I sit listening to my cousins play their harps, accompanied by Dad on the guitar, the wind outside buffeting the Iowa cornfields. I drink green tea as Grandmother drinks coffee in her nightgown. This is beautiful. This is peace. Since I got here I’ve been reading Madelaine L’Engle, her family stories, trying on ancient aprons and my own family stories, like so: The generation before us walked these fields pulling weeds, fed livestock; sweat, had accidents with tractors. The generation before them survived real tragedy: a son killed in the war; another dead from premature heart attack or stroke. Grandmother’s brothers. Before that was the Depression and changes of the early 20th century. Before that, the emmigration, settling-in, ekking out, in the homestead still standing behind the trees outside this window. Five generations now — I am the fifth, the oldest granddaughter. I don’t know that we will have many stories to tell from our childhoods here, besides “we had a lot of fun playing in the rododenron bush and we wouldn’t let Bess in.” I think growing up I was aware of this, and almost resented the fact that nothing ever happened to me; that I’d never been run over by a tractor or had underwear made out of boiled flour sacks. I had no suitors called George the Paratrooper who walked the railroad tracks from town to see me and of whom I could fondly say: “he was so easy to be nice to.” I had no suitors who died. Nothing. Our generation rarely tells compelling stories because we have nothing to tell. The forests have been felled. The grain for winter is stored by machines. Gone is our rhythm, except the rhythm of the school year (and Abercrombie jeans), the minivan wheels, and the washing machine from the next room. We flit from around the country and back again to somewhere else, but we want, we want, we want a sense of purpose, this larger generation, a sense of something. We find it in denial of rhythm and do anything to feel: we lack war, but we never lack a war; we will fight our families, our authories, our own bodies, our language, thought. “There is neither right, wrong nor logic,” a boy told me on the bus. We are a generation of drifters and egoists, drunk on our own nihlism.
I don’t know that there is a cure, except time.