I dropped in on my cousin Kathy for a visit. I found her in her garden and she gave me a tour. Her garden is very intuitive. She moves plants where she believes they’ll thrive. Some are seeds from family or friends.
She grows enough food for herself and shares with many in the Pieper clan. That day she was baking a couple of pies for the family gathering and putting a couple in the freezer. I was jealous of her space, and not jealous because I know how much work it entails.
In my mind Stuart, Iowa is mecca for #Pieperfest14. Our cousins live in West Des Moines, Pella, Waukee and Decorah; however, Great-Grandma Pieper lived in Stuart (technically Dexter) so it is where all roads lead. Just off of Interstate 80, it is easy to reach.
Cousins Leo and Geri bought Grandma’s place and remodeled it. We can still find many traces of Grandma’s simple life in the pitch of a roof, or the lilac bushes in the yard. It is not hard to find, yet our gracious cousins met us at the Americinn where we dropped our bags and had us follow them out there. We enjoyed a big steak feed, toured the old home place and looked at Geri’s homemade quilts.
The next day we had our first relaxed morning and went into Stuart to take pictures of the former bank where Bonnie and Clyde robbed the bank. Later at Marty and Sandy’s lunch, Cousin Bob told me how late Uncle Marvin unknowingly pulled Bonnie and Clyde’s car out of a ditch, and where in Dexter many of the gang were killed in a shootout. Jesse James’ gang also raised a ruckus in these parts.
We had a great time catching up with various cousins including Mary who always was so sweet to me when I was little. Jeanette and some others went to the cemetery in Anita.
We all ended the day around the fire in the fireplace at Marty and Sandy’s. Everyone was just enjoying one another’s company and no one was in a hurry to go home.
My aunt Jeanette and I are in Iowa to visit the land of our fathers. I have not been to Iowa in over 40 years. And Jeanette has not been back since 1969. The cousins have been out to visit California in between and kept up regular Christmas card correspondence with Auntie.
So we are on a family adventure., hence Pieper-fest. We flew to Des Moines (via Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines). Our itinerary includes Decorah, Bondurant, and Stuart. We are also going to find the Bridges of Madison County.
I am excited to get to know my cousins better and to experience large family gatherings. We are a small nucleus centered in Sonoma County, California. My mom is an only child and much younger than her cousins and my 2 aunties have small families too.
My dad is missing in action. We do not know his whereabouts in heaven or on earth. So going to Iowa also stirs up a lot of other feelings—some are quite stressful. I know his choices have nothing to do with me and yet I do sometimes feel really pissed off at him for cutting us out of his life. I can say “his loss” for missing out on his terrific grandchildren’s lives, still it does not paper over the hurt. My cousin Paul went right to the heart of the subject and I found it easier to talk about than expected.
This trip is about connecting and reclaiming the Positive in Pieper. I met up with Lori, Annette and Kathy in June at Auntie J’s. I am quickly learning that all seven of Marvin and Ailene’s children are jokesters. I have already colluded on pulling legs.
We have eaten more carbs in a few days than we have in a month at home (it is all delicious: cheesy potatoes, corn, macaroni and cheese). We have seen beautiful sunsets, old fashioned windmills, corn and soybeans ready to harvest and more.
The best part of Iowa is the people. My cousins are lovely and funny people. And every stranger we have met so far has been outrageously friendly. We stopped in Bondurant to see Auntie Jeanette’s childhood home and the current occupants were not home. Their beautiful white German shepherd let us leave a note and the homeowners called us later that day. They were excited to talk to Jeanette and learn more about the farm. Auntie J was really moved.
Watch for upcoming posts on Decorah and Stuart. We are having a terrific adventure.