Hills roll very gently through the middle of Illinois. As I drive through the farmland, a feeling swells inside of me, even though I'm long since gone. It was once my home. That cannot change. Cresting over the highway horizon, the prairie opens up and welcomes me, knowing the visit will be short and loving me just the same. Illinois is like my mother, and it's there that she still lives.
Mom grew up on the farm. Acres of wheat and corn to seed, tend and harvest, animals to raise and slaughter, garden to plant, weed, gather and can to put by. It was not an easy life for a girl in Illinois at the tail end of the depression or during the war, but living on the farm was a blessing. There was food, there was family, there was church. They got by. When things improved, Grandma made sure her kids were better off than she, getting them the best education available. Mom became a nurse. Not just any nurse, an RN, which back in 1956 was something special. Starched hat complete with pin, red lined navy cape, and a profession to last a lifetime.
But she never gave up on her rural roots. After marrying and getting pregnant, she and Dad bought a small Illinois farm. Not enough to crop, but room for chickens and pigs, cows and horses, and a huge garden for her to grow vegetables for putting by. Room for me to run. And so she taught me what her mother taught her. How to work the soil, how to bake and sew, how to can up tomatoes and beans, make pickles; how to read, how to pray. These are the lessons that I will never forget, things that I cannot deny any more than the fullness of my heart as I see the waving prairie stretch before me down the highway.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Happy Mother's Day, Illinois.