I don’t know why, we drifted towards the old forlorn house but I was blessed by this journey of a hundred memories. We left the bustling chatter of the Maynard family gathering, to walk down the path of nostalgic reflections towards the home which cradled the beginning of this whole clan of generations. I don’t remember how the two of us began this tour of times, seemingly forgotten but yet somehow, rising up in richness in the moments, as our feet shuffled down the trail. At first the path was hard packed with use in keeping the cattle full and fattening for their destination as the protein potion of many future meals but then the route veered into the gnarly box elder wooded grove, prevalent in the land of the Dakotas.
It was here ... that the musings, recollections and reflections spoken out load … floated in the warm summer air to be swallowed up, somehow like oxygen in the breathing process; to become unexpected blessings in my heart. I did not know, nor did I imagine, these minutes stolen away on this casual walk with my last living and remaining uncle would eventually become the vivid encapsulation of my life with this special man.
He was youngest uncle of a good group of diverse elders that poured love, virtue and laughter into my life. In my relationship with each of these men, impressions and insights were freely given and, in those exchanges; little aspects of character were impressed in some little recess of the person I would become. What made this uncle special to me, was his humbleness, humor and his humanity. In my lifetime of knowing this man, wit was always available but never at the expense of the other. All that he accomplished in his many years as a faithful father and man of God, was never the topic of discussion but his interest in your life was constantly engaged, as he was ever so comfortable in his mission in life, of living to serve and encourage. Finally, he had a good dose of a particular familial Maynard trait, in sensing the connecting and most important component in all people, was our common humanity and this is where life happens. This was connected to a humanity in his faith as well, and, this is where every investment in every moment, came so naturally to him as it strengthened the bonds of the relationships of all those he knew, and loved.
As we sidestepped the precious year’s nasty burdock ever trying to frustrate us and wondered aloud, what some stray shaft, gear or wheel of rusted iron might have been attached to as part of some forgotten farm machine; thoughts and smiles were ever present. I wish I would have recorded the conversation, but now all I have are vague but meaningful recollections of general ideas of what was gleaned on this, “Journey of a Hundred Memories.”
“How bittersweet was the time when he and his beautiful young bride felt a longing to leave the farm and pursue their greater calling.” “How hard, his father and ‘Junior,' his oldest brother had worked and toiled on this homeland.” “How fast the years had floated by, from the time when he and this grove were young and full of mystery and now the trees were mostly fallen over and becoming nourishment for the next generation.” “How, midst the dirt of field, potatoes, always gave life and income to the table full of family.”
Finally, we reached the old farmhouse, sagging slowly into the soft Clark County soil. We peered in the open windows, somehow imagining voices, laughter and the warm glow of the evening light but mostly the reality of time passing, seemed to overtake the moment. The house seemed slightly wrong, as if some unknown builder had crept into my uncle’s mind and moved the walls and doorways around as if to take away the familiar. The paint was peeling off the wood work, the windows were empty frames unable to hold out any weather but serving as perches for the sparrows to freely enter, the doors were open but frozen in place, the steps up to the bedrooms were angled and broken … but still the memories came forth. Memories of flying down the stairs, times of abundance and hardship, the goodness and perseverance of my uncle’s mother and my grandmother ... mostly raising a family without her partner and the many days and nights of music and the joy of the families that lived in this forlorn home. There was an agonizing sadness here, as we stood in the old house but there was also a greater sense of what lives on in family and faith. What signifies a family, in a lifetime of seasons, gives way to what becomes the family as a legacy. Families are formed in places, times and memories but what truly makes a family of value is what will be formed in new places, times and memories as the family goes on. What is nourished and valued, will then continue and become the new generation of what families are really about. What is past, will always to be treasured but what is now, alive in form and function, is the legacy that makes a family of real value and significance.
I don’t remember much of the returning walk to the gathering of the Maynard clan, all trying to say goodbye to each other for the fourth or fifth time, but I do remember and now know and treasure what happened on that casual walk to the old Maynard house. Somehow there was an ongoing transfer of one generation to the next, that makes a family, a family. I loved my Uncle Norman very much and will miss this truly special man, and I will remain forever grateful for this journey of hundred memories.