Stacy Ward with truck bug guard
CHRISTMAS BLAHS: It was hard for my husband, Stacy, to be excited over his truck bug guard gift Christmas morning. There were no family members oohing and aahing, like at home. We were alone for the holidays.

Farm life didn’t prepare me for holidays alone

Help farm kids get through the holidays away from family and farm.

Resting in my recliner, I motioned for my husband to open his present. I strained to see over my belly as he unveiled a new bug guard for the truck. I was 9 months pregnant with our first child, 14 hours away from family, in a snowstorm, celebrating our first holiday alone.

Agriculture took us on an adventure to another state, but it did not prepare us for spending holiday seasons off the farm. After all, at the core of rural life is faith, friends and family.

People travel long distances to return to the farm for holiday gatherings. They surround tables sharing laughter, stories and sometimes songs. But during the winter of 1993, there was no farm, no family, no fun.

We moved to a new home and did not yet have truly good friends in Minnesota — those would come a year later. Snow and cold kept me from venturing outdoors. My doctor advised against travel. We could not make it to Missouri for Christmas.

That year, dinner was not the elaborate feast with bone-in ham, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, dinner rolls and apple pie. It was downsized. All of the smells lingered in our home — but without extended family fighting for the last roll, it seemed like any other day. I had to find joy.

FINDING JOY: There are ways to celebrate the holidays even far from the family farm. This was hard for me to see that first Christmas in Minnesota, when I was pregnant. But expecting our first child that next month made me glad — and so did the presents sent by family and friends.

There was one thing — knowing that in just one month, we could look forward to sharing the next holiday season with our new baby.

For 23 years, we celebrated with that little girl. Then came the realization — that little girl may not make it to every holiday at the farm.

Like us, agriculture took her and her husband from their home state — eight hours away. One day, she may face her first holiday alone. I do not want her to be ill-prepared. So here are a few tips for getting through the holiday season away from the family farm:

1. Steal the pie pan. OK, borrow your mom’s pie pan, mashed potato bowl or salad dish. Otherwise, you would be on the naughty list. Better yet, moms, give your kids that favorite holiday ware. Nothing brings you closer to home that a meal served on a family heirloom.

2. Shop for supplies. There were times in Minnesota that the weather would not allow us to make it home or out of the drive. One year, instead of ham on Christmas Day, we had sandwiches. Make sure you stock up on food. A big holiday meal is good year-round.

3. Decorate the tree. I’ll admit there were times we did not bother putting up a tree because we just knew we were going to be home in Missouri. Those “Charlie Brown” trees from the grove just don’t hold ornaments. Take time to get a tree and decorate it. Parents, give your children a few of their ornaments — some years, those may be the only ones they have.

4. Facetime friends and family. Your generation is able to be present even without being there. Simply call and set the phone on the table. Then you can eat and converse with friends and family. Just no fighting over rolls — cellphones are expensive to replace

5. Celebrate your family. Too often, during the holiday season we stress about family get-togethers. We worry about letting others down if we don’t show up. Realize that you have created a family. It is OK to enjoy and celebrate that new unit. After all, family makes the farm — no matter the size.

Here’s hoping you never need this list. May all of your family gather at the farm this holiday season.

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