Life at Mill Bank Farms

My life with a house

My therapist in New York City explained CHANGE to me this way: “Change is dreaded by pretty much EVERYONE! The only people that like change are babies with dirty diapers!” And that my friends has gotten me through those moments in life when you feel like you’re giving the amusement park ticket taker your dollar to ride a scary tilty-whirl. The thought that monopolizes your brain right as they buckle you in: “What if I die?” Well that is pretty much that stomach-flipping feeling I approach most new experiences with. Especially major things, like let’s say, moving.  Now, most people would say, “YOU? You are THE most adventurous soul I know! I mean you moved to New York City at such a young age….all by yourself!”


kit and BVM

Okay I do have pat myself on the back and brag a tiny bit: I moved to New York City June 6, 1986 with $500 and suitcase. I landed at Laguardia Airport with a huge and ugly piece of Walmart luggage that held all of my earthly belongings. My mama stayed up until 2 am packing that gargantuan piece of vinyl (sans wheels I might add) . Both Mama and Daddy, and my college boyfriend, Brett, took me to MSY-New Orleans and sent me off on the new chapter of my life. Mama told me “please don’t bring home a Yankee boy.” Daddy hugged me and said, “Don’t pick your nose, and don’t take any wooden nickels. AND DON’T expect ME to come and visit.” Brett and I had a teary farewell because I think we both knew deep-down that it was THE goodbye. Off I went, crying most of the way, feeling like I had made a terrible mistake.

Well, here’s the short “end of that story”:  I lasted 17 wonderful years in New York City. Brett and I did part ways. Daddy did come to NYC and visited me, and he had a glorious time in spite of his reticence to like the Big Apple. I did bring home a Yankee boy, Karl,  and as my mom said at our wedding (in NYC no less) “not only did she bring home a Yankee; she brought home a Yankee Jew.” Yup. She did. She really said that.

But the point is I changed, I grew, I lived. I had the most incredible experiences during my tenure in New York and I had no plans of leaving. But life, ah life, and its  twists and turns somehow landed me back to square one, Mill Bank Farms, my original home. I honestly did not ever dream I would be back here in Louisiana living on my family farm.

I turned forty right after we moved to Covington, LA. I had it in my “plan” that I was going to celebrate 40 in Paris, France. Instead I celebrated it at the farm with a french themed party. During the toast  I said that for my 50th birthday I wanted to go to Italy. Instead we went to Jackson, MS and had a forgettable Italian meal. I have learned that life really does happen while you’re busy making other plans, and most of those happenings are certainly not what YOU planned.

frost quote

We moved here for a myriad of reasons, the main one being to care for my mom who had just been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. The prognosis was 3-5 years and she miraculously lived for almost 8 more years post-diagnosis. One day after a classic Karl-Katie argument he made the snarky remark, “I thought she only had three years, it’s been six!”

After Mama died, we endured a four year period of dealing with the Estate of Catherine P. Friedrichs and the fall-out due to sibling rivalry. As we approach the five year anniversary of Mama’s passing, we are in the midst of more change and subsequent growth. We have decided it’s time to sell Mill Bank Farms, the home my grandparents purchased circa 1908. The decision has been difficult and one made over the course what seems like my lifetime accompanied with sincere prayer and discernment. I think the final decision came to me on an afternoon when I was home alone, sitting on my bed, watching from my bedroom window birds fly from pecan to oak tree. Two mourning doves landed in the backyard and reminded me of my parents. It’s a silly idea I came up with after my Daddy’s death many years before when I still lived in New York.

farm with sunlight

One morning right after I returned back to the city from my Dad’s funeral, a bird sat on the sill of my bedroom window and cooed that familiar dove song.  He walked back and forth as if he had been watching me sleep since sunrise. I knew the bird was a “morning dove” because my father, the quintessential biologist, had taught me how to identify birds. I jumped up to dig his bird watching catalogue out of my suitcase. The voyeur was indeed a dove but the correct name was Mourning not morning.

Since Mama’s death I have seen two mourning doves either on the front fence at the beginning of the day or greeting me hello as I drove into the Abbey for work. Now, they were sitting in my back yard as if they were angels watching over me.  I felt a peacefulness at each encounter with this fowl duo because not only did it remind me of my parents” love for me but I interpreted it as a heavenly sign.  Karl and I were at a crossroads of trying to figure out the next step in our lives with work, Harris’ school and other decisions. I got up and walked outside. When I turned and looked at our farmhouse I was struck with its size, much too large for three people.

About the same time, my friend and his wife who run a Catholic ministry for teens had told me about their search for property on the northshore.  All of a sudden it dawned on me that I needed to offer our property to my friend. That decision has led to many more “happenings” that I truly believe are providential for our little trio.  So what’s next? Well, we are in the middle of the process of purging our stuff, moving where we lay our head at night and basically learning slowly to let go.

My dear family friend called me from New York and asked, “Are you moving or not?” I explained that we are but not in the traditional way you pack it all up, load a moving van and leave straight away kind of move. We are moving toward our next phase but it’s slow and gentle. It’s peaceful. I think God knows that as I slowly ease my way away from our farm the final goodbye will be less tearful and traumatic, the antithesis to that sorrowful goodbye with my college boyfriend many years before. I think the Lord knows how He has to handle me, and the very delicate situation of releasing a big part of who I am, and my life with this house. He has brought me the perfect stewards and we are all three– hubby, son and me–  on board to truly follow His Will. On that day, when we drive down that familiar rocky lane to our future those mourning doves will call their familiar woo-OO-oo-oo as if they are saying: go on.




2 thoughts on “My life with a house”

  1. St. Kippy,

    Glad to see you back online, though I’m sure the subject matter must be difficult to say the least. But, as always, you’ve got it all together with your boys’ love and support, you’ll do what you have to do with the same grace you’ve done everything else with. It’ll be just another step down the path you were meant to take.

    St. Vincent

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