It's been quite some time since I've felt inspired to write. I've mostly invested my time in starting our Community Supported Agriculture business and transitioning out of my corporate life. But today as I sat at a friend's funeral, I was reminded of the importance of passing along a part of ourselves to those around us.
For many years I felt that I was living a life that was not authentic. I did not know how to express this person inside of me and still try and meet the expectations of others. I spent a great deal of time trying to appear one way on the outside, all the while suffocating this other person on the inside.
Our friend Jeanine passed away just a few days ago. In the hours since we've left the graveside, I've recalled snippets of conversations we had together over the years. She helped me realize my dream of learning to cake decorate. We spent 1 night per week in her kitchen for almost 6 months. I remember how encouraging she was when I booked my first wedding cake. I must have called her a zillion times the morning I delivered the cake wanting to make sure I had done everything just right. She was patient with each call. I also remember how tickled she was when she found out I had only put 1/2 the amount of Crisco the recipe called for. I had cramps in my hands because the icing was not smooth enough and it was extremely thick to push through the decorating bag. We laughed because it took us 3 months to figure out what I was doing wrong.
Jeanine also taught my husband and I how to can vegetables from the garden. Canning is now such a passion of mine. She passed along her knowledge of canning, recipe books and her pressure cooker to us. But not until we took a class from her on how to use the pressure cooker. She tried to pass along her knowledge of embroidery to me. I never had the patience to stick with that skill. I still have the rose pattern pillow case with 1/2 embroidered roses in my chest of drawers. It patiently waits in the dark drawer for me to pick it up again.
Jeanine's words of wisdom regarding farm animals was proven time and time again to me. She warned to never name calves and only name the cows. I understood why after we sold our first round of calves at the sale barn. It's hard to see a calf named "Blackie" who has eaten out of your hand for months be sold at the sale barn. Only to end up on someone's dinner plate. She despised chickens and thought I was crazy when I excitedly announced we had purchased 30 from the 4-H sale. And yet again, her words ring in my ear as I routinely clean chicken poop from our front porch.
We exchanged books and magazines. We picked peaches together and shared recipes. She told me one time that I was born in the wrong era. Something I had always known. Many times I had pictured myself being perfectly content living like Laura Ingalls-Wilder in Walnut Grove. Her insight and nurturing of the person I'd been smothering for years is one of the greatest gifts anyone has ever given me. It gave me the courage to be true to myself.
She was not the sweet little old lady you may be imaging from my description above. She was a strong, direct, to the point woman who maintained a private life. She had friends, but chose them carefully. She was not afraid to tell you how she felt about politics or religion. You may not agree or want to hear it, but she told you anyway. The last few years were mentally and physically draining for Jeanine. Visits were not as pleasant, but she had good reason. In the end, I'm thankful I had the private moments with her. There were good and not so good memories. The time was precious nonetheless.
In a day and age where we pass along information by a text or via facebook, I'm blessed to have had a friendship the OLD SCHOOL way...intimate and personal. I am fortunate that Jeanine passed along her knowledge of farming, canning, gardening and cooking to me. I spent more time in the kitchen with Jeanine than I ever did with my own mother or grandmothers. I don't think she nor I really knew how those teaching moments would impact my life.
My mother recently told me that my twelve year old niece told her she wanted me to teach her to decorate cakes when she visits our farm in April. I now have an opportunity to pass down my knowledge to Anna. We will share moments in the kitchen just as Jeanine and I did many times.
So my question to you is...What will you pass along? Will you take some time this next year to break away from your smart phone or busy schedule to pass along a piece of yourself to someone else. Legacies can be left in the smallest of actions. Don't miss an opportunity to leave yours today.