Moving up to the big house

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WE have a big job ahead of us, my husband and I. We are going to remodel the big house. I can tell by the doodles being drawn on the yellow legal pad as we bounce along the road to the cottage. It used to be covered with pictures of box stalls and dairy barns. We used to talk about cow indexes and loafing sheds. I'll bet you didn't know cows loafed. Well, they do, and our dairy farm has two sheds now to prove it.

There were a lot of things I didn't know when I first came to the farm.

I came out of the depths of Detroit. Back in the days when you could walk to the Fisher Building on a Saturday afternoon for the matinee movie. Back in the days when every loyal, patriotic family put in a victory garden, be it ever so humble. Mine was right next to the back door and grew the biggest radishes our family had ever seen. One bite was sufficient to convince my dad I belonged in the country.

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My dad's dream was not to have a farm to grow more of those big red radishes, but rather to start his own gasket-manufacturing business. Moving his family to the tiny town of Jonesville, Mich., where there was an old red brick factory empty and just waiting for ``Crotty Corporation'' gaskets, brought his dream to reality and me closer to the country.

Dad's dream grew and expanded. When my sister Flo graduated from Jonesville High School and stopped taking the Greyhound bus back into Detroit every weekend and moved up to the university with our older sister, Pat, my dad moved my mother and little brother Bill Jr. down to a beautiful lake home in Indiana. As for me, my heart stayed in Jonesville. I had met Farmer Brown.

That's what the kids called him in high school. He was tall, handsome, and athletic looking, but he never went out for sports. Once I asked him why. He said something about having chores to do. After high school I followed Farmer Brown to Michigan State College. My sisters teased me about my ``cow college.'' Those were happy days, though, and with my one course in poultry science, flanked by textbooks on home economics, Farmer Brown brought me back to the country.

That's when the doodles on yellow legal pads started. We'd drive off to a farm meeting, talking and doodling all the way there and back about our farm plans. Usually when we picked up the children at ``Other'' Grandma's and Grandpa Brown's, they'd be waiting supper for us at the big house. ``Other'' Grandma was named ``Other'' Grandma because Great-grandmother Brown lived in the big house, too.

My, those were good suppers in the big house. I liked the deviled eggs made with vinegar and dry mustard. Supper always included leftover potatoes. Diced and creamed, or fried with onions. Have you ever tasted elderberry pie after a long drive and a lot of legal-pad doodling?

Now Farmer Brown has two sons of his own to farm with. One is a lawyer from my sisters' state university and one is an ag economist from old ``Moo U.'' Fathers and sons have been farming together at Brownson Farms since before Michigan became a state back in 1837. Michigan celebrated its sesquicentennial last year. We celebrated ours back in the summer of 1985. More than 750 friends and relatives from Canada to California made the big house and farm buildings come alive for the celebration. ``Other'' Grandma dressed in her centennial dress and greeted them all on the big house's screened porch. It was a day of days.

It's been a while since there was a light on in the kitchen at the big house. I know how my husband feels when he drives into the yard and up to the barn to start morning chores. We see a darkened house.

Yes, we could have traded houses with ``Other'' Grandma and Grandpa Brown years ago when all our children were home. But then we wouldn't have had the necessity for all those late-supper, elderberry-pie times.

Cleaning out the big house this week, I found the old green recipe box.

We have a big job ahead of us, my husband and I. We're going to move up to the big house. Sometimes I wonder about all the memories in our own house. I wonder about my own mother moving out from the big city to a small town. I wonder about our daughter moving from the country and living in Kyoto, Japan, now.

It must be a pioneering spirit. It must be my turn. I think I can. I've moved before.

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