When I was very young, my great grandparents lived part-time on the ranch and we visited them every few years. I remember it like a wonderland. Long summer days with games, swimming in the pond, and catching fireflies at night. Plus, my great grandparents were just amazing people. They were sweet and intelligent. Great at conversation, and always happy to have guests.
Both of my grandparents have been gone for years now, and no one has lived permanently at the ranch in a long time. Nature and time have slowly started taking over, and the cute farmhouse I remember has aged and worn down. I have thought for a long time that I’d never visit the ranch again, and I’ve even been grateful for that.
Why would I want to visit now? With the house run down and no kindly great-grandparents to visit. What would be the point? And what if, after the passage of all these years, my own perspective had changed? What if I realized that it’s just a ranch with a pond like so many other ranches with ponds? Wouldn’t that just ruin the happy memories I have from the better days?
This week, Wendy and the kids and I have taken an overdue vacation to visit Washington D.C. and New York City. The three of them have never been back east before, and it’s a trip we’ve wanted to take for years. My brother lives in Arlington, so we have a place to stay. And I had so many travel points logged from work that the flights and car rental were virtually free.
As we planned the trip, the question came up as to whether we’d visit the farm. With some reluctance, I decided I did want to go after all.
That was the right choice.
The ranch, although certainly not in its prime, is a place more beautiful than I had ever remembered. It’s out in the rolling hills of Virginia, which were glimmering green in the clear Spring air. It’s early enough in the season that it wasn’t stifling hot yet, and the hordes of bugs that come later in the year were mostly still dormant from winter.
The farm house was smaller than I recalled and was now in worse repair, but it was also still a beautiful place full of charm.
I also suddenly remembered my old CTR ring. On my last visit to the farm—this was my sophomore year of high school—I took my ring off to go swimming in the pond. To keep it safe, I tucked it into one of the corners of a wood column piece on the porch.
But then I never remembered to get it again.
For several years, I asked people who lived on or visited the farm to please check for it. But no one could ever find it. More recently, the whole house had been repainted. And a whole section of the porch was even rebuilt after a tree collapsed on it. Eventually, I just gave up on ever getting my ring back.
But as I walked out on to the porch, I lit up with excitement. I climbed around the wood railing trying to remember where I’d left it.
And then I found it!
My brother found some pliers, and we pulled it out in one piece. After 24 years, I finally got my ring back.
Somehow, that was the moment I realized how long it had really been since I’d visited the farm.
I’m turning 40 this year. The last time I came, my own father was 40. I was 16 years old, and now my oldest child is nearly 14.
It was overwhelming at first to realize how many years have passed and how old I’ve become. But then a peaceful sense of happiness settled in on me. I had a strong feeling that it was no longer enough to cling to my happy old memories of the ranch. It was time to make new ones.
So we did!
The whole family explored the farmhouse. We went through the barns. We walked around the fields. We dug up some quartz. We found an old Indian tomahawk head. We played a crazy game of jumping tag across several lines of hay bales.
It was this cold.
As the day became night and the night got late, I realized we’d be leaving the ranch soon. I didn’t know when I’d be back. And it’s possible I never will be back.
But as I looked at my family gathered around the fire, I knew it didn’t matter. We’re happy. We love each other. We’ve created a new memory we’ll cherish forever. And we’ll keep making new memories together wherever life takes us.