My first elementary school had an old merry-go-round made of heavy steel and wooden planks. It was the type that had a cone-shaped center surrounded by a bench to sit on. I've never seen another merry-go-round just like it.
The ground around the merry-go-round was dug out from all of the little feet that had run the circumference, pushing the merry-go-round faster and faster. (Obviously, these were the days before playgrounds were blanketed in wood chips or recycled rubber or other kid-proof materials.)
The white, blue and red paint on the merry-go-round was faded and peeling. The wood was weathered. If it was your turn to push, you had to be careful when you hopped onto the bench so that you didn't end up with a splinter in your keister.
The daring kids would sometimes crawl under the merry-go-round to sit on top of the concrete base underneath the cone. I guess as kids we shouldn't have been surprised when they removed the merry-go-round, citing safety concerns.
Before it left, we had loads of fun on that merry-go-round. Sometimes we fell off and got hurt. Sometimes we got sick when we spun too fast. None of that stopped us from getting back on and riding again.
I'm not quite sure why the memories of this merry-go-round reappeared in my head the other night. But I think it has something to do with celebrating another birthday and the idea of making it around one more time in this ride called life.
It seems like the older I get, the faster the merry-go-round spins. My dad has a theory for explaining this: When you're four, a year seems to take forever to pass. That's because one year is one fourth of your life. When you're 30-something, each year whizzes by, because each year is one thirtieth of your life. Does that mean each year goes by in a blink when you're 80?
There are times when the merry-go-round stops spinning long enough to take a look at life through a more reflective lens. A lens not clouded by the day-to-day challenges. Looking through this lens, I can see clearly the blessings in my life: a great husband, three healthy children, supportive families and friends, a beautiful dairy farm, good food to cook, opportunities to write and so many others.
I marvel at how precisely so many variables had to align for us to be where we are today. And I question: Where would I be if I hadn't met Glen? What if we hadn't started farming when we did? What if we hadn't moved to Stearns County when we did? Where would we be if we hadn't found a farm?
It's hard to imagine a life any different. Or that we're not exactly where we're supposed to be. However crazy the path to get here was. However crazy the days sometimes are.
In those quiet, reflective moments, when the merry-go-round is still, I give thanks. Thanks for all of my blessings. Thanks for all of the times I fell off the merry-go-round, dusted myself off and got back on. And thanks for another time around.
Then I give the merry-go-round a push, spinning it faster and faster, before hopping on to enjoy the ride.