum on the sides and bottom.
All the women, including Gaila and me, wore beautiful sun-dresses and the men wore long pants and nice shirts in most of the scenes.
The funniest segment included at least a dozen people filing out of grandpa and grandma's small farmhouse. It was reminiscent of the old silent movie gag, where a seemingly-endless bunch of people emerges from a small car.
I have always been a believer in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. ... A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance ...
It's the end of the year - a time to bring some things to a close and prepare for new beginnings. It was a bittersweet decision
to let the family farm go, but it was time. The person who bought it will be a good steward of the land, just as four generations
of our family were.
And the movies containing snippets of childhood memories? They were an excellent way to bring this recent chapter of our lives to a close. It's sad those times have passed, yet we are so happy they happened.
Counterclockwise from top left: Dad on the tractor; Dave, Gaila and I in the cattle tank; Sandy; ball just as it hits batter's leg; Gaila and I with a small beach ball; four people leaving grandma's and grandpa's home with a fifth close behind; sisters eating watermelon; dad with Linda on Linda's and Dave's wedding day; Mariya peeking around a tree on the farm; Jerome's and my wedding. Center (l-r): Marilyn, Dave, Gaila's husband Humberto, Gaila, Mariya and Miriam watching the show.