The cool air of autumn carries so many memories and feelings as it swirls through the leaves. There’s not much that can give feelings of nostalgia quite like a perfect fall day. Memories of playing in leaves, fires with marshmallows, harvest parties, wagon loads of corn, and as much apple crisp with ice cream as we can eat.
But do feelings of nostalgia tell the whole story?
Should we traverse into the coming days with the anticipation of reliving those good feelings we remember from the past?
I’d like to say that nostalgia lies!
Nostalgia doesn’t tell the whole story – like those happy feelings of being a kid in front of a fan with metal fins, playing the game of making your voice bounce was just a clever trick from my mother just to keep us cool in sweltering days without air conditioning! Part of the game, of course, was trying to resist the urge to stick my fingers through the cage into the alluring blades.
Or how about the smell of drying hay. It takes me right back to the days of riding high in the hay rack full of small square bales, catching leaves from the passing branches. It gives feelings of beautiful, hot summer days of eating ice cream and going to the pool. If I were to relive those days today, I’m pretty sure the experience would be overshadowed by the reality of lifting – by hand – every piece of hay at least four times before spreading it back on the field. Not to mention broken bales, scratched arms, dehydration from the experience of P90X in a sauna haymow all making hands that were so calloused you didn’t need gloves!
When my grandpa was alive, he kept a journal of his days gone by. I love to hear, first hand, the experience of living through the happenings of the last century: his thoughts and feelings and his lessons learned. As I read it, I imagine all the stories in sepia tone coloring.
Taken from the pages of his journal, let’s pretend:
We’re walking along a ditch and we stumble upon old bits of ragged leather and string. When suddenly the world becomes a blur. Everything spins, whirls then stills. The bits of leather we stumbled upon are now easily recognizable as a disassembled football and there are three young boys standing there in disbelief and wonder at our appearance! It becomes apparent that we have traveled back in time to the 1920s! It’s a world of full color, imagine that!
I recognize my grandfather is one of the three boys. They quickly explained that they found a football, took it apart to see how it was made and they can’t get it back together. So they’re hiding it here in this ditch.
As we travel by horse and foot, I see a world of difficulty, hard work, and thankfulness.
My kid grandpa told me about life. He said, “My mother is always happy and will sing to the top of her clear soprano voice. I am not sure why she is singing. All we have is an old run down home with just enough to eat and mother makes all our clothes from used clothing. She carries in all the water, and washes the clothes by hand. She’s a wonderful mother.”
He tells me of a time he took a dime, bought two bananas and guiltily ate them both on the way home. Maybe the peels are rotting in the same ditch as the dissected football.
It’s fun “visiting” the time of the Greatest Generation. Comparing then to now, I realize that I could get 20 bananas today for an equivalent money value of his 10 cents. However, I think that abundance is not the recipe to make greatness. Rather, the lessons they learned about the value and sanctity of life, the cost of freedom, the value of work and, in the case of my grandpa, living for eternity are things that should be remembered and lived out in our time.
Instead of trying to relive those sepia tone things we feel nostalgic about, let’s learn the lessons from the past, enjoy old memories, and make new experiences.
Meet your farmer – Jonathan Gerdes. He and his wife run a farm-to-table raw milk dairy in Caledonia, Minn. If he isn’t in the barn, you can find him dating his wife, playing with his kids, leading youth group, or flying in the sky. Visit gerdesfreshfarm.com for more info.
Easy Milk Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 pinch kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and cover the pan with a lid.
2. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, remove the lid. Do not stir the caramel after this point. If your caramel is cooking unevenly, you can gently swirl the pot to even out the sauce.
3. Cook the caramel until it is a golden-brown color. Once it is a dark amber, remove from the heat and slowly add the milk while whisking. Be careful: The milk can boil up quickly when it hits the hot caramel.
4. Once the milk has been added, gently warm the mixture over medium heat. Whisk the mixture together and boil for 1 minute until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the salt and stir the mixture until it is well combined and liquid.
5. Once the milk has combined with the sugar and becomes completely incorporated, turn off the heat. Add the butter and whisk to combine.