Iowa Writes

NANCY CROVETTI
Uptamom's


Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." That was comforting when I was 19 and low on cash, no job prospects and between college semesters, to know that when there is nowhere else to turn, there is always home. We associate home with the family we were born and raised by, who taught us the things we'd need to know out in the world, gave us our family values. It's the place we think of when holidays come around, birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, deaths, births, graduations, any sort of momentous occasion. That place we couldn't wait to be free of, only to discover how much we could miss and yearn to be back at again.

But what of the family that is flung so far and wide or dwindled to an occasional letter, phone call, or email or just plain not there? What if home is just an old black and white picture, decades old, sitting atop the desk, a vague memory? Where do you go and who will have to take you in when those people and places are gone or just too far away?

In mythical Lake Woebegon, Minnesota, Garrison Keillor had his Snow Family – the volunteer family who agreed to take in a school child in the event of a midweek snowstorm so severe that neither planes nor plows nor enormous school buses could make their way through—who would provide him shelter and safe harbor, should such a need ever arise. They were not his real family, and he was not their real child, but it was nice to know that there was that safe haven.

I have a Snow Family of sorts, in Osceola, Iowa, just about 30 miles north on interstate 35. It's where I've spent many a Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, with my friend and neighbor's parents, Pat and Pete. They are my adopted family.

Robert Frost once said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." That was comforting when I was 19 and low on cash, no job prospects and between college semesters, to know that when there is nowhere else to turn, there is always home. We associate home with the family we were born and raised by, who taught us the things we'd need to know out in the world, gave us our family values. It's the place we think of when holidays come around, birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, deaths, births, graduations, any sort of momentous occasion. That place we couldn't wait to be free of, only to discover how much we could miss and yearn to be back at again.

But what of the family that is flung so far and wide or dwindled to an occasional letter, phone call, or email or just plain not there? What if home is just an old black and white picture, decades old, sitting atop the desk, a vague memory? Where do you go and who will have to take you in when those people and places are gone or just too far away?

In mythical Lake Woebegon, Minnesota, Garrison Keillor had his Snow Family – the volunteer family who agreed to take in a school child in the event of a midweek snowstorm so severe that neither planes nor plows nor enormous school buses could make their way through—who would provide him shelter and safe harbor, should such a need ever arise. They were not his real family, and he was not their real child, but it was nice to know that there was that safe haven.

I have a Snow Family of sorts, in Osceola, Iowa, just about 30 miles north on interstate 35. It's where I've spent many a Thanksgiving, Christmas, Fourth of July, with my friend and neighbor's parents, Pat and Pete. They are my adopted family.

"We're goin' up to Mom's; if you don't have any plans you're welcome to come along," Theresa will say about two weeks before a holiday. It's my excuse to take a container of homemade cranberry sauce somewhere on Thanksgiving. A couple of weeks later, Theresa will say, "We're having Christmas up to Mom's, if you'd like to join us," and I have a place to take my holiday Snickerdoodles. Just last week she said, "We're gonna go up to Mom's to watch the parade; if you're not doing anything else on the 4th, we'll have a barbeque afterward," and so I'll have someplace to take my potato salad.

They are not the family I was born into and yet they have invited me to their gatherings every year since my husband died. At Pat and Pete's we all squeeze around the kitchen table that is always heaped with bowls and platters full of food; elbow-to-elbow people swapping updates on each other's lives. At Thanksgiving the girls plan the Friday morning shopping strategies. At Christmas the gifts have already been exchanged and the little ones can't wait to finish eating, to get back to their newest toys. For the 4th, outside picnic tables are covered with salads, cheese and cracker plates, fresh fruit, chips and desserts. There are heaping platters of grilled meats and coolers packed with iced drinks. Sometimes it is not at Pat's house but at a daughter's house with plenty of shade and a big yard for the little kids.

Years ago I imagined my future with a house full of kids and family gatherings, noisy background bustle of clanking pots and pans, a football game, laughter, and occasional toddler squall. But it didn't turn out that way. For most of my adult life, it was just my daughter and me. A house packed with brothers and sisters, in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews, grandkids, and of course dogs, was what, I suddenly remember each year, I'd always wanted.

We talk often by phone, my daughter and my sisters and brother. But the time between our visits tends to span into years. Not always able to travel to the homes of my natural family, the home that takes me in may not be the one that has to, but certainly makes me feel as if they want to. We joke that I am the "orphaned widow" they take in at holidays. And so I have an answer for the question that invariably comes up at certain times each year: What are your plans? Going anywhere for the holiday?  Doing something special with your long holiday weekend?

You bet. I'm going Uptamoms.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


NANCY CROVETTI

Nancy Crovetti writes: "The Midwest is in my blood: my parents, Des Moines natives, migrated to New England as newlyweds in 1935. I came back to Iowa in '94, settling in Lamoni; have been a cancer survivor thanks to University Hospitals in '99 and a UI student in pursuit of the BLS since 2002."

This page was first displayed
on November 22, 2007

We are pleased to make available The Daily Palette Mac OS X Dashboard Widget! Download this Widget to see daily works by pressing F12.

Become our fan on Facebook!