Dear Mom,
    I’m out on my porch, wrapped in a blanket as I write this. The sun has just peeked over the horizon and is flooding the world with brightness; the birds are still cawing from their nests, asking for 5 more minutes of sleep. This time of day is my favorite, always has been. The day holds so much possibility when it’s fresh, clean and free from human noise.
    I am trying to entice more birds to my feeders, and yet all I have are some very hungry repeat customers: sparrows. Stacy says they are beautiful in their own right; I told her she sounded like you. I was aiming for a bit more color; I wanted some finches and indigo buntings. Stacy apparently got the ‘birding’ gene from you; her feeders are loaded with a rainbow of wings this spring. I have a steady flow of brown traffic, save for my zippy little hummingbirds.
    My irises are in bloom, and if you stand in the right spot their gentle smell is carried right to you on the breeze. I keep adding new flowers, in the way of that cottage garden look you worked for in some of your beds. Stacy and I are now teaching Thomas your adage of ‘Sleep-Creep-Leap’ as we help him plan his gardens. Those three words always hold true in a flower bed, and we have shared your wisdom with many of our gardening friends. I hope you admire our flowers from afar, or are you really that fluttering butterfly that visits as I pull weeds?
    I finally picked up your Tasha Tudor book last summer. I now understand so much more about your love of Corgis, dresses, full flowerbeds and times past. I adore everything about her, and her words speak to me as well. I’ve been reading her children’s books to Cora, and try to sneak in at least 5 minutes a day with Tasha myself; it is almost as though I am sitting with you. I aim to keep my flower vases full in all corners of the house as both of you did. Flower-loving Cora even requests one in her bedroom, and I oblige, of course.
    I hope you are keeping tabs on our crazy ventures down here. You are certain to be shaking your head as you observe Thomas working on their garden and building a chicken coop – though he always was one to love fowl. Tony and his 100-year-old coop full of birds are doing well, but we can’t convince him to plant a garden. Peter and Lynzie have a farm full of creatures, and love the variety. Then there’s Stacy and me. You are the reason we give when we follow through on the wild ideas that pop into our heads. “Just channeling Mom,” we say. Or “I am my mother’s daughter after all.” If our children look at us with that questioning head-tilt, the best reason ever is, “Gramma-Gramma did it when she was my age.”
    Stacy has increased her goat herd. She added two adorable kids, and two milking goats with good doses of personality. It is a sight to behold, her talking to the nannies as they call back to her, impatiently waiting to be milked. We figure you would have loved them.
    I stumbled across a bag of wool upstairs and took that as a sign to buy a spinning wheel that I was contemplating. I remember your excitement and pride when you could spin your own wool from your sheep. Don’t worry; I wasn’t too rash with my purchase. I’m bringing some lambs back to the farm soon. A few Jacob ewe lambs – because is there anything better on this earth than watching lambs jump and frolic while you do dishes? I can see you plain as day, feeding your flock of sheep, carrying a lamb around, talking to your woolly friends. I’ve been making some futile attempts at spinning, but wish your experienced hands were here to guide me and answer my millions of questions.
    These grandchildren of yours – they are quite the crew. The older boys tell the younger ones about things they did with you years ago, and by and by, through stories, Cora knows Gramma-Gramma, too. I’m certain I lose my temper more than you ever did as a parent, but I do have those moments where I catch myself saying something exactly as you did. As we walk the pasture and the cries of “I’m thirsty” increase, I tell them, “Swallow your spit. That’s what Gramma-Gramma told us.” The reply I got was, “It doesn’t taste good.” I had to suppress a giggle. I do wish you were here to help me navigate these upcoming teenage years – they are looking to be a challenge with my strong-willed boys. Then there’s Cora, and while she’s a spitfire, I know you would be so taken with her. She is thrilled about flowers, gardening, worms, all animals, and plays ‘Little People’ with voices and names. You would marvel at how much they have grown, how creative they are, how they like to solve problems in their own ways, and how they are each so different.
    I know it took me a few hundred words to get to this, but I miss you. I miss you for your expert eye on perennial placement. I miss your charisma with the kids. As their mom, there are days I know I lack that, and then I try to reach down deep and draw on some experience you created for us as kids. I wish I could remember how you kept us from fighting all the time, because there are days when I want to pull out my hair and go to the garden and eat worms. I wish you could whisk the grandkids off on some crazy adventure, even if it was nothing more than a walk to the creek that you managed to make fabulous. Thank you for leaving me with mountains of memories from my younger years and enough guidance to hopefully keep me going through these coming ones. If it happens that you are that butterfly – your visits are always welcome.
    Love forever, Jacqui
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (3), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.