When I was a young man in college, I had a friend at work who was a number of years my senior, but we had fun visiting together and often worked side-by-side. One day when I approached his office, he was rather melancholy and not the typical animated companion I was used to. I asked him what was wrong. He said “Oh nothing is wrong, but I had the most interesting experience this weekend.” I asked him to tell me more. He went on to explain that his children had come and spent the weekend at home with him and his wife. They were visiting and having fun together when one of the boys, now a full-grown man, piped up and said “Dad, remember when we used to go on those drives together when we were kids? That is probably my all-time favorite memory of days gone by when I was a child growing up.” Others chimed in and confirmed his sentiments. My friend went on to explain “Walter, that was back in the old days when Relief Society was held during the week. When my wife left to the weekly meeting, I had the children at home all by myself. I really had no idea how to keep them all happy, so out of desperation I would pile them in the car and go for a drive. Now years later, my children tell me that was their favorite memory while growing up.” He marveled how easy that treasure could have been missed.
We remarked that frequently we don’t understand fully the implications of our choices until well afterward. I have dozens of examples. One more that comes to mind follows:
Though I spent most of my childhood in Salt Lake City, we later moved to the country in a small rural town called Castle Valley just outside Moab, Utah, where I had the unique opportunity to grow up as a young man on the farm. Now, I recognize what a gift it was to experience country life and learn the value of hard work, dependability, and thrift. It literally shaped my life.
Some years ago, my wife and I purchased a video tape recorder. This was a brand new technology at the time, and the particular camera we had chosen fit an entire VHS cassette and looked something like a news camera. Though it was massive when compared to the little, hand-held devices of today, at the time, it was the peak of technology. We were delighted and brought the camera down to Castle Valley with us—my oldest two were still small children—not knowing exactly what we were going to capture. But we knew we should begin filming something for our history. Well, it happened that I had the camera out just as Grandpa was preparing to go milk the jersey cow, Janey, so I started filming.
Grandpa saw what I was doing and played along. Rather than just completing the steps as he prepared for milking, he began narrating the incident in behalf of those that would soon be watching the video. “So first, we get the milking pail and put grain in this bucket for Janey to munch on–one, two, three cans, like that.” He scooped the grain from a large metal garbage can, and in his characteristic, animated way, he performed the task with a smile on his face and warmth that radiated to his audience to be. “We keep the washing bucket and rag here, so we will bring that along with us as well.” I loved being with my dad and capturing this experience on video cassette was really great. He continued with his daily routine, entering the milking shed, positioning Janey, and speaking softly and affectionately to her as he sat down on his three-legged stool to wash her udder before milking. As the streams of milk flowed into the pail, the steel of the bucket resounded with vibration until the milk shortly began to fill the pail. His hands were moving rapidly and never slowed to rest his weary muscles. After years of milking, dad’s grip was firm and the strength of his hands and forearms now lasted longer than the milking. It wasn’t always that way, as I well knew. But over years of milking twice a day, 7 days-a-week, 365 days-a-year for nearly thirty years, dad’s endurance, consistency, and strength shown through.
Then he began telling a story about his life. I continued recording as he told about his experience in Nova Scotia where he served as a young missionary without purse or script. Dad said that back then, missions had the option of choosing that method from among others, and that meant he depended on some kind soul to give him and his companion a room and a meal in exchange for preaching the gospel. Most days that worked fine, but occasionally he and his companion went hungry and even spent some nights under the stars. He shared with us many other experiences, as well. Grandpa had the uncanny ability to draw people in with his stories, especially when they were about real-life events and included fun and interesting observations about life’s lessons. This was no exception, and not surprisingly, this tape became the favorite for our children. They watched it constantly, literally every day. That way, they were able to enjoy the farm, the animals, and Grandpa from long distance. Eventually the tape became so worn and battered that it began showing signs of wear. Before long the sound on the tape faded in-and-out until it altogether ceased. Later, the video was misplaced before I had a chance to transfer it to a DVD. That was a tragedy of sorts. After my father passed away, I thought many times I would like to sit down and spend a few minutes with him milking Janey. Nevertheless, in our memories, we will forever cherish the numerous moments like these.
Our Castle Valley homestead was all about experiences, which, if we were to attempt to capture them all, I suppose they would fill volumes. We remember highlights that warmed our hearts and provided satisfaction then and continue to buoy us up now as we reflect on these choice experiences living off the land and fulfilling a life-long dream for Mother. Her dream became our dream, and the life we lived there provided hope and joy then and solace now. We will continue to treasure and share these memories for generations to come. Life was hard and sometimes seemed unfair, but looking back with hindsight as they say is 20-20. We can easily see the multitude of blessings that came from our Castle Valley experience, and what’s more we are able to relive them through our journals and our memories.
What stories are you living now that your children will cling to the rest of their lives? Make choices today that you can live with tomorrow.
Your posterity may just hold on to them for the rest of their lives.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.