It’s almost Thanksgiving – here again before we know it. My husband and I will be getting together with about 40 of my family members in Traverse City, Michigan (weather permitting). We perform this ritual every two years and though it’s challenging (and sometimes impossible) to gather that many people together in one spot, it’s an event we cherish.
My father is 93 this year, and will be with us for the gathering. He is a former crop and livestock producer, but he’s still a farmer at heart. He and my mom instilled those characteristics that most farm kids learn at an early age: a strong work ethic, responsibility, determination, a love of the land and livestock, and a competitive spirit, among other things. The fact that I still get to work in agriculture is a blessing I don’t take lightly.
When we’re all together, standing in a circle holding hands for grace before the Thanksgiving dinner, I look around in amazement at my sisters and brother and their spouses; their sons and daughters and significant others; and the babies filling the next generation.
And I realize: we’re all there because two people fell in love. Family was my mom’s first priority, and she would be so proud to see us making the commitment to these gatherings. My dad misses her every day, just as we do, but she’ll be there with us in so many ways: in the food carefully prepared from family recipes; in a baby’s soft breath; in the lively conversations about farming; and in the quiet times when we’re simply enjoying each other’s company.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s important to remember what we’re thankful for this holiday season. For my family, Thanksgiving has always been shared around my mom and dad’s table (and the table in the living room and the table in the entry way and the tables in the garage for when we run out of room). Coming from a big German Catholic family, the number of tables and people present is abundant.
As a recent college graduate, this will be my first Thanksgiving week that didn’t revolve around getting cattle ready for a stock show, fall calving and checking the spring cows for pregnancy. It’s a bit strange hearing about ranch happenings second-hand but I’m thankful for my family who keep things running.
While growing up means leaving the ranch, I know the lessons it taught me will not be so easily shed.
I’m thankful for my dad teaching me about perseverance; to never let go of the end of the rope when halter-breaking, to go check calving heifers even in snow and blustering winds, to stay up a little bit longer to make sure the newest baby calf was healthy.
I’m thankful for my mom’s lessons in patience; to wait up for Dad when there’s just one more heifer to calve that night, to jump in the truck to go check pastures instead of going to date night, to nursing farm injuries, including taping my ribs (I’ll try not to get kicked this year).
I’m thankful for my uncles’ example of cooperation; working with family comes with its challenges but they and my dad have kept a ranch running for 50 years. It wasn’t always easy and they sometimes don’t agree but they work together to make the farm better for coming generations.
Most of all, I’m thankful for my grandparents and great-aunt and great-uncle. Without them, there would be no farm for me to love. I wouldn’t have been raised, quite literally, in a barn and I’d be a very different person than I am today. They took a chance and started our farm many years ago and raised us with strength, determination, tenacity and love.
I’m thankful for the many things farm life has given me, but above all, I’m thankful for my farm family.
What about you?
We hope you build similar memories this Thanksgiving, and please share them with us. What are your plans, and what are you most thankful for?