We parked in a sunlit field under one of those endless powder-blue skies I’ve fallen in love with here. When we approached the entrance gate, I told Clive I couldn’t help thinking of you– you, who grew up on a farm in Iowa and couldn’t get away from it fast enough – and me, all these years later, finding myself, to my own great surprise, attending my first agricultural show.
‘Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,’ I sang in elementary school, even if I’d never seen a pasture or a meadow – certainly not a real pig or cow — or anything other than house pets, suburban backyards, and the skyscraper canyons of New York City. Sheep were the stuff of nursery rhymes – Mary’s little lamb. Horses starred in storybooks and TV shows – ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘My Friend Flicka’. Farms represented an unknown world – in our house, fruit and vegetables came only from the grocery store.
Yet you were raised in rural Iowa. You left your home state and made your way to the bright lights of the east coast – your rising stardom as the young assistant District Attorney, your pursuit and easy acceptance into a world of country clubs, expensive cars, dinner parties, golf outings, and casino weekends in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.
You’d like the horse-racing here, Dad, or at least the betting part of it, the risk-taking and drinking and seeing and being seen at the events. You’d find a way, like you always did, to be part of the in-crowd, the upper crust — you’d dine in the members’ private club and watch from the VIP stands.
You told me that when reporters interviewed you and asked where you were from in Iowa, you always said, ‘Ames’ – the state capital, home of the esteemed university — where your parents moved when you were fourteen, after the failure of the family farm during the Great Depression. You never talked about a happy childhood. You hated the dirt and the poverty and were happy to get to Ames, to work hard, earn scholarships, and then leave there, too, en route to your new life out East.
You once attended the Iowa State fair when you were a boy. Under the cornflower skies of the Midwest, you wouldn’t have seen a thatching demonstration, Suffolk Punch horses, an Aspall’s Cyder Bar, or Princess Anne talking with young men from the Wattisham Army base.
Life is funny, isn’t it? I thought of you so much, Dad – from the amber waves of grain rolling across your native Iowa to the golden fields of rapeseed sweeping across my chosen county of Suffolk.
Don’t worry. I haven’t fallen in love with the farming life, or anything like that. I’m counting the days until our next trip to Paris. But I love it here, too, and I loved the Suffolk Show. Being there, in some small way, made me feel close to you.
Maybe part of my enjoyment of the show was because it’s in my DNA.
Thanks for that, Dad. I love you, and I miss you.
Filed under: My Journey |