Memory’s sweet scent

Sweet Clover

My cousin from Texas is here visiting the ranch this week and she brought her three children with her. They spent this morning with us, playing with Edie’s toys (much to her dismay) running around outside and helping me dig radishes in the garden while my cousin and I tried to catch up between wiping noses and serving goldfish crackers.

Tonight they’ll come over for supper and I hope to take them up to the top of the hill we call Pots ‘n Pans the way we used to as kids, but with less emergency pee breaks and cactus in their butts, because there will be adult supervision…

This time of year makes me nostalgic for some of the magical times I had here as a kid. I know my cousin feels the same about this place, no matter how long she’s been away from here. That’s why she’s packed her three kids in a car to drive the million miles from Texas to North Dakota, for the memories.

And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Sweet clover under my skin

I imagine everyone has some familiar scent that hits their lungs and brings them back to a time in childhood when they felt so deeply loved, so overwhelmingly safe, so much themselves. So free.

 

Maybe it’s your grandmother’s warm cookies from the oven or the smell of a diesel tractor plugging across a field. Maybe it’s your parent’s home or the fur on the back of your old cat or the salty air blowing across the ocean and onto vast beaches.

For me, it’s sweetclover.

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I wish I could pick the right words to describe the sweet, fresh scent that fills the air tonight and gives me comfort when I breathe it in, moving across the landscape, stepping high …

My first best memories are lying among it, rolling down hills on the ranch as the sun found its way to the horizon and my cousins, tan and sweaty, hair wild, would fling their bodies after me. We would find ourselves at the bottom in a pile of laughter, yellow petals sticking to our damp skin.

For us, the clover was a blanket, a canopy of childhood. A comfort. It was our bouquet when we performed wedding ceremonies on the pink road wearing our grandmother’s old dresses, an ingredient in our mud pies and our crown when we felt like playing kings and queens of the buttes. It was feed for our horses and a place to hide from the seeker, to rest after a race, to fall without fear of skinned knees. It was a promise of summer and a wave of color to welcome us home together.

It’s there all season, the seeds tucked neatly under the dirt, and still I’m surprised when I open the windows of the pickup after a late night drive and the fragrance finds its way to me.

And I’m taken back …

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I’m seven years old and my grandmother has our bunk beds made up in the basement and my cousins will be coming down the pink road soon. And when they get here, we’ll climb Pots and Pans and we’ll put on a wedding and look for kittens in the barn. We’ll play “The Wizard of Oz,” and I’ll be the Tin Man. We’ll chase each other on the hay bales in front of the barn and then hide from each other in the tall grass that scratches and brushes against our bare legs.

I wish I could bottle it up for the cold winter days that showed no sign of release. I wish I could build my house out of it, weave it inside my walls, plant it in my floor and lay down in it at night. I wish I could wrap those cousins, my family, in its soft petals and sweet stems and watch as they remember now, the kids we once were before time took us and made us think that we were anything less than free…

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Sunday Column: Small Houses/Big Love

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Since baby Edie arrived, it seems we have a house full of company more often. She sure draws a crowd, and it’s taking me back…

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Sunday Column: Small houses feel big to kids who fill them with love
by Jessie Veeder
5-1-16
Forum Communications

 The first few years my husband and I were married, we lived in the house where my dad was raised. Gramma’s house stood modestly next to the red barn on the end of a scoria road.

 

That was just one string of memories I had attached to the house, but they all sort of looked like that, a piece of the good life attached to a pile of cousins gathered at Gramma’s.

 

Veeder House

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My sister Lindsay, me and my cousin in the Veeder house on Easter morning.

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The Veeder cousins with Grandma Edie during Easter at the Veeder House. I’m directly next to my grandma in the adorable striped jumpsuit, always a good choice in the early 90s.

It was my favorite thing in the whole world to meet up with these people who sorta looked like me. They were the only ones in my life who understood that the hay bales covered in snow stacked by the barn were really Frosted Mini Wheats and we were shrunken kids trying to escape the giant spoon. The short, bald gumbo hills in the pasture actually formed a mansion, and we were the fabulous people who lived there. The scoria road that wound up the hill to the grain bins was actually the Yellow Brick Road and, after a long discussion about who was who, we would link arms, sing at the top of our lungs and dance our way to the Emerald City.

Country Cousins

That was the thing about Gramma’s house. We could be anything we wanted because we were at the perfect age to imagine it all to be so. The red carpet in the basement was hot lava. The hallway was a wedding aisle. The closets were secret passageways, and the deep freeze was full of ice cream sandwiches.

When I moved to that little brown house with my new husband all of those years later, I couldn’t believe we fit that much possibility and so many big suppers into 1,200 square feet. I was having a hard time finding enough space for my shoes.

Every time I walked through that door and took my boots off on the hot-lava carpet, I was transported back to standing in bare feet next to my cousins while Gramma handed us each an orange Schwan’s push-up pop.

The plan was never to stay living in that little house. Time and weather took its toll on the structure, and we needed more space. So here we are, over the hill in a new house of our own.

Last weekend, the cousins came to visit with their mom and Gramma and Grampa. The kids spent the day changing Edie’s clothes, baking banana bread, feeding the bottle calf, tracking in mud and indulging the littlest ones in make-believe games.

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There was a point when I was crammed into our modest bathroom giving Edie a bath with four of her cousins as assistants. I was sweating, she was splashing, the three sisters were bossing and laughing, and my nephew was tossing bath toys in the little basketball hoop suction-cupped to the shower wall.

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This house that we built is not huge by design, and the basement isn’t finished, so we all bumped into one another plenty of times as we squeezed in on chairs, couches and floors eating hamburgers and helping put batteries into the remote-controlled toys.

At one point, my nephew came down to the basement with me, a construction zone filled with tools and dust, and he asked about plans for the space. When I told him where the walls will go, he threw his hands out and declared this is “the biggest house in the world!”

I laughed and thought of the little brown house and hoped that this one was at least small enough to hold as many good memories for Edie and her cousins.

Cousins

Tutus, cousins and pipe cleaner glasses…

IMG_9107Remember my three blonde nieces?

Well, it turns out we’re pretty popular with them these days, you know because we managed to produce the girl cousin they hoped and shopped for.

And it turns out, that little girl cousin sorta looks like them, especially when you add the pink tutu and headband.

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Anyway, they came for an impromptu visit last weekend and it was just as much the explosion of fun as they always bring, only we got to add an infant and a new puppy to the mix, so yeah, this is the place to be man…

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The first thing on their agenda was picking out Edie’s outfit,

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then on to pancakes,

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then it was time to play with the puppy

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and then, well, Edie needed to be dressed again, because the last outfit wasn’t pink or frilly enough apparently…

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And then the highlight of my weekend, when The Middle Niece whipped up a pair of pipe cleaner glasses, you know, so Edie fits in with her semi-blind cousins.

Oh. My. Gawd. I can’t stop laughing.

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Seriously. I think I peed a little (and not because I recently gave birth).

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No, there’s no shortage of cute and chaos around these parts.

Having family around at the ranch with this new little human is a big blur of love and kisses and weekend afternoons spent cuddling and fussing over her. Add to that the a couple puppies and, well, this is life these days…

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I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to handle a baby and a baby puppy, but we’re full-on bringing Dolly over to the house this weekend after I get back from a road trip with Mom, Little Sister and Edie to the big town. I’m starting to get back into playing some music now and will be on the North Dakota Today show on Friday morning, so at night I’ve been playing the guitar and practicing a bit while Edie kicks her legs and flings her arms and coos and works out some good gas bubbles for me.

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So while life is completely different it is also so much the same. Three months into parenthood and we’re not sure what we did before her, except it’s been established that road trips were a little easier.

Probably everything was easier, but who’s to say really when it doesn’t really matter.

If I know anything it’s that the best part of life happens in moments that look a lot like chaos.

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And now, in case you didn’t laugh hard enough the first time…

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Sunday Column: The Heart Won’t Lie, and other embarrassing stories about my love of Reba McEntire

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Well, I made it home again, home again Jiggity Jig from Nashville last week and promptly lost my voice to a sweet little cold that settled into my chest and reared its ugly head midway through belting out a Bruno Mars song with the band on Saturday.

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And now I sound like a raspy gremlin and Husband is finding it all a little too amusing, walking around the house saying “What?” every time I attempt to tell him something.

Yesterday, he threw a pillow off the loft to where I was standing on the floor below just to hear what I sounded like when I screamed without a voice.

And then he laughed his ass off, because I sounded like a choked and dying rabbit.

Needless to say, phone conversations have been fun today…

Anyway, speaking of voices, this week in my column is a confession about my age-old obsession with a certain red-headed country diva known by the name of Reba McEntire.

It had to be declared sometime, and because I was in music city, I felt now was the time.

Funny though, what really got me thinking about Queen Reba was a recent visit I had to Minneapolis on my way to Nashville last weekend. See, I have this group of friends I met and hung on tight to after working at a performing arts school my first summer out of college. We try desperately to get together at least once or twice a year despite being scattered across North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado.

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When we do get together we almost always wind up, at the end of the night (or beginning of the morning) sitting around searching YouTube and our iPods for our favorite late 80s/early 90s country songs so that we might sing them together at the top of our lungs.

We find it quite amusing and comforting and sentimental all at once. And because we all know most of the words, it makes us feel good about ourselves too…

When the party gets to this point, any guests we might have acquired throughout the evening are undoubtedly running for cover, but last weekend I invited my cousin and best friend forever, Seth, originally from a small town in South Dakota, (now transplanted to the middle of Minneapolis where he has his PhD and does smart PhD things), over to meet my gang. I just knew they would all get along swimmingly.

Half way through the first Judd’s singalong I was certain.

See, cousin Seth, being my childhood best friend, cousin and pen pal, has had to endure my love for Reba since the beginning of time.

And if I remember correctly, I am certain his sister and I conducted similar sing-alongs at the farm house in our youth, probably with a video camera and most certainly with costumes.

Yes, if you pulled into gramma’s farm yard any summer in the early ’90s you’d likely find us standing on a pile of hay bales singing “Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down.”

Country Cousins

The evidence of our bond surfaced early. Here I am, in my leotard and tights, clutching my blankie and leaning on him for support…

Which leads me to the time when I got a new Reba McEntire tape, the one where she shares a duet with Vince Gill called “The Heart Won’t Lie” circa 1992 and I decided that cousin Seth needed to be the Vince to my Reba.

I imagined the two of us singing into my plastic karaoke microphones, hitting the harmonies, debuting our performance to the entire family at our Christmas gathering, maybe trying to assemble some sort of costume theme, blowing them all out of the water with the incredible fact that I sounded just like Reba and him like Vince…

(Thank you Lord for not inventing YouTube until after my adolescence)

So I copied down the words, dubbed him a tape, wrote him a letter and dropped it in the mail.

And, because my cousin inherited his mother’s desire to save every piece of evidence from our embarrassing childhoods, years later he photocopied all the letters I wrote to him and sent them back to me…lest I ever thought I might have been cool.

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Now, I’m embarrassed to report that Cousin Seth and I didn’t actually get around to performing our song during the innocent and forgivable phases of our youth. No. We decided to try our hand at it in the wee hours of the night during Pop’s birthday party on the deck last summer…after two or three vodka tonics too many…

But it was still epic.

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An epic fail…but a sweet little throwback to a childhood bond and a lasting love for music sparked by Reba herself…

Coming Home: Seeing a hero in person is still inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Ugh, I bet Queen Reba never gets laryngitis…

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If you have a minute, vote for me in the North Dakota Music Awards. I’m up for “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band” with these yahoos up there.

VOTE HERE
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ndmafinal

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Among the clover.

I wish you could smell the sweet clover out here this time of year. I step outside and I’m flooded with a wave of memories of all that I used to be, summer after summer growing up out here. It smells like work and evenings spent sliding down hills on cardboard boxes with my cousins. It smells like ingredients for mud pie and playing house in the lilac bushes by the red barn. It smells like bringing lunch to dad in the field above our house, horseflies and heat biting our skin.

It smells like my first car and the windows rolled down, taking back roads with my best friends as passengers, kicking up dust as we tested the limits of teenage-dom.

It smells like my leaving, bittersweet. My last summer as a kid here before it was time to go and grow up already. Be on my own.

And it smells like coming home, take a right on the pink road, stop at the top of the hill and look at it all before heading down and turning into mom and dad’s for a glass of wine and a steak on the deck that looks out toward the garden and up the crick bed where I used to play everyday.

Pink Road

Last week we had family here from Texas, a couple of those cousins who used to help me make mud pies, a couple of aunts and an uncle I adore and then, of course the grandkids. The ranch was buzzing, laughing, full of life like I remembered it when I was growing up and our grandparents were alive and serving us push-up pops from the small from porch of their small brown house.

Funny how the world changes when suddenly there are kids running through the grass, pulling up dandelions, blowing bubbles and making memories on this place like the ones I hold so close to me.

After the Centennial celebration was over we did nothing but sit on the deck and visit, catch up, eat and then run inside to watch the rain pour. We laughed at the kids as they played and fought over toys and I looked at my cousin, the one closest to my age, the girl I used to wish was my twin sister, a mother now, and I thought, well, weren’t we just the same size as her baby A? Weren’t we just five years old running through the clover, itching our mosquito bites, begging for popsicles and just one more hour to play outside.

Now look at us, all grown up and still here on this place.

I was so thankful to be here with them on this place.

Because I know it didn’t come without a cost for our family, keeping it here for us, so future generations can smell the clover and be young and wild out here…

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I know that we did nothing but be born to good people who know the value of the land, not in dollars, but in something that is hard for me to find words for right now.

Pride?

Work?

Home?

A place to belong?

On Monday when the rest of his family loaded up and hit the road, Uncle W, stayed home one more evening. Little Sister came out and we saddled up our horses and headed out east, riding along and listening to the two brothers remember what it was like to be young out here.

Little Uncle W always found hanging back on a roundup, eating on a Juneberry bush.

Young Pops getting bucked off on the road when his little brother popped over the hill on his tricycle.

Milking cows and riding broncs and chasing girls and growing up together, out here on this place.

How many gloves and hats and scarves have been left dangling in these trees, scooped off heads and hands of little cowboys and cowgirls rushing on the backs of horses running through the trees?

How many wild plum pits have been spit at one another?

How many mud pies have been made in this barnyard, topped off with little pieces of sweet clover.

It’s so quiet here this morning as I get ready to head to a show tonight and then on to Minnesota to celebrate the 4th of July. If I had my way we’d all live out here together, my cousins and us, and those kids would be over the hill forever being raised by kids like us, and we would rehash memories and then create new ones.

Every day, out here on this place the way it used to be.

But that wouldn’t work. There’s space out here, but not that much…not enough…

So I’ll take the clover. I’ll breathe it in and I will remember when it itched our bare little legs in the summer while we searched for kittens in the nooks of the red barn.

Then I’ll remember the weekends, weekends like these, when they came to visit us out here along the gravel roads, and how small the kids were and how they were so little, because they’ll grow up too fast you know. Just like we did, out here among the clover.

Leotards, fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

Ok, there was a time in my life when I wore nothing but leotards.

There, I said it.

I needed to make this confession today.

Purple leotards with pink tights. Pink leotards with purple tights. Short sleeves, polyester, spandex blends stretched tight over my belly, squishing the baby fat desperate to escape the confines of the fabric out  the seams and topping the whole thing off with leg warmers, velcro shoes and a fuzzy ponytail.

I was a sight to behold, a wild-child, a weird kid who had no explanation really for her choice in every day attire except, I can imagine, simply that today, I wanted to wear my leotard.

And tomorrow, I want to wear it again.

Leotard

Maybe it was because my mom was a dancer and an aerobics instructor and I had seen the woman, long and lean and graceful, rocking her own Jane Fonda attire while she lead a class to the tune of the Flash Dance soundtrack.

Or maybe it was because my big sister was a ballerina. A tiny, delicate ballerina who wore beautiful sparkly tutus and toe shoes and twirled and jumped and leapt elegantly across the stage under the lights.

Or maybe I just liked the free movement spandex provided while I drug my blankie through the grass on my way to the sandbox in my grandmother’s back yard.

I’m not sure, because I was too young at the time of my leotard obsession to hold on to the reasoning so that I might go back in adulthood and analyze it. But I’ll tell you this, even though I was only three or four years old, it was pretty clear I was inheriting none of that grace and elegance thing. But it didn’t matter to me. In my mind I was something. In my mind I was leaping and twirling right alongside my big sister on that big stage. In my mind I was Jane Fonda.

Of course I was also digging in the dirt, popping heads off of dandelions, peddling my trike towards gramma’s, making mud soup, bossing around the neighborhood boys, singing Sunday school songs at the top of my lungs, making up the words as I went along and hunting and tracking ladybugs in the short grass.

All in my trusty leotard.

Can you imagine the looks on my grandparents’ faces when my parents brought their girls over for Easter dinner, their oldest in perfect pastels and frills and the youngest traipsing around the egg hunt looking like Jazzercise personified? That was a cute family picture.

Country CousinsCan you imagine what my parents thought when their three or four year old woke up one day and declared it was time to put on her leotard, obliging, I’m sure, because I put up a fight, or maybe, because they were always free thinking supervisors and probably didn’t see the harm in a day in a spandex. But that day turned into another day and on to the next, and, well, you know the rest…

Anyway, eventually I moved on. Probably to my Wonder Woman costume, but that’s another story. I bring this phase of my life up today only because I was reminded of it by my Texas cousin last week via a Facebook post about her daughter.

It looked like this.

“A insists on wearing her leotard every day now. You went thru this too, right?:)”

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To which I replied something like: “Yes, and I hope this similarity doesn’t worry you…”

Now, my cousin M and I were born a month apart and spent our childhood dressing alike (after my leotard phase) and trying to convince the world we were twins. It made sense to me, I wanted to be just like her, and still do.  She’s beautiful and sweet and funny and always pulled together.

She was a perfect long french braid. I was a fuzzy ponytail with plastic barrettes keeping the flyways at bay.

She was a Christmas dress. I was an oversized holiday themed puffy paint sweatshirt with stirrup pants.

She was flute playing pretty notes. I was a guitar playing some weird song I just made up…

She is a math teacher. I’m a long winded-story…

And we get along perfectly.

Then along came baby A…

Baby A, who’s not really a baby anymore because she insists on riding her pony Pearl all by herself, and yes, Uncle G, she can let the cats out of the barn whenever she wants.

Baby A who sprays herself in the face with a garden hose and thinks it’s a riot so she does it again and again.

Baby A who has her own guitar and uses it to accompany herself as she sings long songs at the top of her lungs about girls riding horses through the trees.

Baby A who’s hair escapes that golden brown ponytail and fuzzes just right.

Baby A who is just stubborn enough to convince her mother every day that she should wear a leotard.

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I looked at the photo, me here between the buttes of our North Dakota home and my Cousin M under the warm sun of Texas, and I wondered if the miles don’t matter as much as we think they do.

That there are pieces of us in our family that surface and resurface throughout our lives, showing up in our children and their children’s children in a familiar laugh, a crooked smile, a skin tone or a shape of a nose.

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Looking at Baby A standing so confidently in her plastic high heels and pink leotard miles and miles away but so close to my heart, I can’t help but think that maybe an affinity for leotards just runs purple and pink somewhere in our blood, alongside the place where we keep fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

And to that I say, oh, Baby A, I’m so happy there’s someone else out there who understands…

Sunday Column: The miles between us.

There are Veeders in Texas, down there where the sun shines a little longer, a little hotter, and it doesn’t snow much.

Pops’ little brother moved his family down there when his oldest daughter and I were in the phase of our childhood where we wanted everyone to think we were twins. We wore the same biker shorts and Coca-Cola t-shirt. We put our hair up with the same scrunchie. Our skin turned the same kind of brown in the summer. We were best friends.

As soon as they unpacked their bags under that big Texas sky I begin making plans with our other cousin S who lived on a farm on the southern edge of the state to save up our 4-H money so that we might make our first plane ride to visit cousin M before she developed a new accent.

We wrote letters back and forth explaining our annoyance at our younger siblings, our mutual affection for Reba McEntire and Vince Gil, our struggle to discover any kind of athletic capabilities in our gangly bodies and, like good farm kids, of course, the weather.

At the end of each letter we reported how much money we had saved for our adventure down south.

P.S. I have saved $34.67 for TX adventure…

Forty-seven long letters and a year later, miraculously and undoubtedly with a fair amount of secret financial aid from our parents,  cousin S and I stood in a small airport in the middle of North Dakota, stuffing our wallets and snacks into our fanny packs before hugging our parents goodbye.

We were ten or eleven, on our own, and headed to Texas.

My memories of that trip were some I have kept with me throughout my life. I look back on it now and understand that it wasn’t likely either one of our families had the spare cash to help a couple kid cousins hop a plane for an extended sleepover, but somehow it was more than that.

Our parents knew it meant that time spent like this would lay the foundation for a relationship we might feel inclined to keep throughout our lives, regardless of the miles that had suddenly been put between us.

Veeder Cousins: (that’s me on the left and my twin cousin next to me. Cousin S, my TX travel companion, is that tall boy in the middle)

We spent that week exploring Ft. Worth swimming in a warm Texas lake, riding a Texas sized roller coster, telling ghost stories, sleeping in a tent in the backyard and having our first taste of BBQ brisket.

When we boarded the plane back North, cousin S and I were sun kissed and tired, more grown up and more connected to a family that would spend the next twenty years under that Texas sun.

Since that initial trip I’ve been back to visit our Texas family for weddings and singing gigs booked so that we might have an excuse to all sit on the porch together, remember, catch up and laugh a little.

It’s interesting how, wherever your family resides, a piece of it becomes yours too.

Funny how the miles don’t seem to matter when your hearts beat the same way…

Coming Home: Miles don’t matter to brothers who grew up together
by Jessie Veeder
11-3-13
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Texas sky…

Part of my heart is in Texas

Part of my heart is in Texas.

So I went there this weekend. To gather with family, to get lost in Dallas (a few times), to eat real, delicious, southern cooking, to laugh so hard I peed a little, to hug, to sweat in the humidity and curse the weather as my hair grew to twice its size, to sing, to enjoy wine surrounded by people who share the same bone structure, skin tone and fuzzy hair and most importantly to witness one of my younger cousins get married to her best friend.

And it was fantastic.

And bananas.

Because after an early morning wake up call letting us know the grandson/nephew was on his way and a 12 hour wait for his arrival, he entered this world just in time for us to get a quick snuggle, some photos and to pack and catch our plane.

250 miles away.

Because it’s a long wagon train outa here.

So as we were saying goodbye to our newest member, we were getting ready to welcome the next.

And, in case you were wondering, you can’t die of sleep deprivation or not bathing for three days in a row.

I know. I’ve tried.

(ahh, travel by plane).

But it was so worth it.

Because Texas, sweet Texas, North Dakota’s tanner, bigger breasted sister, was as sparkly and shiny as ever. With its big blue sky and rolling thunderheads, simply sophisticated stone houses, sexy drawl and cowboys with starched pants.

And as what appeared to be the North’s version of the Clampetts rolled into the Dallas airport, we were greeted by family from South Dakota and a cousin who flew the coop to Miami (and believe me, you could tell who came from where) and we all crammed into a baby blue mini-van with high hopes of making it into the city with help from the GPS systems loaded on our fancy cell phones (which turned out to be no help at all actually), the sweet Texas hospitality kicked in.

Upon hearing phrases like “you know,” “yah, sure” and my classic and irreplaceable “uff da” (yes, that actually comes out of my mouth despite my better judgment), the self-assured, tan Texans asked, “Where ya’ll from?”

And I responded more proudly than ever.

See I haven’t tried to hide my less sexy, less mysterious, less cool and less sultry and “Northern Drawl” for years. Because I learned my lesson about what happens when I try to fake it—it just creeps back in there in full force when I get excited…and I am a passionate woman, so it’s no use.

It’s all a part of growing up.

Anyway, as the lovely, accent free voice on the GPS took us just past the hotel, but not quite to the door about five times, sending us floundering back onto the jam packed interstate, multiple opinions flying, we finally decided to abandon technology and use the instincts we were born with to find the front door of the hotel.

And as we filed in, one by one, in all of our disheveled, sleep deprived, shell-shocked glory, there stood our beautiful southerly relatives with smiles as big as their Lone Star State waiting with open arms.

And yes, they were tan and clean cut and polished and starched and just a bit more fancy than what came out of that mini-van….

Yes, they looked like Texas. And they were representing well.

I’m afraid to say what we looked like.

But it didn’t matter, because right there in that hotel lobby, hugging the new babies, meeting the spouses for the second or third time, talking about the trip and making plans for the weekend, it was like we had never left one another.

It was like just yesterday we were all sleeping side by side in the basement of our grandparent’s house, searching for Easter eggs in the gumbo hills, falling in the black mud of the crick below the house, making snow men from our gramma’s bread dough, putting on productions of the Wizard of Oz and forcing all of the adults to watch as we did interpretive dances to “The Wind Beneath My Wings”….wait maybe that was just me.

And the truth is, it has been years. It has been years and miles and roads and states and plans and haircuts and schools and jobs and marriages and funerals and plans that have made us.

Plans that have broken us.

It has been years.

But we relive memories of our time at the ranch whenever we get together to make new ones. Because those memories we created as young as four and five and six have bound us together, all of us, the Kitten Caboodle Club, for life.

And as I watched my baby cousin, the one who used to run around the kiddie pool in her “wimming woot” with the hole cut out of the tummy, the one with dark brown ringlets and bright blue eyes, the girl who peed her pants and stepped in cactus every time we made our trek up to pots and pans, the girl who would stuff peas up her nose and put olives on her fingers at the dinner table every holiday, who was always laughing, always smiling, always had room for more love and life, walk down the aisle to join her man, the man she will start a whole new life with, all I could do is wish for her….

….to keep home, our home, in her heart and make a life for her children that is as wonderfully full of love and adventure and passion and imagination as our young lives were.

Because as much as this place, this landscape means to me, it means just as much to the people that surrounded me in that church that day. They were all seeing our little cousin in her white gown the way they remembered her–running wild at the ranch…ribbons and curls and cactus and excited laughter echoing off of the buttes and down the pink road.

And we may never be able to cram in on the couch at Christmastime in this little house like we did when we were munchkins.

We won’t ever all be able to all sleep together on gramma’s bed. We haven’t been that small for years. We may never even all be in the room together again…even this time we were missing one of the clan. And as time keeps ticking, we will utter each other’s names in phone calls and family updates and catch up with birthday cards and emails and an occasional call.

But it won’t matter.

It won’t matter at all.

Because we were lucky enough to spend our childhood in a magical place that has given us somewhere to pick up where we left off. No matter the time. No matter the distance.

It will always be here for you cousins.

I will do the best I can.

Because part of my heart is in Texas, another part in Miami, and Fargo, at South Dakota State University and just down the road and wherever my family may make their lives.

And the rest is here, waiting for you anytime you need it.