Monday, August 15, 2011

No One Knows Me


Ginger is gone. She went back to Texas. Ginger is one of my blog buddies. I follow her because she was a transplant like me and because I admired how she was trying to make a living farming. She and her family were kind of like hippies (I don’t know if she’d like that characterization but that’s how I thought of her because of the goat cheese, the books, and PBS) and they really lived off the farm. They milked their own cow, grew vegetables, heated with wood, and Ginger sold cake and bread down at the local farm market made with flour she ground herself. She ground it herself. Very hippie-like.

She didn’t know how to do all of these things at first. I imagine she knew how to bake bread, being a hippie and all. But she had to Google how to slaughter a chicken and castrate a bull. I could never slaughter a chicken myself, even if someone actually showed me and I didn’t have to resort to Google, but I appreciated that she did. Not that she killed an animal. It was her lack of hypocrisy. How she was humane and grateful, thanking the animal and taking good care of it. If you have to kill an animal, at least be humane and grateful. But I couldn’t do it even if my heart was in the right place. I think I could castrate a bull though. I’ve seen horses getting done. Afterwards you take the testicles and throw them up on the barn roof for good luck. I don’t know if Ginger threw the testicles up on the roof.

Everything was going well, as well as can be expected on a farm with goats getting out and weeds coming in and whatnot, and then Ginger’s husband Philip died. He was from New Jersey, like me. He and Ginger met in school and she also lived in Jersey for a time, until they moved here. That’s how we started talking, yakking on e-mails in between the blogging. She lived in Jersey, I lived in Jersey. She lived in Texas. I lived in Oklahoma. That was close! When you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you don’t know anybody, you’ll latch on to any little shred of something you have in common even if the link is as precarious as being from neighboring states.

But after a while, Ginger didn’t reply to e-mails. I don’t think it was me. She was busy with her church friends. (She was a hippie but she was also from Texas.) Besides castrating animals and butchering chickens, church is the other thing people do out in the country. They get religious. I’ve even seen it with my own friends who left New Jersey and moved to the country and all of a sudden they’re thanking Jesus on their Facebook and saying prayers for everyone who has anything whatsoever wrong like their car won’t start or a horse got kicked. I myself turned to it as well, even though I felt like a fraud. Then I quit when the pastor called gay people evil. But that’s a whole other story—how I found religion and lost it just as quick.

I understand why people are drawn to it. When you’re in the country and there is no neighborhood bar or crowd of mothers holding the hands of backpacked kids waiting for the school bus on every corner, when you are in a place that’s so remote (if you can count having Internet and Dish TV and everything a person could want at her fingertips down at the Minute Market as being remote), that you calculate the cost of a tank of gas and the time getting there in deciding whether it’s worth joining the book club or even going shopping, and the only sounds you hear are the birds and your own voice if you test it now and then by clearing your throat or talking to the dog, the only people you see are the mailman and Eldon on his tractor or Pearl when she brings you something—a pie, cucumbers, a flyer for vacation bible school—you need something. Church, out in the country, is the community. All activities come packaged with the church. The spaghetti dinner? It’s down at the church. The kids are going to the water park. It’s sponsored by the church. The bluegrass festival? It’s in the pastor’s field. You need to find a good plumber? Ask Ray about it in church on Sunday.
And so when Philip died, Ginger’s church friends rallied around her. I wanted to go and visit her when I heard. But I wondered if the death of one’s husband was a good time for blog buddies to meet in real life. Plus I knew she didn’t need me. Her freezer was jam-packed with enough meals the church ladies made to last for God knows how long and all the church husbands were stocking her up with wood and fixing her fences. They even helped outfit her kitchen with an industrial oven so that she could bake bread efficiently and make a living without Philip.

When my mother died, a few months later, Pearl brought me over a pie and took me to a flea market to get me out. She even helped me rescue some rusty old motel chairs discarded behind an old barn that I had my eyes on for years, which I later sanded and painted, saving them from the Dumpsters and making them look cute on my porch.
I’m grateful to her for that. But that was it. I don’t go to church so I had no other support system. Almost immediately I wanted to go home. My mother wasn’t there anymore but I was suddenly very homesick for where she’d been, for the people who knew her and would be shocked when they ran into me at the supermarket and I told them she died (she died—it still doesn’t sound real), and for all the things I took for granted that were linked to her, to my family, to me—the ocean, ticking spinning wheels at the boardwalk, taverns with diamond-shaped windows in the doors, stoops, docks, shamrocks, doo-wop, Bruce Springsteen, lobstermen, Italian bakeries, Soprano accents, Elk’s conventions, the tunnel, the garden, handball, skeeball, stickball, Hoboken, the Statue of Liberty, even the New Jersey Turnpike.

I remember when the turnpike was being built. My sister, annoying as always, called it the “turnapipe.” The pavement was brand new, bright and white and surrounded by crow-weeds and cattails like a road in a state park going to the beach. And it did in fact go to the beach; it went down-the-shore, to Keansburg, to the little town where we rented a bungalow in the summer. When we passed the real estate office that was shaped like a ship in Laurence Harbor, we knew we were almost there. And there was my mother, only 24-years-old, driving her 1968 Dodge Charger with the black stripe on the back end, Crystal Blue Persuasion playing on the radio, and three kids in the back seat kicking each other, vying for a window.

There is no one around here for me to tell this to. People smile and nod when I tell them how she loved her cars—a red Mustang, a gold Cadillac, the Charger, a two-toned Grand Prix that looked like it belonged to a pimp, to name a few—and how she was a flaming redhead until she got sick—this was no old lady who got leukemia and died! But no one around here knows her. No one really knows me.

I imagined that Ginger was having it even worse. She lost her husband, her partner on the farm. How would she manage without him? At least I didn’t have to worry about that. How would she castrate the bulls? Did she even know how to use a chainsaw? (For firewood, not the bulls.) Could she drive the tractor? What if the truck doesn’t start? She had it doubly bad. And with kids too.

But she seemed to be doing it. She got the oven. She planted seeds. They even wrote an article about her in the newspaper. They called her “the mighty widow.” Everyone was impressed by Ginger. Because, let’s face it, it would be hard to make a living on a farm with a husband, never mind without one. Yes, she was heartbroken about Philip and blogged about sitting on the deck at night all by herself, looking at the stars, listening to the whippoorwills and thinking about him. But she was getting on.

I was surprised. I thought she was going to go back to Texas as soon as the funeral was over. And jealous. I was not getting on. I suddenly hated it here. I didn’t even ride my horses anymore because all I wanted to do was go home. We put the house up for sale and I dedicated myself to selling it. Dedicated is too mild a word. I’m obsessed. Fixated. All I do is work at keeping up with it, cleaning it, improving it, marketing it.

I wished I could be like Ginger, and still like it here, still get all teary-eyed over the mountain view that is so beautiful it looks fake; I wish I was still tickled when Eldon, in his straw hat and overalls, waves to me when he drives past the house on his tractor, or I see the filly across the road sticking her head through the fence trying to get some clover that is somehow more delectable than the knee-deep grass she’s standing in. Like she’s doing right now, as I type this. But I don’t care about any of it anymore. Since my mother died.

If I went to church, I’d probably feel better because I wouldn’t feel so alone here. I’d have a community. But I’m not going to church for that reason. And so I suffer in silence, posting ad after ad for this house, thinking up creative ways to get it sold, analyzing, scrutinizing, second-guessing myself about why it’s not and what’s going to happen—am I stuck down here?—am I going to get cancer like my mother and die down here all alone?—and not living in the now, not being present and enjoying my life, because all I’m doing is dreaming of home and figuring out ways to get there.

Then, to make matters worse, Ginger up and left. First she started blogging about it. She decided to do it. She was leaving. Going home to Texas. In a way, I felt relieved. I was not crazy wanting to leave such a beautiful place after all. Even though she had all those church friends, that wonderful community who supplied her with wood and fixed her leaks, in the end, she still wanted to go home too. I warned her it was going to take time to sell her farm. I offered to send some of my prospects her way. She didn’t take me up on it. Such confidence! (She had no idea how bad the real estate market is.) Then I read about how she was planning to leave in the summer so she could get the kids settled in before school starts in September. I thought, good luck with that. I figured for sure I would be out of here before she was, but then the next thing I knew, even without selling the farm, she left. Poof. Gone.

And now I’m even more jealous. How come she can leave and I can’t? Well, technically the reason is because I have to sell my house and she didn’t. I don’t know why she didn’t have to sell her house. Maybe she got life insurance money when Philip died. Maybe she just doesn’t care and she simply abandoned it. I don’t know. Doesn’t matter.

What matters is I have to stop white-knuckling it because I can’t force it to happen. I have to find peace and acceptance, like it seemed Ginger had, when she was here, and when she left, so I can live in the now. Because the now is all I have. Stop the obsessive cleaning and fixing. Stop cutting the grass with a toenail scissors like they tell you to do on Designed to Sell. Start riding my horses again. Go back to the clubs. Take a good look at that mountain behind the hay field.

And maybe get a hold of some testicles to throw up on the roof.

31 comments:

Christina said...

Pass on the testicles and religion if I may.

You hang in there Debi and if you ever want to just vent about things or talk about your mom, you email me. I will listen without judgement and with interest.

Chris said...

I only know Ginger from her blog which I've read for quite a while. I miss her and wish she would post from Texas. I hope all is going well for her.

Making comparisons rarely helps one's situation. I'm sorry your stuck and I hope you can find some peace in your present home. You are more than welcome to email me too. I'm blessed to live in the community of Floyd among hippies who still believe that real communication is worth the time.

Tanya said...

beautifully written, as always...i met ginger before her husband died. diane, anita, ginger and a couple of others met for lunch one day. i'm pretty sure you had been invited but couldn't make it. i also remember reading the story about her in the paper....living in the "now"...it's something i have trouble with. always have. lately i've been really sad that we left georgia and keep thinking back to those days. back when my kids were all younger. i have to constantly remind myself to be happy in the now. i hope things get easier for you :(

Grey Horse Matters said...

I know how you feel is about all I can say. I personally couldn't do the church thing, it's just not my way. But I think you are right about living in the now. You've got to start enjoying yourself and stop obsessing about selling and getting out of there. One day when you least expect it someone will show up and all the pieces will fall into place and before you know it you will be back in Jersey. Hang in there.

Deborah S. said...

I've been reading your blog for some time and I have to say that this one really hit home for me. I have lived in Texas as well. It is quite difficult to find community even if you are the wrong religion when living in the Bible belt. It is a shame that you feel so all alone but you are not alone because others feel the same way. Until you are able to go home, try to find those people. I have a feeling they are a little quieter but they are there.

qhgirl said...

I definitely understand the alone feeling.. a military brat.. isn't from anywhere.. I am not particularly a joiner either.. not interested in clubs or girls nights out etc.. So I have no real close friends.. and somewhat envy those who do.. but with my schedule I just don't have the time. I am 100% responsible for keeping up with the horses, the steer, the dog, the chickens, the garden.. hubby is working out of town.. so I get to see him maybe one day a week.. so that is a LOT of alone time..lol... that is when I'm not doing my hour long commute each way to work.. plus the 10 hr days..haha. But I have a job.. and for that I am grateful.. couldn't keep what I have without it. Maybe someday things will uncomplicate for all of us a little bit.

Peggy said...

Wonderful post, girl! I need to sit with this for a little while longer, I have so much to say to you.

Even though you are in a different situation I am in, I am also struggling with the now. With acceptance and surrender, and maybe even taking something to the brink.

I think we should have a testicle throwing party. xxoo

Sweetflutterbys3 said...

I can relate very well to your situation. When you hurt, you just want to be where you are understood. It is comforting even if no one says anything. You just know they care. You want to be with your own people in the place you know best, where you belong.

I'm sorry. I know it hurts. You will get there though. It is only a matter of time.

Beth said...

Well, as you know, I'm here, too, anytime you need to vent, Debi. I'm really sorry you're feeling sad. I know it must be especially hard when you've been so close to selling your house and then had the rug yanked out from under you.

And I can understand the pull that home has on you---it's such a comfort to be around people who love you and know you and your history. I've never really had a place to call "home" since we moved around so much and my parents died when I was relatively young, but I do know that yearning to be loved and accepted and known for who you are. Tom and I have never found a place where we really fit in, but we haven't given up on looking.

Hang in there, friend. I hope you can find peace in the here and now. It's not easy sometimes, I know.

Nezzy said...

Great as usual. I'm alive and kickin' just got totally overwhelmed with the busy summer 'round the Ponderosa and let the computer and the blog snore. Once I hold 'Camp Grandma', I'll be back.

I was gonna email you with everything that's been goin' on but couldn't find your email address.

God bless ya and have a most beautiful day sweetie.

I will be back...I have waaaay too much fun here in Blogland. :o)

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog. I can easily relate to it. Years ago we moved down here to Bedford from Long Island and ever though I like it here, I miss the ocean and think someday I'd like to move to the Myrtle Beach area. Do you think the people that move down here from up north just have a restlessness about them and once they settle in one spot for too long, they get itchy and want to move on. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that the house sells quickly. There's no place like home.....there's no place like home....there's no.... :)

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I'm sorry you feel this way. Yes, start riding your horse and you will feel better. It sounds like you are so sad, and I feel for you. I grew up in PA, and I'm now in NE. go figure! I sure do miss the hills. But I don't miss the NJ Turnpike. LOL Church is great, but nature is also great! God is everywhere. Find some horse loving and riding friends. And we, your blogging friends, are always here. Hugs!

Leonora said...

I used to be depressingly homesick for NY, especially when we lived in Alabama. We've been in Virginia 9 years and I call this my home now. Perhaps it's because I have been happy here and good things have happened in contrast to back home in NY where only sad things have happened (losing my dad and sister). I really don't want to go back there because nothing will ever be the same.
Anyway, I have found that when I let go is when things begin to happen. The more I try to control life and run the show, the worse it goes.
I sincerely hope you find the peace you are looking for.

CountryDew said...

I do wish, Deb, that we lived a little closer because I think that we would be good friends if we did.

Life is tough in the country, no getting around, and the Bible Belt doesn't make it any easier. I've been here for generations (well, my family has, I am old but not that old), and I feel much as you do. We're not a minority, really, we're just very quiet and therefore easily forgotten.

On another note, though, I really admire this piece. What a wonderful bit of writing. I am jealous of it, truly.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

What a great bunch of blog buddies I have! I feel like YOU know me! And I really appreciate the offers to talk on e-mail. You guys are just great.

Anonymous, funny you should say that--wondering if people from up north have a restlessness about them and need to get up and go after they've been in one spot for a while. Kurt and I often wonder about that. I've asked him, "Are you sure we don't want to go just because we're gypsies?" Because I would hate to leave such a beautiful place with such lovely neighbors just because I have wanderlust. Both Kurt and I moved around a lot. His family was constantly being transferred for work and I grew up in Jersey City--when a better apartment came up, you moved. Moving was always a wonderful thing because you were going somewhere better. So this is an interesting, and scary, question. I am also scared that I am simply out of my mind with grief and I'm not thinking straight. But no matter how much I question and wonder, the fact remains that I am chomping at the bit to go home. No matter what I tell myself, I can't change feeling that way. I will update you guys on the house next! Thanks for cheering me up!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Anita, can I say that I find it hard to believe that you were born and raised here? I hope I don't offend anybody but you are so open-minded and progressive. I hope you will take that as a compliment. And what a compliment you gave me! A writer like you being jealous of some of my writing? That really inspires me.

Becky Mushko said...

I met Ginger once (at the meet-up Diane arranged) and was impressed by her.

You're not as alone here as you think. I'm just down the road (well, 10 miles down) and Claudia is another 2 past me.

If your horses are happy here, and your daughter is happy, well—you've got something good going.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Aw, thank you Becky.

zenmama said...

Wow Debi. I resounded with so much of what you wrote here and I feel the need to sit with it quietly for a short time. If it is alright with you I think I will blog about this from my point of view. I deeply feel what you write here. Please let me know if riffing off of this post would be out of bounds.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Zenmama, feel free. I blogged about Ginger! I wasn't nice enough to ask if it would be okay though. You go 'head.

Corinna said...

Hello! Well, for my first time coming to your blog, this is quite the post to find! :)

As my mom always says, horses soothe the soul, so riding again may help you think through things, and at the same time, distract your brain for awhile.

And as I like to say, the church is supposed to be about love, not hate; the right one might just yet be out there for you :)

best wishes, corinna

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Hi Corinna. Thanks for coming to my blog. Not all my stories are sad ones! Just been going through some stuff lately.

As far as churches, I wish there was a Unitarian church nearby. That's more up my alley.

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Wow! What a great piece! I have missed you and the other blog friends. I will be blogging soon, but I think the move took so much out of me, there is nothing left. And yes, I would love any leads, but the last few months on the farm were so freaking crazy, trying to paint, throw away, pack, make money, etc, that I ignored piles of phone calls and emails because I got so behind. No, no insurance money. I just got so sick, homesick, that I threw out a ridiculously low offer on a house in a town I love, asked them to make the contract contingent upon my selling the farm and then to be even more ridiculous, asked if I could move myself, the five kids, the two dogs and one cat into the house right away, and rent with a six month contract. Faking it basically, figuring that they would never accept. They did. Even when the inspectors report came back and I asked for them to drop the price even more. I was so desperate to get off that farm which I love (I feel like I should say "Whom" I love, because it felt like a true entity for me. I cried myself to sleep at night with the thought of leaving, but couldn't bear the thought of living there one more week, month, season.
So we left. With hope, faith and trust that it will work out in the end, even if we have to rent the farm out, eat ramen noodles for a year, and go without. I sold a bunch of animals to raise money for the move. Taught cooking classes to make money for expenses. Am trying to sell our suburban to raise money to pay the electrician to wire in my bakery here in Texas. Have made up new cards and flyers and brochures and have been making inroads to start up the bakery here. And the moment I felt the dry air of southwest texas and saw the mountains in the distance and hugged my mom and dad goodbye in my new driveway, knowing that we would see each other in ten days, I felt better than I have felt in a long time. Since way before Philip died. I feel like I have finally come home. Even so, I miss my church friends. And my atheist friends. And my new age friends. And all those other friends who defy spiritual catalog! And as I get my feet back under me, lots of blog posts are getting written in my head, but need to be put on the computer! So thanks for letting me know you miss me. Because I too felt a great affinity. And if you know anyone with a big pile of money who wants a 20 acre farm, PLEASE send them my way! But I have surrendered and have given up, and trust that obsessing over the farm is going to rob me of the chance to live today. But I guess I am running on nerve right now. xoxo

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Oh, I am so glad you popped up and wrote all that! It's inspiring because you just did it even though you were in a similar predicament as I am (you didn't get a bunch of life insurance money) and you made it happen! You ARE the mighty widow. I also feel comforted knowing that even though you loved your farm, like I do, you couldn't stay one more week, one more month, one more season. Like me.

What town is it in Ginger? Troutville?

Jamie "Green" Ferraioli said...

Really great and honest post. I agree with what you said about living in the now. We spend so much time waiting for things to happen, when so much is happening right now.

And anyways...think of the phrase "a watched pot never boils". The second you stop worrying and obsessing about the house, and being homesick, you'll see...the house will sell, and you'll be on your way and wondering why you spent all that time agonizing about it in the first place.

Lynne said...

Debi,

I was hoping my dear Ginger would be blogging and so I ended up here, reading your wonderful blog instead.

I guess I'm one of Ginger's church friends. But it is so much more than that. I have a hard time thinking of me, or of Ginger for that matter, as churchy. Or religious. But we do have each other, and for that I am thankful to God.

I am a NJ girl who went to college with Philip who lives on a poser farm (we have Ginger's old chickens live on Bent Mountain and rescued a hound dog). It does get lonely sometimes. That's the great thing about being an old religious hippie. I can complain to God about loneliness, and my best friend moving away, and my baby going off to college in another state. I can shake my fist at him and not look at all religious, just bratty and spoiled and self-centered. But He still delights in me, and thinks I'm cute and ever so silly...and real. And he understands all my complaining. And He cares.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in here and tell you that we are all alike. I'm so sorry that you lost your mom, who sounded amazing. And that I will be praying for your house to sell, so that you can go home.
Lynne

Lynne said...

Debi,

I was hoping my dear Ginger would be blogging and so I ended up here, reading your wonderful blog instead.

I guess I'm one of Ginger's church friends. But it is so much more than that. I have a hard time thinking of me, or of Ginger for that matter, as churchy. Or religious. But we do have each other, and for that I am thankful to God.

I am a NJ girl who went to college with Philip who lives on a poser farm (we have Ginger's old chickens live on Bent Mountain and rescued a hound dog). It does get lonely sometimes. That's the great thing about being an old religious hippie. I can complain to God about loneliness, and my best friend moving away, and my baby going off to college in another state. I can shake my fist at him and not look at all religious, just bratty and spoiled and self-centered. But He still delights in me, and thinks I'm cute and ever so silly...and real. And he understands all my complaining. And He cares.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in here and tell you that we are all alike. I'm so sorry that you lost your mom, who sounded amazing. And that I will be praying for your house to sell, so that you can go home.
Lynne

The Garden Girl said...

Straight from the heart piece of writing. I'm fairly new to blogging.
And like you, a Jersey girl. Moved after 9/11/01, a long story but I think everyone has their own.
No matter where your life takes you...you must find your space in it yet remain who you are. I don't
mean to make that sound easy - I'm
still workin on that one myself!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Lynne, ooh, maybe I can harvest Ginger's readers!

The Garden Girl, I will check out your blog too.

I appreciate your comments. It's nice to know I'm not alone, although I probably knew that. It's nice to hear you guys say it. It's also interesting how many people are from NJ! All your comments mean a lot to me.

Cynda said...

If acceptance don't work, I can get you some testicles Debi!

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Lynne and The Garden Girl, I have just finished reading a bunch of your posts on your blogs and I wish I could comment but for some reason Blogger won't let me! I have the same problem with Leonora's blog. And I used to have the problem with Zenmama's but I think she fixed something. I'm not ignoring you! I'd love to talk!