I’ve been attracted to barns for years. Where we live, there are plenty of achingly beautiful barns, some just barely standing, all wind-worn and faded and whispering history. I imagine them as grand debutantes, then taking their place as hard-working contributors to the kind of small farming many of us have recently come to appreciate again.
I have a few favorites: one near my daughter’s school, one on the way to swim class at the Y, one wholly abandoned. A few years ago I heard about the dedication of the Nakashima Barn Trailhead on the Centennial Trail. The Centennial Trail has been a family favorite since our before-kid days, when my husband and I used to go there to stroll together and talk. The trail was there for me during the stresses of law school, and it was one of the first outdoor places I ventured to after my twins were born. We still use the trail often.
My daughter and I visited the Nakashima Barn on one of those afternoons when time gave us the chance for just one quick adventure. Between errands, waiting for school to let out for one, I decided to forego one more stop and go for a walk with my little girl. I love one-on-one time to hear what my kids are thinking about, and nothing else gives kids the room to open up and express themselves like a walk outside.
It was cold and bright when we visited. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. It was silent, the kind of silence that feels thick, like you’re floating. Then the silence was pierced by passing cars and logging trucks. So we kept walking.
My daughter loved the barn. Like many preschoolers, farms and animals are familiar to her because they’re the perfect context for early learning. Plus, I just think the simplicity of traditional farming life appeals to kids and makes sense to them – every living thing has a job to do and every contribution is important. What I didn’t plan for, and what I found the most valuable part of our visit, was her reaction to the Nakashima family’s WWII internment story.
Like most Americans, my twins are a beautiful mix of cultural heritages. They’re 4 years old, so a lot of the things adults do don’t make sense to them. I’m glad for that.
I tried to simplify what internment means. It isn’t an easy story to tell, the kind of wrong that happens on all sides during a war. I wasn’t making much sense to her until she got to put it into her own words. Here they are:
“They took the farmer’s barn away. That’s not nice. The animals cried because they miss him.”
We walked the trail near the barn and enjoyed the wooded path, although I’ve always liked the wide-open paved parts of the Centennial Trail, too. My daughter followed the birds down the path, stopping often to look back at the barn. She was especially quiet, not like her, until finally we had to go.
Days later, she still asks me to tell her the story of the farmer and the barn. My daughter has a beautiful clarity in her convictions and the kind of strength in her beliefs that makes me excited to see the grown-up she’ll become. I’m glad we made the time to visit the Nakashima Barn, and I’m glad for the quiet walk outside to think about it.
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