Today’s post is by Sara DeLuca, author of The Crops Look Good: News from a Midwestern Family Farm. Sara will be touring Wisconsin later this month. (Click on the title link for her event schedule, media interviews, and book club guide.)
This photo of me with my granddaughter, Emma Drury, was taken at Folsom House in Taylors Falls, Minnesota, on April 25, 2015. We were celebrating the recent publication of my book, The Crops Look Good: News from a Midwestern Family Farm. Based on a collection of family letters, the book is an intimate portrayal of family farm life in the region – first-person history, written as it was being lived. My mother’s letters to her eldest sister, beginning when she was seven and continuing throughout middle age, make a significant contribution to the story.
The Folsom House event on April 25 was very special to me, for several reasons.
Fifteen-year-old Emma planned and hosted my reading in this gracious home, built in 1855 by lumberman, historian, and Minnesota state senator W. H. C. Folsom. Five generations of the Folsom family occupied the house, which still contains their original furnishings, library, and personal effects. It is now operated by the Taylors Falls Historical Society, in partnership with the Minnesota Historical Society.
My parents, Harvey and Helen Hellerud, who farmed for decades in Polk County, Wisconsin, retired in 1976 and moved across the St. Croix River to Taylors Falls. As an accomplished pianist, my mother entertained Folsom House visitors on the Hews rectangular grand piano (shown in the background of this photo) on many occasions. She also served as a volunteer guide during the 1980s and 1990s. Her affiliation with the Taylors Falls Historical Society was a great joy to her during many productive years of retirement.
Now Helen Hellerud’s great-granddaughter Emma is volunteering at this beautifully preserved historic site. And I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing my book about a place that has been important to my family and history lovers throughout the Upper Midwest.
Here is a poem I wrote ten years ago, in recognition of a rich heritage, a craving for deep identity, and our interwoven lives.
We find a bright, prolific crops of dandelions
splashing the vacant lot behind my mother’s house.
She’s eighty-nine this spring, but she remembers being nine,
braiding yellow heads and milky stems, crowning
and necklacing herself with blooms.
Now she demonstrates for me
and for my grandchild Emma – six years old –
how you can braid an ornamental rope from flowers.
The trick, my mother says,
is working three stems at a time, all different lengths.
When one runs out you splice a new one in its place –
that way you never break the chain.
Emma plops down in the deep wet grass.
Mom squats. I kneel
between the generations.
We laugh at rough beginnings, ragged endings,
but we persevere. We practice,
practice till we get it right, Emma, Mom and me,
our heads bent low, lost
in a field of yellow tassels.
When our circles hold
and crown each other with our handiwork.