Dear Dad and Mom,
Thank you for Kansas. I doubt you know how life on that old farm sticks with me and shapes me. I don't know that I can express all you've given me through it. Its like a secret I keep hidden within my chest, but I wanted to at least try to tell you: thank you for Kansas.
At the very least, you gave me wide open spaces. You gave me the quiet sounds of nature by itself without interference. You gave me the sound of locusts on a hot summers' day. You gave me freedom to romp and wander through the country--wading in the creek, chasing away water skiers and dragonflies. You gave me creaking screen door sounds and the pleasure of pumping water from the old water pump out the back door. You gave me fearful trips to the outhouse when playing outside necessitated it, leading to many wonderings about those who came there before me. And the experience of catching magical lightning bugs flitting in the dark and visions of lightning tearing up the entire sky and rain pouring down in unrelenting sheets like I've never seen elsewhere. You gave me opportunity to fear the dark and mysterious cellar and tornadoes that would mean going down there for more than just a jar of pickles or a dare. Forever and ever, Kansas will be in my heart.
You gave me abandoned barns full of old things left behind from mysterious people, useful for endless imaginings and fort building. You gave me hard working days picking green beans in the intense summer humidity and lots and lots of brick carrying to help with Mom's garden. You showed me rhubarb and honeysuckle (what a wonder!) and horse back riding and fence walking and sled riding. Kansas is in me, its in my heart.
Dad, you gave me your love of cowboys and farms and country, of the rich smells of the earth and manure. You both allowed me freezing days of exploring what was around each bend of the frozen creeks we skidded on and beautiful spring days of family bike rides down lonely gravel country lanes with no one around for miles and miles except the lonely sound of the bob white birds and their songs you patiently explained to me. You showed me the oddity of how horses love sugar cubes and licking salt blocks and how they swish their tails to ward off flies. You gave me memories of dragonflies and dreaded horses flies that bite, always hovering above the backs of our horses. I have memories of small old churches with parsonages and the smell of cheese crackers and crayons in the upstairs Sunday School rooms as well as potlucks and early sun rise services. And of eating freshly popped popcorn from a paper bag on the roof of the pastor's shed with his rough-and-tumble boys as my companions and memories of their near-fatal falls from fearless climbing feats. Memories of sewing lessons from some lonely town lady and a gum ball machine along the route from school to the pastor's house that only cost one penny. Kansas parades and 4th of July festivities are etched into the fabric of my being along with memories of the weeds and cracks in the sidewalks where the ashes from the snakes fireworks would smear along the hot cement.
You showed me your dreams of a dream house never finished and a swimming hole that never held water, of a farm we never really farmed, and fruit trees of all kinds that never produced fruit. Your dreams were big and bold and beautiful like you--as were my dreams, in fact, too. Dreams of robbers coming into our forts and actually being surprised by our booby traps, dreams of hitting intruders that never came with walnuts from our secret perch in one of the walnut trees along the drive. Thanks for letting me spend some of my formative years in such a slow, quiet place. Thank you for putting old things, wide open spaces, bird songs, dreaming, horses, dirt, and baseball into my heart.
I live in California now, but I see Kansas every time I visit the sea. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I view the big wide ocean and my eye can see and see without bumping into anything just like the plains of Kansas. I see Kansas when I hear birds singing, perched atop blades of long swishing grasses and when I buy corn on the cob and peel back all those silks and surprisingly don't find any worms like we almost always did in Kansas. I see it when I smell the earth and see beautiful fields of golden brown grass that most people wish was green, but I love just the way it is because it reminds me of Kansas. Kansas is in me and I'm pretty sure its never letting go.
I just want you to know that although its possible that maybe your dreams didn't pan out exactly the way you thought they should--that old house never finished, the farm long abandoned--they very much did make a lasting impression on me and I can't imagine my life at all without your dreams of Kansas as part of my story.