The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the term ‘wingman’ is the beloved Goose from the movie Top Gun. Two scenes from that movie really stick out to me…the one where Goose dies (tragic) and the volleyball scene (fabulous)…which I watched over and over with my BFF Darlene…with our eyes laser focused on Slider, in particular.
Not sure how the young’uns define ‘wingman’ these days…surely not as we ‘boomers’ do – but I’ve seen evidence of them all around southwest Wisconsin. The Amish may not be aware that I would consider their children their ‘wingmen’ – English farmers’ children as well. And the situation is not isolated to farming…if you have kids who are all in and getting more and more involved in your household or in your family business(es), you are blessed with a wingman (or two or ten).
Doing business with our Amish neighbors is when I first noticed what happens when the wingmen (usually females) move into adulthood and start to blaze their own trail. The number of services they offered from their homestead seemed infinite: crop sales, organic egg production, meat production, butchering (or, ‘dispatching’ if that makes you feel better about it), cabinet making, bakery sales and the list goes on. Then the daughters – the wingmen – began to fly the coop; first bakery sales ceased, then strawberry production, then butchering became limited.
The massive shift in my neighbor’s businesses and lives helped me to realize that, due to COVID-19, I was blessed with another year with my wingman, yet her ‘off to college’ experience will never be what we had hoped. In that ‘bonus’ year we went full throttle…I was laid off by my employer (thank you, UW System, for one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given – to love you and to leave you – sincerely)…both kids were home and we were sheltering a third. It was game on…campsites went live, buildings were painted, roofing replaced, a mural was painted on one barn and another was transformed into a vintage shop and bakery.
Just before Labor Day, Holland, my wingman, reluctantly left the empire she helped to build to become a resident of Madison and an on-campus student of UW-Madison. So many changes for her having grown up in a place so beautifully isolated with the nearest town 15 minutes away by car, having attended a K-12 school with a graduating class of 26 students! With that, the awkward silence in the house…no more Holland coming to greet me in the pasture in the mornings while I’m doing chores…no more spectacular baked goods in the house or in the vintage shop…no more co-host of our multiple Airbnb rentals…no more runner to the farmer on the ridge for eggs when we run low. Well, no more for now…but we look forward to May 2022 and her return, to her hugs, and to hear her singing as she goes about her day. We also realize that the summer of 2022 could very well be her last at the farm. So, we adjust on this end and do everything we can to help her thrive in another amazing place and the one after that and the one after that.
Today our wingman comes back to the farm for the first time in two whole weeks…to hang with the boomers, get lots of hugs, get some loving from the dogs, Marco and Polo, and from Chips the alpaca, but mostly because we put out an S.O.S. to help us stack this winter’s firewood that is still in a heap on the lawn. Because some parts of country life can’t be put on pause when the wingman departs.