To Matt, Josh & Lauren
The boys whittled away the years between the orphanage and apprentice shops and stints on the run. They learned the expediency of a well-timed fist at too tender an age and later on, Harry took a stab at the amateur club fighting circuit in western PA with considerable success. Eventually, the brothers were taken in by a well-to-do farmer in Mercer County, PA. The Christley family provided them with a stable place to rest and grow and they began to put down roots for the first time in their lives. Mr. Christley held the mortgage on a nearby farm which was headed to sheriff sale. He turned the note over to Harry who was awarded half of the farm. He then purchased the remaining half at the same sale for $265 and officially became a farmer on a 65-acre stretch of land.
A few years ago, Grandpa Frisk died as well. Mia had succumbed 18 months prior after a long and courageous battle with cancer. I am so thankful that we made the long drive from Philadelphia to western PA three times so that your great-grandparents could bounce you on their laps and pose for a few squirmy photos, even though you’d only remember those dear folks from a handful of snapshots and my recollections.
For the last 3 summers, I’ve made a point to drive out to the farm while in Grove City for my annual dinner with my college roommate. Uncle Bob, who lives across the road, has been keeping up with the mowing and snow plowing and watching the pipes during the hardest freezes of the winter. He’s even kept up the garden so Grammy and Grandpa can bring farm pumpkins to us for carving each October. It’s been such a mix of emotions for me to travel back that long lane as I have done for forty years now, knowing that the barns and fields and lake remain, but Grandpa’s deep, capturing laugh won’t be greeting me at the door and Mia’s endless pots of coffee won’t be brewing their comfortable welcome.
I always try to shutter in as much of my childhood’s memoir as I can while I’m there. The old concrete steps at the back door where the cousins sat in age order. The well cap which made for the perfect “safe” spot during a game of tag. The red dog gravel in the lane where I had my first pony ride. No matter how many times I run the camera battery down, I feel like I missed a piece of the puzzle and I can’t wait to go back again the next year to try and find it.
And I won’t be a bit surprised if we happen to come home with a kitten or bunny or banty hen. I can’t tell you how many times as a child I rode home from the farm with a box of fluffy contents on my lap. But those are tales for other tellings…