A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five by Leila Philip

By Leila Philip

One woman's trip to discover her family's historical past and comprehend the binds that bind us to a specific place..

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Extra resources for A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family (Excelsior Editions)

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Tall orange gladiolus under the banjo clock in the hall? The knowledge that wherever they lived or traveled, they would return to Talavera, their home? Perhaps it is nothing coherent, articulated or even thought. No specific memory or memories at all, but that complicated sense of belonging to a landscape, of knowing the press of light on the hills as surely as one knows one’s own palm. I will never know exactly what holds my father to this place so strongly, but I will always wonder. The October evening has already grown cold, and my father should be wearing a sweater over his blue flannel shirt.

A place where dream and reality never collide because there is no distinction. Like the shadows, stretched confidently out into the barnyard, striping the cooling dirt, I know where I am when I am here. I am home. By the time I head up to the house, my calves ache from the constant walking, and my arms circling the basket of tally slips and receipts feel tired too, but I don’t care. I think about my next job, the day’s count. As I get closer to the house, however, I see that my father has been waiting for me on the back porch.

I wrapped my arms around my knees, hugging them as I waited for the meeting to begin. My eldest brother, named after my father and my grandfather and my great-great-uncle and my great-great-great-uncle, passed out copies of my father’s will. I accepted one, although it would be weeks before I could make myself read it. At the funeral it seemed that my three brothers had ascended to take on highly sanctioned, if invisible, roles as the sons of a dead father. When the time came, each had stepped forward confidently and read the eulogy he had written.

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