Even on your own, it’s still all in the family

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. I truly enjoy the cold biting at my nose, frostbite nipping at my toes and all the snow. I’m like a 5-year-old kid when the weather forecaster predicts snow! I’m an anomaly and I’ve learned to just embrace and accept it; it’s part of why I live in northeast Ohio.

So recently (Oct. 31), I bought a home. It is a huge step for me but a needed-to step. I lived alone for a long time in State College and it was an interesting transition to move back home and live with my mom. I love her dearly and I cherish the time we have spent together, but I needed to get out on my own. My house isn’t all that far away, though. I’m about two miles from her house and directly across the street from our farm.

In a way, my close-knit community helped me to purchase my first home. My grandfather built his house in 1950, two years before he married my grandmother.  It is a good, sturdy, 1950’s home and the walls have seen three generations of Letwens /Clemsons grow up. It has provided laughter, absorbed tears and housed the gamut of emotions that come with families. Prior to marrying my grandfather, my grandmother had attended school with a young lady named Bernice McPherson. Bernice was three years older than my grandmother but they became fast friends until death would separate them.

Bernice met her husband, Kenny, in high school. Kenny was older than Bernice; he had already graduated and was serving in the army. Kenny was best friends with my grandfather’s brother, Ted, and the three were constantly found hanging around together. Kenny and Bernice were married and built a home in 1947 using logs that Kenny cut down from the land where Mosquito Creek Reservoir is now. Well, when my grandmother married my grandfather and moved in, it just so happened that Bernice and Kenny lived across the street.

Throughout the years, Bernice and my grandmother stayed friends. Kenny died in his 70s of leukemia and life continued. For years, Bernice ran a beauty shop out of her home with the famous sign, “I cut, curl up and dye for you” hanging on her front tree. Long after she retired, my mother took me to have my ears pierced in Bernice’s old beauty parlor since Bernice had pierced my mother’s ears. It was like a family tradition.

Unfortunately, in 2012, Bernice passed away somewhat unexpectedly. My family was devastated and it would be odd to look over at the yellow house and not see a hand waving out the window or hear a little white poodle yip.

Eventually, Bernice’s son, Tim, and his wife, Vicki, moved into the home, updating and remodeling it. This pas summer, Tim and Vicki decided that they had had enough of the snow and cold. In addition, their children had settled in the nice warm state of Arizona and there were adorable grandchildren that needed to be spoiled. When I mentioned that I was looking to purchase a home, Tim and Vicki were thrilled. I purchased Bernice and Kenny’s home and on the evening that they moved out, Vicki and Tim told me that they were thrilled it was now mine because it felt like they were keeping the home in the family. I have never been more touched by such humble words.

Even now, as word has spread, family friends and old-timers have pitched in to help me furnish and work on my new home. I am so blessed for these people and to be surrounded by a community that is so welcoming. Mrs. Olgibee donated her beautiful Christmas tree so that I have my first full-sized Christmas tree in my new home. So many others have beeped, honked, stopped by or even just welcomed me back to the community that it is finally starting to feel like home again.

So as the most wonderful time of year comes around, I would like to send out my own sincerest gratitude and warm wishes. To all of you that stop your busy days and take a moment to read my column, thank you. It has been a true pleasure to write this column and I look forward to next year when I can regale you with more tales about growing up on the farm. It is my sincerest wish that all of you have the best Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or other holidays you celebrate (or even if you don’t celebrate any). Just remember, part of what make this time of year so special is thinking about and doing things for others, just as so many have done for me this year. So may you have the happiest of holidays and a fantastic and safe New Year.

Submitted by Christen Clemson, a Trumbull County Farm Bureau member. She earned her doctorate from the Pennsylvania State University and farms with her family in Mecca Township.