Shauna's preferred genre is fiction. She particularly enjoys rising to a challenge posed by fellow artists.
I remember it well: the cozy one-story house that mirrored the clear skies with its blue hue, large four-paned windows outlined in wispy white, as if caressed by the billowy clouds that set my imagination free.
I loved spending summers with Grandma and Grandpa.
Before dawn each morning, rain or shine, Grandpa would mount his John Deer and set about ploughing fields for the next season’s crops or mowing tall grass on the back acreage to fertilize the ground for future planting sites. Sometimes he’d even let me sit on his lap and steer the tractor.
Those are my favorite memories of Grandpa.
Once day broke, we’d head to the house for breakfast before setting about the rest of the day’s chores. To this day, I can’t smell bacon or hear eggs frying without thinking of my summers on the farm. Grandma was always cooking up something good.
I’m an only child, so imagination has always been my best friend. Well, besides Grandma and Grandpa. Oh – and Bessie, Flower, and Coco. Those were Grandma and Grandpa’s cows. I used to tell them stories and I think they looked forward to my visits. When they (the cows) saw me approaching the fence between the barns and where they grazed, they’d come right on up to me and listen aptly.
Judging by the mews and moos they’d offer through my storytelling, I’d say they looked forward to my visits as much as I looked forward to spending time with them.
Grandma and Grandpa died when I was only fourteen. They died together. Seems they just went to sleep one night and decided not to wake up.
I was heartbroken. Mama and Daddy never seemed to have much time for me. The only love I really felt growing up was when I spent summers with Grandma, Grandpa, Bessie, Flower, and Coco.
I don’t fault my folks for not being the nurturing type; Mama was forty-five when she had me. Let’s just say I was a surprise and they weren’t prepared to be parents. It’s okay. I had a good life, thanks to Mama’s parents and the farm.
Grandma and Grandpa left me their farm in the will, but I couldn’t take ownership until I turned twenty-one.
I did, but it would be years after my twenty first birthday before I’d take possession of what I considered to be home. In the interim, I’d sold the cows, which broke my heart, but I wasn’t yet in the position to care for them.
I told you that I’ve always had an imagination, right? Well, it’s served me well. I was fortunate to land a menial job with a publisher, after being recommended by my high school creative writing teacher who knew someone in the business. She had faith in me, and I was rewarded with a foot in the door upon graduating.
At first, my job was to screen queries for the editors of the company. I enjoyed the job because it let me know what publishers are looking for in budding – or even seasoned – writers. One day, my publisher read a story of my own that I’d inadvertently left on my desk and she was impressed. She encouraged me to write. I took the bull by the horns and tackled my first novel, which was published by the company who had opened my creative door.
I had a successful career for a while, then writers block struck. And it struck hard.
It was time to go back home. Maybe there I’d find inspiration.
When I pulled up to my beloved childhood haven, my heart broke. The place was in shambles. But what else could I expect after having neglected it for all these years?
The barn where we’d kept the cows at night and milked before letting them out into the pasture in the morning, and the chicken coop, were in a complete state of decay.
How could I have let this happen? I’ve been so wrapped up in my career that I let my beloved home die along with the only love I’d ever known!
Pull yourself together, Shannon. It’s not too late. That was Grandma’s voice in my head. I had no choice. I had to forge ahead.
Sucking It Up
I took a deep breath, wiped the tears from my eyes, and ventured up to the window of the lower outbuilding. As I peered inside, memories came flooding back. All senses had been reawakened. I smelled bacon coming from the house on the other side of the fence. I heard Grandma calling Grandpa and me in for breakfast. I smelled the fresh earth that Grandpa had dredged and I (imagined I) saw Bessie, Flower, and Coco heading out to pasture, mooing cries of freedom.
I wanted to go inside, but I was frozen in place by the incongruence of good memories and the chastising of selfish neglect. I lowered myself to the ground and sat with my back against the wall, overlooking the grounds until I was able to pull myself together.
I don’t know how long I sat there feeling sorry for myself, but I suddenly heard a rustling from inside the barn. I pulled myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and ventured inside.
It took all the emotional energy I had within me to open that door. Once inside, I collapsed on the floor, looking at the sunlight coming through the rafters. As I laid there, I absentmindedly rubbed my hands back and forth through the hay that had collected over the years.
Then my right hand found something buried beneath the hay.
I dusted off the dried grass, reached in, and pulled out a book. But it wasn’t any old book, it was my grandmother’s journal.
I was taken by surprise, sat up, and began turning the pages. Who knew Grandma kept a journal?!
Grandma poured her heart into that journal. Not only did she document what went on each day, she took pen to paper to record her thoughts, dreams, and sorrows. I was mesmerized. I realized I never knew Grandma as the person she was – only the person she appeared to be: a wife, cook, maid, mother, and grandmother.
Why in the hell am I feeling sorry for myself? I’ve had the freedom to be me. Grandma had to be what others expected of her and never took into consideration who she was inside! Never took into consideration that she may have had dreams for herself!
I got the kick in the ass I needed by visiting that barn. I’ve since taken possession of the house, restored the outbuildings, and refurbished Grandpa’s John Deer. Now that I’m old enough to drive it myself, I use it as a vehicle of inspiration.
I no longer suffer from writer’s block. I’m home and I have Grandma's dreams in my heart.
© 2020 Shauna L Bowling