The Farm Book

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Our firstborn was 18 months old when my mother-in-law visited us again. My husband’s family lives in a farm in Manitoba so we don’t see them often except for the yearly visit we make and the occasional visits we get from some of them who managed to fly to Ontario.

The first time my mother-in-law came up to our neck of the woods was in April last year, just 2 months after I gave birth to our first. She knew we were flying to visit them that summer to show them our baby, but she still flew to see Mira. She said she doesn’t want to miss the chance to see her in person while she is still small. Babies do change a lot in a short span of time. And Mira was no exception! At 4 months, she has gained a lot. (I still remember her big chubby legs!). And her very spirited personality started to show.

Fast forward to the present time, Mira is a highly independent toddler. She likes to learn things on her own. She muses herself with anything she can put her hands on. She likes to figure things out. She’s a thinker. And nothing escapes her watchful eyes. In the comfort of our home, she loves to talk. Mostly babbles. It’s more recently that they are starting to be more intelligible. But even though she doesn’t say a lot of understandable words for her age, she is very sharp. Sometimes I forget that she’s not even 2.

Just this August, we got a visit from her grandma again. Our secondborn was only a month old, while Mira was 18 months and 2 weeks old. It was a very short visit but it definitely left a huge impression on her. In the morning, while my husband and I would sleep in for a bit after being up late attending to the needs of our newborn, Mira had her grandma’s undivided attention. From our bedroom downstairs, I could hear them playing together in the living room upstairs.

Mira has one of the sweetest laugh I’ve ever heard. And it’s so contagious! I’m not just saying this because she’s my daughter, but because others who hear her laugh, laugh as well. The thing is, Mira often has a serious face. It’s so the opposite of her younger sister who freely gives away smiles to anyone. But when Mira is happy, everyone around her can tell. I could tell she was happy with her grandma’s full attention. Being the firstborn, she’s used to having that from my husband and I. But now that Diane is in the mix, she now has to share us with her.

One of the things that my mother-in-law gave Mira in her last visit was an old, discarded-from-the-community-library children’s book. Its front and back covers were creased. But the pages were intact. It has simple pictures with large fonts. She said she used to read it to my husband and to the rest of her kids when they were little. The book was copyrighted in 1964. No offense to the author, but it doesn’t really have much of a story except for detailing the simple life in the farm in short, simple sentences. It talks about the chores and the animals. And it ends up with how happy the kids were for their fried chicken supper made by their mother.

Clearly there wasn’t anything extraordinary about the book. Not the story, nor the presentation. It doesn’t have glitters that seems to appeal to young ones, specially to a girl. The book has no built-in music like some of the new cool books nowadays. No buttons to push, no curly tails or soft fussy downs to touch. It even has a scratched off Dewey decimal classification number on the binder, and a word “discard” was stamped on the front cover. But despite all her many books, old and new, this is her favourite! And when it comes to the page where the children in the book goes to school on a school bus, she smiles and waves to them. Something her grandma did with her when they got to that page. Two months had passed and she still waves to the kids everytime we get to that part. Only this time, not only does she waves to them, she also says “ba-yee” (her way of saying bye). 

It doesn’t matter where I put this farm book on her shelf. When I would ask her to grab us a book to read, she would come out of her room carrying it. This amazes me! The book is so thin and can easily be overlooked among the many books that is crowding her tall white bookshelf. For her to find it means she carefully scanned her book collection in order to do so. And this she does every single time as I don’t always put it back where it has previously been. All for what? So she can flip through the pages of this old, beaten book and wave to the kids as they go school? I think not. I think there’s more to it than that. Perhaps the farm book reminds her of her grandma, her kind voice, her gentle spirit, and the genuine love she felt from her during her short visit with us. It wasn’t the story or the pictures that made this book special. It was her morning reading time with her grandma that made it so.

Therefore, I made a solemn vow to myself that I shall keep this book no matter what condition it ends up being. Perhaps someday as I become a grandma myself to Mira’s little ones, I can pass on two generations of love that is tuck into the pages of this simple, yet well-adored farm book.

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