By Leila Philip

One woman's trip to discover her family's background and comprehend the binds that bind us to a specific place..

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Extra resources for A Family Place: A Hudson Valley Farm, Three Centuries, Five Wars, One Family (Excelsior Editions)

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But that had been three days ago. I still had not opened the closet doors. Instead I cleaned the kitchen, weeded the flower beds and washed the dogs, who had rolled on a dead woodchuck. A thick, humid heat spread over the land, over me. Each evening I walked out into the cooling rows of trees with the dogs. Animals that we did not usually see appeared like omens at unexpected moments. Along the leafy tunnel of the railroad bed, we came upon a snapping turtle so large that at first I thought it was an abandoned tire that someone had flung onto the road.

But it was worse not to. The fact that our dilemma stemmed from great privilege only made it feel worse. ] 43 Yesterday’s Harvest I had come up with a plan. Maybe I couldn’t change the dismal economics of small farms in the Hudson Valley. Maybe I could not prevent the strange paralysis that came over my brothers and sister and me when we tried to think about Talavera’s future. But I could find out about Talavera’s past, that elusive force driving us forward. Yesterday’s Harvest. I wanted to find out exactly who had lived at Talavera and when and what their lives had been like there.

That was our inheritance: this history, our sense of place, Talavera and all its glamour. Certainly Judge William W. Van Ness, who had built the house, had been both eminent and rich. But that was so long ago. What of the family since then? What of the family aunts, women like my great-aunt Bessie, who had fled Talavera? What of us? If we were poor when we appeared rich, couldn’t this grand elusive past be bankrupt as well? I hated thinking such things, as if I were betraying my father even to ask such questions.

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