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Stories from the Farm

A Reason to Celebrate

Harry Anderson was Glenfield's child. For more than fifty years, the women in our small town looked after him, cooked his meals and washed his clothes. And just as many men routinely watched out for him, hauled him to safety, and generally tried to teach him the basics of survival, in the rough and practical sort of way that one man will care for another. First one generation, and then the next, regarded him as an adjunct member of their families and accepted responsibility for his well-being. He moved in and out of homes and lives without schedule, commitment or reservation, and yet, he was always welcomed and loved. He was older than my parents, but when he came to "Fieldstone Farms," he was my friend.

I was intrigued by this big man who could go to the fields with my father and work with the strength of a horse, and yet would run clumsily when playing tag, and giggle with such delight that he was always the first one found in "hide 'n seek." He preferred cookies and sweets to a good meal, and he knew every nursery rhyme by heart. Harry smoked a pipe -- when the men who gathered at the General Store could spare a little tobacco -- and he was the only man ever allowed such a wicked indulgence on my mother's back porch. He accepted the odd jobs, meals and places in people's lives as though they were part of some inheritance he had received at birth; never asking for more or expecting less. For all that he had been given, and all that he had not, he was content, and to every day, he brought the wonder and enthusiasm of a child.

It was Harry who taught me the small joy of mixing jam flavors on my toast and biscuits. Ordinarily, such behavior would have resulted in a good scolding and a lecture about playing with my food. Harry, however, was afforded certain liberties, and I was only too glad to walk in the shadow of his freedom. His favorite combination was Raspberry spread on one half a biscuit and Peach (generally reserved for Rev. Nash) on the other. As he would press the two halves together, he would shout, "God Bless America, I've just united the North and South!" That always struck him as funny, and we would all end up joining in his contagious laughter. I have to admit, the raspberry-peach combination was quite good -- maybe even worthy of a shout!

As sure as Harry's visits would come, go and return again without prediction, you could always count on him being at our farm in time to celebrate his birthday. In fact, he made it a point to celebrate his birthday at every house he visited. Mother once claimed that if he aged a year for every birthday, he would have to be older than Methuselah! In truth, no one in Glenfield actually knew the date he was born, and it was generally believed that he didn't know either. He simply enjoyed the friendly well-wishes, the occasional cake and the infrequent gift. More than anything, he loved being the subject of people's affection and creating the light air of celebration. Looking back, I guess we all enjoyed those times.

Harry died several years ago, and like his birth, I don't imagine many people in town know the date of his passing. Of course, the beginning and ending of life are not so important to remember as all the living that comes in between. So, in honor of those memories, I make a Raspberry-Peach preserve for the boy, who single-handedly united the North and South, and to the man, who demonstrated the ageless, enduring nature of the child inside each of us. I occasionally add a little champagne to the jam as a reminder that life itself -- the simple fact that we were born -- is sometimes all the reason we need to celebrate.

"Thanks old friend. And by the way, Happy Birthday!"

Copyright © Fieldstone Farms, Inc., 2008
All rights reserved.


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