The end of the farming season was nearing, but there were still several vegetables out in the fields that needed to be harvested. I decided that I would help out to spend time with my father. I spent several days in the pumpkin patch picking pumpkins and pulling old vines and weeds or collecting beans in some of the smaller fields. Ryan drove the tractors and harvesters for several other items including carrots, cucumbers and spinach. He tried to show me how to drive a tractor, but it didn’t go too well and I nearly crashed into one of the barns. .
While we were working, we spent a lot of time talking. I knew he enjoyed his work here and he would tell me about everything: what they plant year round, how they raise the cattle from calf to slaughter and more. He had a few dairy cows to provide milk, but he got his calves from another ranch that bred them. Other animals on the farm included horses, chickens, dogs and few barn cats.
I couldn’t believe how much work it was to feed all the animals every day and to harvest the crops. He had a lot of farmhands, so things went quickly and smoothly for him, but I was tired. I quickly befriended one of the kittens that I found in the barn and I had the opportunity to go horseback riding.
One afternoon, we took a break from the chores and went for a ride together. Mom stayed back as she wanted to get started on her canning projects, so it was just Ryan and me. We saddled up the horses and Ryan helped me get on the horse and then jumped on his and we headed on our ride. We took it slow as I was still a little nervous about riding on my own, but my horse, Sunny, was very calm and well-mannered.
While we were riding, Ryan started talking. “Stacy, how are you liking it here?”
“I like it, but…” I paused, “but I’m not sure I fit in here.”
“Do you miss the city?” I nodded. “Is that all?” I shook my head.
“I miss the life I had built back in Chicago. I absolutely loved it there and there is so much to explore. But what I miss the most is Jake,” I admitted. Ryan nodded his head in understanding.
“I get it. He can give you everything you want and has been there for you during your hardest time. What can we provide you? This...this ranch?”
“Ryan, please stop. I’m not with Jake because he can give me everything I want. I only want his love and yes, he does give me that, but if you are implying I want his money, then you are completely wrong,” I started rambling. “I can never have everything I want, because what I want involves people in two different worlds miles apart.”
“I’m sorry Stacy, that’s not what I meant.” He apologized. “I...we just got you back and I was hoping you would love it here and choose to stay here with your family. But I also can see how much you miss your life in Chicago and with Jake and as a father...your father, I can only want what is best for you.” I smiled at that.
“I do love being here, but it’s not where my heart lies. I’m sorry that I can’t go back twelve years and resume my life here. Maybe if I could, things would be different, but I believe in fate and don’t think I would have been happy here and would have left in some other way. I know that’s not fair to you and Mom, but I’m being honest with you.”
“I understand Stacy and I thank you for your honesty. I do hope that you plan on staying a little bit longer, but…” he choked up a bit.
“I plan on staying at least through the end of year, but we just have to play it day by day. Is that OK?” He nodded.
We finished our ride in silence, led the horses to the stables and brushed them before returning to the house.
When I got to my room, I noticed I had a message from Jake on my phone. Instead of listening to it, I gave him a call.
“Hey beautiful,” he answered the phone.
“Hi Jake. I saw that you called, is everything alright? It’s not the weekend yet, so…”
“Stacy...I’m fine,” he interrupted me. “I’m actually calling because I wanted to let you know that I have to leave the country for a few weeks for business.”
I took a breath, thankful that he was alright. “Where do you have to go?”
“I’m heading to England to meet a few new clients and finish up a project with another. That’s why it’s going to take so long. I’m not sure how well we will be able to connect, but I will still try every weekend.”
“I hope so,” I said.
“It’s about a seven hour difference from you in North Dakota to where I’ll be near London, but I know we can make it work. I don’t want you to worry about me while I’m there, OK?”
“I’ll try not to, but I know I will Jake.”
“I know you will too, it’s who you are.” I heard Darcy in the background telling Jake his meeting was going to start soon. “Hey babe, I have to get going, but we will talk again before I leave on Sunday. I love you.”
“I love you too and be safe.” We hung up.
The weekend came and went. I did talk to Jake before he left and told him to stay safe and that I loved him. He said he loved me too before hanging up. The next week was more of the same: helping with feeding the animals, picking more vegetables and helping my mother with canning. We did a lot of cooking as well and she continued to show me her homemade recipes that have passed down through the family.
Not only did we have vegetables on the farm, we had a few apple trees in the garden. After assuring all the apples were picked, we spent a couple of days making various apple products. We made a lot of applesauce, apple cider, apple juice, and made a few apple pies and froze them for Thanksgiving dinner which was less than two weeks away.
All the canning was completed and most of the farm work was done by the next weekend, so we took a family trip down to South Dakota to the Black Hills and Custer National Park for the weekend.
We drove through the hills and the ‘Needle’ in the rocks and stopped at both Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore. I remember learning a little bit about Mount Rushmore when we had ‘homework’ to do, so it was neat to experience it in person. It was a little cold out since it was mid-November, but we still walked around and took pictures.
We also drove to the badlands of South Dakota and walked around the hills and saw a few mountain goats and a lot of deer. On our way back to Rapid City, we saw some pronghorns running through the fields and we came across a herd of buffalo. We had to wait a while for them to cross the road, and it was a little frightening when they got close to the car.
We spent a couple of nights in Rapid City and then returned home for a new week.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Sarah arrived home from college to spend the holidays with us. This is the first time I am seeing her since she left in the beginning of September so we had plenty to catch up on over the next day or so.
She told me all about her classes, some of the parties she has gone to and her part-time job in the music department office. She talked about her boyfriend, Ian, and how they are still together and try to talk at least one or two times a week. He was supposed to be home by Wednesday evening to see his family and they had plans for the weekend, but she wanted to introduce us before they left for their date.
I told her about what I have done since coming here on the ranch and farm and about some of the trips that Vicky had taken me on. We talked about some of Jake and my phone conversations as well. I told her he was in England right now and should be returning in a week or so and how I really, really miss him and we haven’t been able to talk much at all. We never seemed to connect because it was either too late for him or too early for me. We did text a lot and would just wait for each other’s responses.
Thursday finally arrived and we all were heading up to Nana and Papa’s house to spend Thanksgiving together. We were in charge of making the stuffing and pies. We had already made the apple pies, so we baked them and also had made a couple of pumpkin pies. We gathered everything together and went to meet the family again.
We arrived at the same time as Vicky, Tom and their parents my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Bob. We saw another car parked in the driveway, so we assumed that my other Uncle had already arrived before us. When we all walked in, Nana and Papa greeted us and took our coats before giving us all hugs. We saw that my Uncle Randy and Aunt Jessie were there with their three children Jenny, Kyle and Scott.
We all joined them in the living room after putting the food in the kitchen for final preparations. We sat and talked for quite a bit while Nana, Mom and my aunts worked in the kitchen. There was only so much space, so us girls got to relax for now. I’m sure we will get stuck with the dishes. The guys were watching the football game on TV while us girls talked about school, boys and travels.
Around 4:00, we were called to the dining room to celebrate Thanksgiving. There were fifteen of us, but we were able to all fit by squeezing pretty close together, but no one had to sit at a kiddie table away from the rest of us. That was something I remembered from years ago during family meals.
The food was brought to the table and we all said ‘grace’. Papa began carving the turkey while the rest of the food was passed around the table for everyone to take. There was so much food and it was all delicious.
Part of the family tradition, that I vaguely remembered, involved everyone going around the table and announcing what they are thankful for. Nana started with being grateful for everyone sitting around the table for the first time in over twelve years. Uncle Bob and Aunt Cindy were next followed by Vicky and Tom. It then moved on to my parents, then me and Sarah.
I told everyone that I was thankful for way too much and they laughed a little. Seriously though, I was very grateful to still be alive, to be found and cared for by Jake as well as to love him and be loved by him. I was grateful to be reunited with my parents, my sister and everyone here and back in Wisconsin. I was grateful to have a meal as delicious as the one we just ate and the opportunity to have traveled a little.
Sarah told everyone that she was thankful for having me back in her life and for surviving her first semester, so far. We all chuckled. Uncle Randy, Aunt Jessie and their kids went next and the last to share was Papa who basically repeated what Nana had said about having everyone here for the first time in a very long time.
We finished eating and talked a lot. As we cleared the table and started putting things away, the men left to go talk and watch more football or the recaps of the games from the day. Vicky, Sarah and I did end up doing the dishes, but we worked pretty good as a team and got them done pretty quickly and joined everyone again.
One family at a time began to leave as it was getting later and later. We were the last to leave since we just lived up the road and it wouldn’t take long to get there. We made sure everything was cleaned up and said goodnight to Nana and Papa before making our way home.
I was exhausted and went straight to bed. Before I turned my light off, I texted Jake. “Happy Thanksgiving. I miss you and love you so much. I hope we can be together soon and Jake…” I hit send. “I want to come home before the new year,” I finished my thought. It was around 4:00 in the morning, his time, at this point, so I wasn’t expecting an answer from him, so I turned everything off and fell asleep.
I woke up to my phone ringing around 7:30 in the morning. It was Jake. “Hello?” I answered still half asleep.
“Good afternoon baby, or should I say good morning?” He chuckled over the phone. “Did I wake you?”
“You did, but I’m glad to hear your voice, so I’m OK with you waking me.”
“So...I got your text. Happy belated Thanksgiving to you as well and I miss you and love you too baby.” He continued, “I can’t wait to be together as well but what did you want to add to your statement?”
“What do you mean Jake? I sent you two messages, with the second one finishing my thought.”
“I only got the one that ended with ‘and Jake…’” he told me.
I closed the talk screen since we were on speaker and opened my texts. I thought I had hit send on that last part, but I guess I didn’t, so I clicked it then. “Sorry Jake, I thought I sent it, but it didn’t go through. I just sent it again, but it said…” I paused, “I want to come home before the new year.”
“Are you sure Stace? I miss you and want you home, but are you really sure you want this? That you want us together?”
“Yes baby, I am positively sure of this decision. I have tried living here and working on the ranch, but I don’t fit in here. I like the noise and the people and being in the city, but most of all, I like being with you in our home.”
“I’m so glad to hear you say that baby. I still have another week here to finish things up before returning home, but when I do we will start planning your return.” He sounded so excited on the phone and I loved hearing it in his voice.
“Do you think you could come here for Christmas before we head back home? I would really love to have you here with me and meet the rest of my family.”
“Absolutely, I will make that happen,” he said. “Shit…” I heard him mumble, “I hate to stop here, but I’ve got another call coming in from one of the companies here. I will call as soon as I can again, but Stacy...you have just made me the happiest man on earth. I love you so much!”
“I love you too. Be safe and see you soon!”
After hanging up I got up and got dressed after my morning shower. I went downstairs and Mom was already making breakfast. Sarah had already left for the day to go to Bismarck for Black Friday shopping. She had asked me the night before to join her, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Who actually likes to get up before 5 in the morning to stand in line for a few deals?
Sarah returned home by mid afternoon and went straight upstairs to get ready for her date with Ian. I joined her in her room and sat on her bed while she ran around getting an outfit together, putting her hair up and putting make-up on. She went on and on about how much she missed him and where they were going and more. I loved watching her and I loved this moment as we really acted like sisters who have been together their whole lives. I would miss this when I go home, but I know she can always come to visit me, or I can come visit her here or at school.
Ian arrived and was brought into the house by our father. “Sarah...Ian is here,” he yelled up the stairs. Sarah grabbed her purse and slid her shoes on as we headed to the stairwell. We walked down and she gave him a big hug when she reached the bottom. I smiled as I watched them together.
“Ian, I want you to meet my sister, Stacy. Stacy, this is Ian, my boyfriend.” I shook his hand.
“It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.” I smiled.
“All good things, I hope,” he responded.
I nodded, “Yes, all good things. Have a great night you two, but remember Ian, keep her safe and do not break her heart!” I smiled again and Sarah turned bright red from embarrassment.
“Come on, let’s go,” she ushered him out the door.
The rest of the weekend flew by and before we knew it, Sarah was driving back to Fargo to return to school. It was just Mom, Ryan and me again. I knew I was going to have to talk to them soon about my decision to go back home with Jake, but I wasn’t sure how to start that conversation at this moment. I know my father has an idea from our conversation earlier in the month, but it’s something I haven’t talked to Mom about at all. I guess it can wait a little longer...I don’t want to ruin this holiday, but I will have to bring it up sooner than later.