Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tractor Dreams

I dream of tractors.

I grew up on a small apple farm where a tractor is a piece of the scenery. On weekends, I would toss apples into Dad's hand-made cider-press and I would zoom about on Dad's make-shift tractor.

I drove the tractor without incident until my younger brother grew taller than me. That Spring, Mom was shaken by a premonition that the tractor would mysteriously blow up on me. My safety was at stake, it seemed, when it had never been at stake before. Suddenly, I was much too precious to drive the tractor.

I disagreed. I struggled with my big-little-brother to claim the coveted driver's seat, but my battle was short-lived. Soon after, Dad purchased a larger tractor, a royal blue monster on wheels, and since I was fairly small (and wasn't getting any bigger), I couldn't reach the pedals.

That was that. I had been downsized. Man-made machinery had grown too big for a girl like me. I was sent away from the orchard, trees and greenery, and relegated to indoor, claustrophobic housework.

So you ask, "Why would you even want to drive a tractor?"

And I understand that most people don't see Tractor-Deprivation as tragic. It's not, of course, even remotely related to anything like tragedy, but the end of my tractor-driving days marked the end of an important period in my life; a time when I got to be my father's apprentice; a time before gender dictated my duties.

Also, driving a tractor is an exhilarating experience. You're not forced to follow some well-marked road, but flying over grass, across acres, with the sun overhead and the wind whirling around you. You strike your own course; you navigate around trees and bushes with your own self-made map. You are powerful.

So I ask all writers out there to let us girls steer tractors (or spaceships, if you prefer) on the page - if we can't here - because we ride them in our dreams.

12 repartee:

Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

That is a very moving piece Frankengirl. That division of gender roles still continues to exist in even the most "liberal" of situations.
I too have some memories from childhood similar this one. In my case, I was not allowed to continue playing sports just because it did not look "proper"
It did feel like freedom was stripped away from me, although back then I just had to accept it.

I wonder though...have you found that you've got your freedom back? Have things changed for you now that you are older? Do the forces that take away your freedom (whatever they maybe)still exist?

1/17/2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

mysticgypsy, thanks for your wonderful comment! :)

Well, American women can get a lot of flack when talking about "lost freedoms" since other countries still deny basic rights to our sex. So, over here, we're often told we're "lucky" to live as we do and we should be "grateful" for all we have. I don't believe I'm just "lucky," though. I think a lot of women worked really, really, really hard for the freedoms I enjoy today, and that's not luck, is it? But the sweat and tears of those who came before me. I'm grateful to them! :D

Also, I think there are silent and subtle battles for liberty going on right under our nose - daily quests for freedom of spirit and soul (which I believe you talk about on your blog!) - struggles for independence and autonomy - a constant quest to break away from what we are told is right and uncover what we believe to be true (oh, Jane, come quickly, light our way!).

I do think it can be dangerous just to accept "what is." There would be no exploration, no invention, no real art, if we did this. But we can't always be butting our heads against walls either - aaaagh! A part of growing up, at least for me, seems to be facing the limitations of self and society, and then, figuring out how to get around those limitations!!! :P

1/17/2006 3:55 PM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

Yes, I agree with you. It seems like we have to constantly question ourselves, whether in comfort or despair. Nothing can be taken for granted, as you said, because even the freedom women here enjoy was fought for by women before us. I suppose then that the real struggle is between the need to question and the need to accept things as they are. Sometimes I find that not question certain things will make me happier but in the back of my mind, I know those questions exist so I am never at peace until I have resolved them....freedom comes as each question is resolved. Since questions never end, the quest for freedom is never-ending.

In your post, I especially liked the sentence "I grew up on a small apple farm where the tractor is a piece of the scenery". Besides the tractor,which is a symbol of freedom, the farm also suggests vast areas of space (freedom on land). By adding the word "scenery", we realize just how important freedom is to each of us. Without scenery, there is no picture. Without a picture, there is no life.

1/17/2006 6:58 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

I really like how you write about the correlation between not-questioning and happiness, because it does seem that way. Yet, unresolved issues seem to pop out at us later on, if we bury them now. So I think it's a temporary happiness. But all happiness is temporary, eh? :P

Hmm, we may be entering Zen territory here - ;) Zen fascinates me, because I think it deals with these issues of acceptance without submission. Questioning without judging ourselves or the answers. It seems such a delicate balance. Anger can stir and drive activism. Yet, anger can also drive people downwards. So ... how to be passionate about something, without becoming consumed by our passion?

And most importantly! Still properly adore Rochy and romp with Anne in the wood! :D

1/18/2006 9:56 AM  
Blogger mysticgypsy wrote...

hmm...Zen is indeed interesting.....
but I'd prefer being passionate to not being so..(perhaps the trick lies in just finding that elusive(?) balance..)

1/18/2006 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Holly wrote...

Very cool post.

I didn't grow up on a farm, but I grew up in a farming community. Boys were driving tractors and combines and other giant farm equipment(huge beasts all, with enclosed, air-conditioned cabs and tape players) by the time they were 12. Many of them got trucks for their 15th birthdays, despite the fact that the legal driving age was 16. But the cops never stopped the farmers' sons when they were driving around without a license....

My grandfather was a cowboy and kept an ancient old tractor so he could.... well, I don't know what he did with it, because he didn't do much planting. But I do know that sitting in front of him as a little girl and pretending to "drive" that thing was pretty great. My siblings and cousins and I liked to climb on it and play farmer.

1/18/2006 10:24 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

"I'd prefer being passionate to not being so.."

I think Jane will side with you on that one! (hehe) Which is why I love her so - ;)

1/18/2006 10:27 AM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

:) Hi, Holly, thanks!

Yes! I'm all-too-familiar with that whole boys-will-be-boys (cops looking the other way) thing. Like the surveillance camera switched off for them, while an extra-duty, ultra-special lens focused on the girls.

I like how your grandfather kept that ancient old tractor so he could ... hmmm, hold onto a symbol of his virility - ;)

1/18/2006 10:48 AM  
Blogger actonbell wrote...

Bravo! Beautiful piece. I could feel the fresh air and the sun on my face as I read it.

Thank you for visiting, btw:)

1/18/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Thanks, actonbell!

I'm glad you picked Anne's pseudonym, btw - ;)

1/19/2006 9:06 PM  
Blogger Skip wrote...

You may drive my tractor anytime you are near New Haven.

3/09/2006 6:51 PM  
Blogger frankengirl wrote...

Thanks, Skip - :)

3/09/2006 7:02 PM  

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