The Barn

I grew up there. Going in and out of that barn, up the stairs and into the loft with my sisters. We posed for Mom’s camera the same way my kids did for mine. But Daddy didn’t like us playing in the loft. He thought it was too dangerous.

This was not a typical barn. It wasn’t filled with horses or cows or any other animals except for the occasional stray cat that made its home there.

The barn housed all of Daddy’s tools. The chainsaw, drills, handsaws, the sling blade, hoes and rakes. His dad’s tools were there, too. In an old wooden tool box. Ladders and paint and his saw horses and old coffee cans filled to the brim with nuts and bolts and nails. Everything and anything he didn’t want in the house.

I followed him as he worked around the yard one Saturday afternoon, but he stopped me before he opened the barn door.

“Do not come in the barn. There are wasps’ nests and I may stir them up. Stay outside.” Daddy said.

I waited a minute before I went in. He didn’t realize I was right behind him when he moved an old fold-up bed out of his way. Within seconds, I had yellow jackets swarming around me. He picked me up and rushed me outside. He swiped several yellow jackets off my back and arms and carried me inside the house. The yellow jackets popped me in seven different places. I’m sure Daddy was angry with me, but I don’t remember it. All I remember is him taking tobacco out of his cigarettes, balling it up, pressing it onto each sting, and covering my stings with bandages. It was supposed to take the pain of the sting away.

But nothing could take the sting of my embarrassment away. I was ashamed I hadn’t listened and sad I’d disappointed him.

From that day forward, I listened to Daddy because I knew he meant good for me. I listened. But I didn’t always obey. More than anything, I wanted to please my parents, but missed the mark a lot of times. I lied and sneaked out of the house. I smoked and drank and had guys over when I wasn’t supposed to. I went places I shouldn’t have gone and did things I shouldn’t have done. When I was caught, my parents would sit us down and talk with us because there was usually an “us” when I got into trouble. Mostly the “us” was me and my little sister. Sometimes they talked angrily at us. Daddy raised his voice wondering why we would put ourselves in these foolish and sometimes dangerous predicaments. Even so, it was always done in love.

I never doubted that. Ever.

I realized pretty early into my troubled days the fun of it wasn’t worth the hurt and disappointment I caused my parents. I loved them and wanted to make them proud.

How did they do that?  How did they make me care about honoring them and making them proud?  I’m not sure.

But I remember the day I was stung by seven yellow jackets.

And I remember I could have avoided it if only I had listened to Daddy.

1-2 Listen, friends, to some fatherly advice;
    sit up and take notice so you’ll know how to live.
I’m giving you good counsel;
    don’t let it go in one ear and out the other.    Proverbs 4:1-2 (MSG)

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  1. Scott on July 22, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Scott's Place.

  2. Scott on July 22, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Nicely written. Good advice that will probably be ignored. 🙂

  3. championsforwellness on July 23, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I loved this post 🙂 perhaps it was because I also grew up in a farming family and the mere mention of a barn will always stir up some nostalgia in me. Those moments where we know we have displeased our parents … they sure do stick with us. I recall screwing up really bad. REALLY bad. I am thankful my parents chose the “respond with love” route versus the alternative! Now, being a parent myself, I can look back on that moment and remember why that response was so important – and remind myself to choose that response in the future with my kids.

    • mariegriffith on July 23, 2015 at 10:51 am

      I’ve not always responded so lovingly but have learned that’s the better way. My teens, I have 3 of them, appreciate a loving, patient response much better than the alternative. I’ve learned more about myself and been changed in ways I could never have imagined by being a parent. I love it!

  4. Amy on July 23, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Something like that happened to my sister too. Great post.

  5. mariegriffith on July 23, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Thank you, Amy. Hard lessons are the ones that stick.

  6. Cathy Lynn Brooks on July 31, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Love this!

    • mariegriffith on July 31, 2015 at 9:41 am

      Thank you Cathy. I’m glad I learned that lesson early on.

  7. Patrick M. Faller on March 25, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    The barn looms large in the photograph — just as it seems to loom large in your memory. There’s power in the way you focus in on the blanket being flung away, and the wasps swarming around you almost immediately afterward. to connect this early experience to the experiences you and your sister shared later when being reprimanded really raises the significance of the image of the edge of the barn you’ve placed front-and-center at the head of the post. Thanks for sharing. Thanks, too, for writing a photo essay. I learned a lot about the power a post like this has to convey layers of meaning. Gives me courage to continue writing my own photo essays.

    • mariegriffith on March 25, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Patrick, your comments mean a lot. I’ve seen your essays and they’re powerful and beautiful. Thank you.

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