Birthright…what are we really entitled to?


The last vestige of my parent’s estate is in the process of being sold. The decision of we three siblings to sell a parcel of land is a finale of sorts as we will finalize a family’s generational ownership of this property. Our mom grew up on the property as did we. The family homes have been sold over the years since our parents’ passing leaving the land as our remaining real estate holding. Land that holds the history of many before us in a once predominantly rural New England farming town. Dairy farming flourished in our neighborhood but that too has passed. The dirt road I grew up on has long since been paved as change is a constant. 

There can be poetry in new beginnings however. Dreams being actualized, cherished memories yet to be made and an unfolding history of a different generation will soon be in the offing. Deciding to sell the land brought forth different thoughts and memories for each one of us. For me summertime daydreaming was often intertwined with this acreage. Hours spent imagining great adventures while running freely around the field where the hay organically grew taller than my young knees.  As a child I played, ran, built makeshift forts in apple trees with my brother that lasted far longer than our occupancy. In later childhood years I owned and rode horses imagining the open plains of the west. The field was a blank canvas for imagination. Freedom. Childhood. Memories for a lifetime.

When my mother was growing up and in her very early years my great uncle had a chicken farm on the land. The Hurricane of 1938 made short order of the coops, the inhabitants and his livelihood. Will the new owners know this history? Will they wonder why their boots occasionally pick up a bit of foundation rubble as they plan their new home? There is barely a reminder of what was once there, but the history is as rich as the soil to which they will now build upon.  

As I reviewed our current sale agreement, I couldn’t help but wonder what the original cost and agreement looked like since the original sale was a number of generations ago. A time when the world and agreements were much more straight forward especially amongst rural neighbors. Possibly a gentlemen’s agreement. Foundations were once built upon employing equal measures of trust and field stones.  A simple handshake, natural unmarked boundary lines and some form of barter could have rounded out the deal. Now, sales are detailed and finely documented, while both parties are represented by realtors and lawyers. Trust has been moved to the back seat and legal protection now drives us. Change.

I can’t help but wonder if I have not sold my birthright along with the land? Has my voice now been silenced based on geography? Have my rights been archived in the soil of my childhood? Recent happenings in my relatively new home state have made me wonder quite a bit about the perceived privilege of birthrights. 

My small remote town is currently in the throngs of a hotly contested election for select board. In an effort to have a platform for each of the candidates to speak during a pandemic a zoom call was organized by a group of interested citizens. A candidates’ forum. My head begins to ache as I type the words since the birds began to circle as soon as the email was sent announcing the public forum. A rapid-fire ping pong game of “he said she said” exploded. Newcomers pulled the sheets up tightly under their chins waiting for the fireworks to stop. The virtual forum went off as scheduled and our moderator did a phenomenal job of keeping all participants on message. As each candidate spoke and introduced themself the common thread and denominator was the jockeying for position of how long they had lived in town. Extra points for those born in town. Birthright. 

                  Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations. -Faith Baldwin

Author: Elizabeth Ricketson

A graduate of Providence College with a BA in English, Elizabeth Ricketson has always had a love of literature and the fine arts. Elizabeth’s essays focus on life experiences and life in Vermont.

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