This weekend most of my large Irish/German family (Mom's side) will be gathering at the family farm in Wisconsin for the annual reunion. I won't be going this year which is always a little sad.
My mother is one of ten children that grew up on this dairy farm, which has been in the family since my grandfathers' grandfather bought it. There are more than twenty of us first cousins that grew up visiting and playing on the farm. All of us have collections of memories of our Grandma&Grandpa hosting us when we were children. Most of us were at one point or another taken "camping" by Grandpa, which involved what felt like a cross-country trek on the tractor that ended miraculously upon arrival at Aunt Molly's (his sister) house, which geographically is only some miles from Grandpa's. Some of us would go to church with Grandma, because I know for a lot of us since we didn't go with our parents it felt fun. Grandpa would take us to Doug's Pub in town, where we would get soda and a bag of chips as he drank beer and solved the problems of the world with the other old men.
Only as we've gotten older have we realized how special this place is. My grandfather passed away not suddenly but quite unexpectedly in 1999, and my grandmother followed after a long and debilitating illness in 2002. Since, the ten siblings have formed an LLC that parcels ownership and responsibility equally among them. Part of the reason for the annual reunion is to sort out any family business regarding financial decisions and the farm.
As mortality becomes more a reality the siblings have begun to think more concretely about what will come next for this land that is collectively and individually a part of our history. Eventually, hopefully in many years, my mother and her siblings will die and mine will be the oldest generation. My cousins and I are removed from the farm as only one of us have ever lived there. I think we all feel, some more than others most likely, the importance and significance of the place and most of us would be willing to start inputting more to keep it in the family and maintain it.
The question is how and who more than anything I think. Do some of us want it more than others? Perhaps. Ultimately our parents will decide what they think is best for the place and for us, their children, but as most of my generation has a foothold in what we'd call 'adulthood', and we are of this family - we will no doubt be long on opinions.
My hope is that we can keep this place for my children, and even my children's children. I appreciate that most families don't have this home, this place that holds their history and so many connections. I understand that a physical place isn't necessary to be a close family, and if anything should ever happen to our place I think we would find a way to be as close.