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father and son standing in field

What’s normal in a farm family?

Home Front: A trip to the ballfield yields good memories — and a realization that normal isn’t normal for everyone.

Have you ever considered the fact that when you get married, you bring into the relationship one set of “normal” and your spouse typically contributes a different “normal”? If you’re married, I bet you know exactly what I’m saying.

As a child, my normal was living in town with neighbors on all sides. My dad went to work and came home at about the same time each day, and unless the weather was nasty, I walked to elementary school with my best friend and next-door neighbor. 

I grew up on the farm, and my dad’s schedule (and mine as his helper) varied from season to season. It was additionally determined by the responsibility of our current livestock. We didn’t have neighbors who lived close by, and most of the time the school bus was my morning transportation.

Kendra and I both knew those differences existed when we first met, but it was after we’d been married for about 20 years and were the parents of three sons that I discovered Kendra was not normal.

Let me try to explain the circumstances surrounding John’s eye-opening discovery. All three of our sons like sports, and for whatever reason, the youngest one has been an avid baseball fan since I can remember. If my memory serves me right, it was his passion for the game that landed us at Wrigley Field years ago, one beautiful day in late August.

The game was going well, with the Cubs in the lead as the venders started their rounds. I can still hear the guy yelling, “Pop, soda pop, get your ice-cold soda pop!” I was a little bit thirsty, and a little bit bored, and I looked over at the boys and asked, “Do you want something to drink?” All three nodded yes, and then I turned to John. “How about you?” As he shook his head “no,” he looked at me as if I were an alien — a look I easily managed to ignore.

That purchase was followed by the purchase of hot dogs for the boys and for me and, again, nothing for John. Oh yes, and the offer of a souvenir.

All I could think was “Who is this woman I married? She has always been frugal and sensible with money. What in the world has possessed her? She is not normal!”

I held in my anger and confusion until the we got into the car, and then I cut loose. “If someone wants to eat a hot dog, he can have one when we get home! No sensible person buys food at the ballpark!”

My rant didn’t seem to bother Kendra. But she did explain, in a very loud voice and an unmistakably justified tone, that her dad always got her food and a souvenir on outings. That was her normal.

Both of us were obviously angry with one another, and then, suddenly, I had a “Mother Moment.” That’s when you unrealistically imagine that what you’re saying or doing is scarring your kids for life. I turned around to address the boys who were sitting in the backseat only to discover all three of them laughing their heads off. No scarring there — just the creation of what they would, in the future, consider a hilarious memory.

Their laughter made me laugh, too. I guess the truth is that no one in our family is “normal,” and that makes us real.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn. Email, or visit

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