Jo Ann Jaacks: You can come home again

When I left my rural Connecticut home for the excitement of living on my own in south Florida, my mother cried, “I’ll never see you again.” My father sent me a subscription to Yankee magazine with a note “Don’t forget where you came from.” I never have.

I grew up on a small subsistence farm with one cow, two pigs, a lot of chickens that provided eggs and Sunday dinner, berries of all kinds, a grape arbor and a beehive. My siblings and I had chores to do since my parents both held other jobs. We may not have appreciated that at the time, but later on one of my sisters and I reminisced about our early life and agreed it was the perfect upbringing. We learned the value of hard work when we picked strawberries and that night my mother made strawberry shortcake, or we husked it and then enjoyed corn-on-the-cob for dinner.

Also, as a kid, riding on my father’s tractor and jumping out of the hay mow in the barn was great fun. When I got my own little plot where I could sell what I grew in front of the house in a mini-farmers market, it provided me with money to open my own savings account, an early lesson learned.

I think my siblings and I all excelled in the careers and jobs we took on because of our background, even though we went in different directions. I didn’t come back to Connecticut that often, but my relatives visited me in Florida and we kept in touch. One of my sisters and I even co-wrote a book while 1,360 miles apart.

After I married and gained a stepdaughter who lived in Connecticut, I began thinking in terms of family and what I was missing. When my stepdaughter wrote to me that she had a boyfriend and thought he was “the one,” I told my husband “I want to go home.” The prospect of having grandchildren was thrilling for both of us. Since we had eloped to the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, which are a U.S. protectorate, I turned my attention to having a church wedding in my home state with my family. My father finally got to walk his baby boomer daughter down the aisle, and when my stepdaughter married, my three grandchildren grew up on a small farm with goats, sheep and miniature horses. I hope they never forget where they came from.