“Other People Matter”*
By Axie Barclay

Last month we discussed romantic relationships, so this month we’re moving on to family. Again, I’m only an expert in my family and my relationships, but this is what has worked well for us. There are all kinds of families and situations out there and the thing to remember is to be adaptable and actively think about what you and your family do well.

It’s spring and there’s mud everywhere. We’ve gotten something like six feet of snow this winter and it’s all starting to melt off. But the sun is out and the sky is blue. My cousins have come up to visit the farm and visit my grandmother, who at ninety still loves to babysit my Offspring and sends him home tired. No small feat, even for a much younger person.

The STC and I carry the Offspring into the house and take off his coat. He immediately wriggles down and races to Great-grandma. She’s his favorite person.

“Mine too,” my cousin says, when I relay this observation.

That says something, when all three of my grandmother’s granddaughters agree, without hesitation, that our grandma is our favorite person.

The Offspring is off with my younger cousins, ages fifteen and thirteen, playing tractors and racing around like a wild thing. He adores the attention, but continually returns to check in, not with me or his dad, but with Gram. He offers her toys and books, and every time she bends down to ask about what he has and say thanks or laugh at his extremely expressive face.

“I have a good family,” my Gram often says.

“You started it,” I tease her.

And it’s very true. She and my grandpa set the tone in our family, even the extended family like my cousins, who drive five hours one-way to visit. Gram is always happy to see you, no matter who it is, or how long it’s been. She’s always interested in what other people have to say, even if she has a difficult time relating to it. She’s always grateful, even for the little things, especially for the little things. She likes to be needed, but not too much.

“One thing about getting old, Axie,” she’ll tell me, almost conspiratorially, “no one expects you to do much.”

But if it’s something she wants to do, there’s no stopping her.

So really, while family and romantic relationships differ, they also share a lot of similarities. Good communication is key. Empathy is important. Expressing gratitude is huge. And laughter is essential. A family who laughs together doesn’t have time to bicker. And if you do have time, well, send someone to clown school.

*From: Pursuing the Good Life: 100 Reflections on Positive Psychology by Christopher Peterson. Oxford Press. 2013.

Book Recommendations:

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. Fiction/Memoir. The Offspring and I read this one together and the narrator, the author’s grandmother, is far and away the toughest, most resilient woman I’ve ever encountered in literature. If I had a daughter, this is the kind of woman I’d want her to grow up to be.

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore. Biography. The story of Benjamin Franklin’s seldom mentioned little sister. Another strong woman, who bore eleven children and was only outlived by two.

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss. Fiction. It’s worth noting that any of Molly Gloss’ work is worth reading. Her heroines are all incredibly strong, pioneer women, who know how to fall off horses and make it on their own. Wild Life felt a little harder to connect with, mostly due to the story structure, but the excellent quality of her prose never fails to impress.

Axie_Barclay_100Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.