Months and months ago, I clicked on an ad from the Wisconsin Dairy Council. They wanted to know what I knew about cheese, see some photos I’d taken, and have me write an essay on a food memory that meant something to me. So I told them, I made an intense cheeseboard, I wrote about Sam.
“If you don’t mind – I’d really like you to be in the picture with us.”
We were sitting around the table, finishing up the catered breakfast. We’d been up since 4am to make it to breakfast at 7:30. Farmers and their early mornings. All around us other farmers were eating and drinking, discussing crop yields and “this weather we’re having.” We swam in a sea of plaid shirts and dirty baseball caps, a chorus of “You betcha!” and “Where ya from?” rang out.
Seth and his father were being honored for their farmhouse in Shawano – it had been in the family for over 100 years, a true milestone. Even I, a non-farmer raised on a non-farm, knew that. Seth had asked me to be there, at the State Fair, when his family was awarded. To share in the moment, hear when his name was called.
I cheered and whooped when the announcer said his county, his last name. Correctly, I might add, which wasn’t the case with all the other farmers. (I don’t know if you know this, but Wisconsin is home to some doozy counties and even doozier family names.)
More names were called, more weathered hands were raised – acknowledging the achievement and then quickly returning to seats. Most of these folks weren’t used to being in the spotlight, they were just doing what they’d always done, what their parents (and their parents’ parents) had always done. The tent was filled with a quiet and certain pride, the recognition may not have been desired, but it was well deserved. The list was longer than I expected, the calling and clapping continued through two cups of coffee – hot, strong, fuel to get through a morning at the Fair and a day in the fields.
Then came the photos with the plaque, the flowers, the smiling shoulder to shoulder. I was honored to be involved. Honored Seth had wanted me there by his side, with his family. The photo would be framed and hung at the farm. Maybe for the next hundred years.
Seth thanked me for being there – as if I would want to be anywhere else. In reality, I should have been thanking him. And I try to every day. Because, he doesn’t wait for an awards ceremony to support me, to celebrate me. He’s here, every day, reading my words, listening to my worries, and eating my wares. Constant and consistent care for my dreams, ideas, hopes, and feelings.
I have a few treasured items that have been passed down to me from family members.
An old wooden box from my grandmother’s childhood, used to store trinkets and treasures.
My mom’s mom’s cookbooks with hand-written notes in the margins and a full set of formal table linens.
The plastic container my dad stored iceberg lettuce in the entire time my sister and I were growing up.
This final item may be the most precious. This Tupperware was around long before I was and, most likely, will be around long after me, as is the nature of those lovely containers made decades and decades ago.
You deserve a cocktail for getting this far into the week.
Or, rather, I deserve a cocktail for starting my week.
Working an altered schedule isn’t all bad, though. It means I get to visit friends in Green Bay. It means not fighting the crowds in the grocery store. It means Seth and I can go to his farmhouse and pick raspberries to our hearts’ content.