The sign left no room for misinterpretation. My childhood eyes took in the scenery of the farm one last time. More than a decade's worth of summer stories were coming to a close. Tears did not run down my face, but my heart was heavy, and my pupils scanned the environment with a sense of urgency as Dad's station wagon eased out of the driveway. The sign was nailed to a graying wooden corner fencepost that leaned from the pull of rusted barbed wire.
The station wagon picked up speed once we reached the paved road. We were one of the few families who remembered Turner Road when it was little more than gravel. Mom and Dad were barely forty years old when they went against the norm and purchased the abandoned dairy farm in Upstate New York's most northwest region (the town of Macomb in St. Lawrence County). It was not uncommon during the 1970s and 1980s for African American parents who migrated from the southeastern states to the northeast to send their children back home (south) for the summer. A generation removed, my parents were born in New York City, so the south was as foreign to them as Egypt.
With seven children, and one on the way, Mom and Dad ventured north to find a summer respite for their kids. My father recalls friends and family thinking them odd. African American families did not venture into unfamiliar dairy country in the northeast for peace. Undaunted by their critics, they settled on what would become the place that hosted my fondest memories and became my mother's final resting place.
As we pulled out of the farm's driveway for the last time as owners in 1984, a poor family, to whom my parents had rented the house for the winter, drove in. Letting them have it for a mere one hundred dollars per month, my folks were showing kindness. They had also listed the farm for sale with a local realtor. Heartbroken but understanding, I watched the farm fade into the distance as we headed home to Queens.
On Christmas Day that same year, my parents received a call informing them that the farmhouse had burned to the ground. It was a not so merry Christmas. It was as though the old place had had enough.
Echoes from the Farm is my way of sharing the memories that have guided my interests throughout adulthood. It is also my way of sharing a special part of my family's love and the love that was shown to us in a unique place on the American tapestry. I would not trade my farm experiences for anything. Enjoy!
© Jonathan T. Jefferson