Is home a place or is it in your heart?
For me, Cedarloft Farm is both.
Just as it is for my grandparents.
At 10 years old, Gary Petersen thought moving to the country sounded like an adventure.
He grew up familiar with farm life, tending to his grandmother’s farm on the weekends. And in 1953, he moved with his family from the city of Everett to Cedarloft Farm in Lake Stevens, Washington, where he helped his father raise racehorses, cattle and chickens.
When he was 16 years old, he unexpectedly met the love of his life.
One day after school, while leaning up against his car and enjoying a piece of chocolate cake, the most beautiful girl came up to him.
This wasn’t the first time he’d seen her. The first time was at Vi’s Cafe.
She’d stolen her parents’ car and came in laughing with her friends. As he likes to say, the moment he saw her, he had an awakening of young love.
Her name was Eileen Diedrich. She didn’t know much about Gary and her friend had talked her into asking him to the shoe-shine dance moments before she approached him at his car.
“Would you like to go to the dance with me?” she asked.
He paused, finished chewing the last bite of chocolate cake, and said, “I’ll have to ask my mother.”
“Ask his mother?” she thought.
I think this first exchange between my grandparents perfectly sums up their relationship.
The woman who lived by the seat of her pants picked a patient and thoughtful husband.
Fifty-seven years of marriage, two daughters, and three grandchildren later, to me, they are Pa and Nana.
I couldn’t pronounce the full “Grandpa” when I was little and I think it made Pa feel special that, like Nana, he was bestowed a nickname.
Today, Cedarloft Farm is the home that holds so many of our family’s memories.
The farm is where I grew up. It’s where we all grew up.
Most everyone has something that grounds them. This could be a person, a place, or something you’ve accomplished. Something that makes you feel most yourself and most secure.
I remember my childhood at the farm with rose colored glasses.
Life wasn’t perfect. In fact, it was pretty messy, but at the farm I felt safe.
Growing up, Pa often followed my cousins and me around with a video camera. I wonder if he knew back then that those videos would become so special to us one day.
Through those videos, we remember the simplest moments that made us who we are.
When I was a baby, Nana would watch me until Mom came out to pick me up after work.
Mom usually returned to find Nana and me up to some sort of trouble. My face smeared with green frosting, making snow-angels in packing peanuts, putting stickers all over the piano, dancing with scarves in the living room, or rehearsing puppet shows.
Nana let me explore and try anything my little heart desired.
I think Pa still has a sense of pride for teaching me how to use scissors at 2 years old. I don’t think Mom was too thrilled about that one.
Many days I played with “the girls,” my cousins Abigail (Abbey) and Isabella (Bell). We’re all about a year apart in age.
Cousins is too distant of a label to describe us. We’re really sisters.
One of our favorite memories to look back on is from when we were really little. Pa would tell us to go out to the barn and search for a surprise. This scavenger hunt didn’t happen often, but when it did, we knew exactly where to go and what to look for.
Through the stacks of hay, we’d dig, looking for glimmers of golden tinfoil and pulling out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that Pa had hidden. We were convinced that fairies, elves, or maybe even Santa had left them and were completely unsuspecting that Pa was making all the fun.
In snowy Decembers, we’d sled down the hills in the back field. And if we were really lucky, Pa would tie an innertube to the back of the tractor and pull us around while we screamed and laughed.
We’d make snowmen and stick out our tongues to catch snowflakes. Nana could only coax us inside with hot-chocolate to warm up.
Every year on Christmas Eve, the girls and I put on a Christmas concert. I’d play the piano, Bell would dance, and Abbey would introduce the songs and conclude the performance with a reading of, “T’was The Night Before Christmas.”
Soon after the concert, we’d look outside to see what we’d been waiting for all evening, a red light glowing out in the front field. “Rudolph! Rudolph is out there! Santa is coming!” we’d exclaim.
Santa emerged from the dark field, jingling bells and carrying a red velvet sack over his shoulder.
He’d come inside and give everyone a present. The bells would ring loud while he proclaimed, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merrryyyyy Christmas!”
Santa never stayed long and would leave only looking back once or twice to wish us one last Merry Christmas, then trekking through the snow back into the field.
There was something familiar about Santa, the way he hugged us, and he did seem to be wearing Pa’s boots. To the girls and I, it was magic.
To this day, the mystery remains joyfully unsolved. Years ago, Santa stopped coming. Maybe one day, when us granddaughters have kids of our own, Santa might return.
As winter passed, the lavender bushes in the rose garden attracted tiny orange butterflies in the spring that Abbey would catch with her pink net.
There were days that the girls and I would sneak off to the pond beyond the gate that encircles the farm, where we’d hunt for tadpoles and salamanders.
Nana and I would plant sweet-pea flowers in the orchard, next to the apple trees and blueberry bushes.
I used to have a swing tied to an old apple tree that I would swing on for hours. When the girls weren’t around, I had to keep myself entertained somehow.
In the summer, the fridge was stocked with popsicles and the girls and I rode our bikes up and down the road until the sun had set.
I’m not sure if other kids imagined elaborate games like we did. Abbey always made up the rules, I came up with the storylines for our characters, and Bell added the drama to the mix.
The hours we played outside would go by fast and Nana would bribe us with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to come inside for lunch.
When our moms came out after work, they would find us hunkered down in our secret hideout in the barn, dirt dusted on our knees, not wanting to leave even though the sun had set.
Summer also meant fresh berries, jam-making and peach canning. All hands were on deck for jam and canning days. Like my Aunt (Anne) likes to say, “Many hands make light work.”
In August, the girls and I would pick and eat fresh blackberries from bushes lining the road until our fingers were stained red.
Then in the fall, Nana and I did homework and later Pa and I played basketball in the evenings after school.
The barn cat would come out from its nap in the hay to watch us, weaving in-between my legs. There’s always a barn cat around. Sometimes we don’t even know where they come from, they just seem to gravitate toward the farm.
Every trip home, I flashback to those days that felt so peaceful and easy.
But my secret fear is that one day, as the world changes, I won’t be able to go back to the farm.
Now there’s a Costco down the street, a skatepark across the road, a gas station on the corner and Nana and Pa wonder how much longer they’ll be able to stay.
As they get older, as we all get older, these memories feel so distant and I have no idea how many more days I’ll be able to spend out at the farm before it’s gone.
This uncertainty stings my heart every day that I’m away.
It’s inevitable that the farm won’t be forever, and I think that letting go one day will be one of the most difficult things I’ll ever have to do.
I’ve always wanted to write a piece about the farm. Something that shares a glimpse into a place that I love so much, but I’ve never written it because I didn’t know if I’d do it justice.
And I think it scares me to think that one day I could be reading this over, remembering the farm when it’s gone, wishing I could go back to today.
Because today it’s still here, ready for me to come home when I need it, but also encouraging me to take on my future that it’s prepared me for.
Alexandra Davenport is a junior majoring in journalism. Her appreciation for storytelling began early in her life and she has developed her passion for journalism in college.