This is the picture I snapped of the Happy Face Barn (outside of Cayley, Alberta) on the way back to High River from Grassy Lake.
We didn't actually return to High River. Instead we went to Okotoks! But I was happy to see the Happy Face Barn because it's a famous local landmark (it means there's just about 10 minutes left until you're home!) and I wasn't sure I'd get to see it! We weren't sure whether David would be able to meet us in Okotoks or whether we'd have to drive up to his place in Airdrie (which would mean we'd take a different route and enter Calgary from the east rather from the south). But, clearly we drove up on Highway 2 and we saw the barn, which has at times been used for political statements (though, in all honesty, I'm not sure our politics align because they were opposing providing farm "employees minimum wage, vacation pay and injury compensation benefits," which are all things that working people should...you know...have access to (Bill 6 has since been replaced by the Farm Freedom & Safety Act, which clarifies many things in the bill...but still requires minimum wage and maternity leave and things of that nature and I can't figure why anyone would be grumpy about stuff like that).
Anyway, I was just happy to see the Happy Face Barn.
Though on the way to my aunt's farm from Waterton, I spotted another happy face barn, which I felt could hold me over if I didn't get to see the Happy Face Barn:
I'm probably making seeing The Happy Face Barn out to be way more important than it actually is to me. I certainly would have survived not seeing it (and have only ever seen it in passing, anyway), but it was just nice to see it still standing after all these years.
A few years ago, I guess there was a fundraiser to restore it since the new owners of the property were thinking about tearing it down rather than repairing it. People were up in arms about keeping it. And so...it stands.
I also snapped this picture of a grain elevator in Nanton, because grain elevators also make me feel nastalgic:
And here's Phoebe saying, "Hello, grain elevator!"
I was talking with my Uncle LeRon our last evening on the farm, and you know when there's something kind that you want to tell someone, but you also fear that it's kind...of awkward...but you just say it anyway because it's probably important to say? Well, I had one of those kind of things to tell him, so I just went ahead and did it.
"I just love visiting the farm," I told him. "It's probably the most stable part of my childhood. I've moved around a lot, but the farm has always, always been there for me to come back to, and I just have so many warm and happy memories here."
He chuckled and said that Michelle—his very own daughter—told him a similar thing recently. She said that she considers her childhood to have been rather idealistic and wishes that she could—and strives to—provide those same experiences for her children.
"Sometimes I look back and those years went so quickly, or maybe I was just so busy working that I didn't notice. So I don't know how you or Michelle or any of my kids or the cousins had time to make such strong memories here on the farm, but I'm glad you did! And you're welcome at the farm any time!"
Here I am standing in my aunt's kitchen at age 11 or 12 or so (1996 or 1997):
And here's my mom standing in the very same kitchen with her sister in 2023:
How many places have I lived since 1996? So many. Even my parents have moved a handful of times since then! But my aunt's house is still largely the same—I still know where to find the broom and I can basically depend on vanilla ice cream being in the freezer.
Here are my mom and Auntie Collen (with my grandparents) around the year 1999:
I know this because look how big Josie has gotten! She's clearly not a baby anymore, so I'm guessing this picture is from 1999 (because if it was taken in 2000 it would have had to be before May and...I dunno...from how we're dressed I'm thinking this was a summer visit, so it must be 1999, maybe 1998, maybe I should have taken pictures of the captions my aunt put in her book instead of just snapping photos of photos):
Anyway, here is my mom with Auntie Colleen from August 28, 2023:
I had taken a few candid photos of them throughout the day—including this one of the two of them fawning over sweet baby Isla:
...but they also wanted a posed picture, so here's that:
I'm so grateful for my mom's family. I think they do a wonderful job of staying in touch and making meaningful connections. And I just always feel so welcomed by them all. They're just a great group of kids. My grandparents did a good job raising them (and then when my grandparents were gone, they did a good job of sticking together, which I think is laudable).
Anyway, here's Phoebe playing with the letter magnets on the fridge of the farmhouse that's just always been there for me:
Literally! Here I am at 2 months old on the couch in the living room (I loved that couch—it was soft and velvety):
And here I am on that very same couch in that very same living room some 14 years later:
|Craig (fresh off his mission), my mom, me, Michelle, David (Patrick and Josie in front)|
And here I am on an admittedly different couch but one that sits in the very same spot in the very same living room 24 years after that:
|My mom, Auntie Colleen, me, and Craig|
That's 38 years of sitting on my aunt's couch! It was about time I stood up to take a picture!! So here's one that I took of Miriam, Phoebe, and Zoë with my mom, Auntie Colleen, Uncle LeRon, and Craig.
It's the middle of harvest right now, so that's why Craig and LeRon look a little bit like they've been out in the fields driving tractors or in the shop fixing engines. They just came in for dinner and dessert before heading back out again. Uncle LeRon did a fair bit of playing with us, it's true. But he also did quite a bit of work in the shop.
We mostly just played! Here are Zoë and Phoebe playing a duet on the grand piano:
And here's Miriam playing on the organ:
This whole music room is actually an addition to the house! The house used to end at the living room (you can't see it in the pictures, but there's a fireplace just to the left of the couch and that was it—the end of the house), but now there's entirely new wing, with a bigger living room and a new music room. They added it on themselves—I've been so amazed as I've watched the additions to the farm. Like, my cousin Eric's house! It's just beautiful—and he and his brothers have done all the cabinetry and everything by themselves! You can't see the ceiling of the music room, but my cousin Craig put in a beautiful coffered ceiling. It's really quite impressive.
Anyway, speaking of Eric—here we are together! We used to spend summers eating so many popsicles (like, a ridiculous amount, truly), floating down the canal, riding four-wheelers, and getting into all sorts of mischief...between picking rocks and driving tractors:
Now he's one of the men running the farm, so he doesn't have time for endless popsicles and bum wars on the trampoline, but he did make some time to visit with me, which I really appreciate! And my little girls had a blast playing with his kids, so I was glad they were there!
Here's Zoë and Payton (they bonded over their shared love for the Wings of Fire series):
And here's Phoebe playing in the sandbox with Parker (with Weston getting into the toy box in the background):
Here she is with Parker again (Phoebe will be 2 in November, and Parker will be 3 in January, so they're about a year apart):
Here they are swinging together—they all wanted underducks all the time:
|Phoebe, Weston, and Parker|
I have to admit that when I moved to the states and first heard about "underdogs" I was terribly confused because an underdog is simply someone who is...unlikely to win something...right? And clearly an underduck was pushing a swing so high you can just...run underneath it. You just duck right under the swing. It makes perfect sense.
Underdog made no sense to me.
But then Weston said, "I want an underduck!"
(And his mom hollered from behind the hedge (where she was picking corn from the garden), "Weston, what do you say?!" and then Weston said, "Please may I have an underduck?")
And I took a minute to register what I was supposed to do with that request (because my own children don't even call it an underduck with any sort of regularity, though I am not quite sure that they call it an underdog, either). But soon I was busy giving underduck after underduck after underduck...to a trio of very happy recipients.
Let's see...here are Miriam and Zoë helping Uncle LeRon dig up some potatoes for dinner:
And here they are shucking the freshly picked corn:
Taber Corn is famous in Alberta (and even down into Utah, where it's shipped and sold every summer), and this was apparently grown from some Taber Corn seed. It's delicious corn, no doubt! And always a treat to have! We had that for dinner on Monday night at the farm...
...and then on Tuesday night at Heather's house in Okotoks and she said, "Have you had Taber Corn yet? Pretty lucky that you visited right during corn season!" We had spaghetti with...Taber Corn!
Taber Corn is always a treat, as I said, but having corn for dinner two nights in a row just before embarking on a 16-hour travel day was...maybe not the best move. Haha!
Anyway, I feel like I'm working through pictures backwards now. So here are the kids on the back of the small truck, ready for a ride down the road to tour Eric's house:
Here's Phoebe and Weston giving Tiger some love:
Here are the kids playing in The Dawn Treader:
When I was growing up only the sandbox was there (my cousins built the ship after all our generation had grown up, but the next generation is loving it):
Here's Miriam entertaining Isla on the couch:
And here's Jocelyn with Isla:
You can see Parker is enjoying a fancy ice cream bar. Eric and I may have eaten an unlawful number of cheap-o popsicles—the doubled-up kind you had to slam on the counter to break in half in order to share with a friend—but our children were offered gourmet ice cream bars!
Some things on the farm haven't changed in years, but clearly some things have changed!