76: Family Recipe

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I keep dreaming of the farmhouse. I am alone and walking around inside, but something’s always wrong. Something’s always off.

Last time, the carpet in the dining room, green as sea foam and wet belch, is pulled back from the wall. A dirty line demarks the open space between wall and floor, separating the two. Like the house is pulling itself apart. Self-destructing. Or maybe it’s just atrophying from disuse—idle hands, idle homes—because no one lives here anymore. Grandma and Grandpa died three years ago. I’m worried. If the walls continue to pull away, where does that leave me? I will be floating alone without protection. Like an island. Will I sink away with the walls, too, if this place is not whole?

In another version of my farmhouse dreams, I climb the stairs heading to the bedrooms above, careful not to crunch right where they creak. Behind me, a new stairwell presents itself. It is a mirrored version of the stairwell I know like a lifeline on my hand, but this new one is spiralized and tall. I strain my neck to see how far up it goes. I ascend to find an ornate door locked and try to peer inside. It’s a part of the house I’ve never seen before. A part of the house I didn’t know was there. Even in my dream, something instinctual tells me I’m not allowed to be here. But I want to go inside, and something instinctual tells me I will. Tells me that I already have.

Dad dreams about the farmhouse too. He tells me about it one day. Unlike my farmhouse dream, his is reoccurring. Always the same. This scene has played before his sleepy eyes since he was a child—he began working the farm, practically running it himself, before he was a teenager. He’s standing in his old bedroom upstairs, the red painted walls with windows that face the state route out front. He shared this room with two brothers. His sisters, both younger, got their own rooms. I know this room as Grandma’s craft room. Buttons. Hot glue. Dust bunnies choked with yarn and bedazzled in bits of tape.

But in his dream, it is still his bedroom and a whole life has yet to wind out in front of him. In his dream, Dad is always looking through the window at the corn field across the road. Just visible along the tree line at the horizon, a black and white dotted dot. Then another. Another, still. There is the newborn pulled from a womb with rope and pulley just last week, licked clean by his mother. There is Twiggy, Nina, Babe, and Jess. He knows all their names. A herd of Holsteins, his herd of Holsteins, escaped from their pasture on this side of the road and roaming where they’re not supposed to be. Something instinctual tells me this worries him. That he worries about the cows even in his sleep. Even though he’s retired. Even though the cows are gone now and they’re never coming home.

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“Miss Steel Pier (Beauty Pageant)”