And lastly . . . badminton. Badminton has been going on in our garage for three or four weeks now. Although the boys have played until well after dark on the weekends and filled many other hours with their new sport, I have never gone to see the game. I could not imagine a version of badminton in my garage that would elicit anything from me other than, no. Stop. Now. Looking the other way seemed the kindest policy, so I haven’t gone.
Yesterday, I saw my first robin. Others saw them earlier in the week, but today was my first. Spring is here. If badminton ends, nobody will die, so finally, I went to see for myself.
Girl one, from outside: Mom, we don’t have to worry about when Anabelle is having her calf anymore.
Me, not getting it: Why’s that?
Girl one: She already had it.
Me still not getting it: Are you sure?
Girl one pointing: Look
So very, very happy news. Anabelle pulled this off in twenty minutes. She was lying down pregnant when we drove in from seeing friends, and calf was out by the time we changed our clothes to go outside. All pictures are of few minutes old calf with very new mom. In case you can’t tell, we bred Miss mostly Charolais (pronounced Shar-lay) Anabelle with a Black Angus. And also in case you can’t tell, Black Angus cows can be the colour of night. Which would, by the way make an excellent name for the new calf, but it has been rejected. A few hours of political jockeying was followed by an intense hour of name discussions. We finally went to bed. Rejected names include: Joey, Pierre, Felix, Night, Knight, Prince, Sir Eliot, Tumnus, Obsidian, Space, Pupil, Burger, Burnt Marshmellow, and others. Under strong consideration are Buster and King, although there is a lobby going for a name we haven’t thought of yet as long as it isn’t Buster or King.
It’s March break here, so the kids are out of school. We are together at a lovely cottage on a lake (compliments of Nana’s thoughtful brother and his wife). After much cajoling the other afternoon, I agreed to join in a hide and seek game. The rules (according to them) were that no one could use their best spot until last, and I had to be it last. My husband was an easy mark to get in the game (although he showed a remarkable propensity for being found quickly so as to get back to his puzzle in between times). Boy two approached Nana (65 and lover of cross country skiing and all things outside), who was already making noises about “no thank you.”
“It’s ok if you don’t play,” he said, “crunching up small for Hide and Seek wouldn’t exactly be good on old joints.”
Girl one took the prize for best spot (with much proclaiming from Boy two that it had been his idea.) It really was a pretty impressive idea. I only found her because her siblings insisted on hanging around “to watch,” thereby telling me I was finally in the right area. After that, it was only because I heard her breathing. The shelves are about shoulder height off the ground in a tidy closet. There’s a better picture below in case you didn’t see her before. Her head is sideways. You can see one eye, her hair, and just barely an ear at the top. We hauled down Nana, old joints and all, to check out her hiding spot.
I am not a picture person. I don’t naturally reach for a picture or ask to see pictures of other people’s children. Most of all, I am uncomfortable with pictures of myself. I have grown up enough not to hide when people take pictures of a group. (Maturity aided by hurt feelings of more than one event where I spent time wondering why no one included me in any of the pictures only to realize that someone had been me.) Despite growth, I have been reluctant to post a picture and my minor forays into electronic communication never include a tidy little avatar, real or sketched.
Read the words, I want to yell. Who cares about a picture? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to only know my voice? Pick whatever height, weight, skin, hair, face that pleases your imagination. I’ve told you I’m a woman, are imaginations so challenged of late that the rest fails to be adequately filled in as it suits?
Sometimes I like to see the picture of an author at the back of the book, sometimes I think it ruins it and I would have rather kept them exactly as I had them in my mind. Apparently, my views are not widely shared. A picture is not requested but required to even submit some other writing that I’ve done. Sigh. Procrastinate. Wonder if failed imaginations will rejoice if I have myself photographed in my lucky writing shirt, a blue plaid flannel? Somehow I know this is a bad idea.
I beg my friend to meet me at a nature sanctuary near her house with a camera. At least outside I don’t have to figure out what to wear. We spend exactly 5 minutes at the photo shoot. Me with navy coat and red hood showing, Me with just navy coat, Me with just sweatshirt. Despite cold fingers, my friend graciously offers to shoot more. I pretend to look around for another location for 3 more minutes and then pronounce the shoot finished. I can’t take any more of the pressure. Enough bending out where it feels a little dizzy. Time to get back down on the ground.
But which picture to pick? Requests for advice from six friends yielded almost as many responses. Luckily, many told me their second choice so I could at least manage a quorum. Final decision narrowed it to three. I’m sending one for my submission, using one for social media, and using the other for the About Me page.
This picture taking business has me thinking of my mother. She would have known exactly what she wanted for a picture and been content doing it for ages. She has no doubt come to peace with the fact that I never will. But she’s probably happy that I at least gave it a shot.
I am a blip on the screen in the only place I could ever say I came from, not a hometown girl. We lived there six years. A little space in the grand scheme of things, but the time it takes to go from age 12 to 18 is a whole lot longer than that.
At graduation, I was all about leaving. (I didn’t know how the place where you say goodbye to childhood sticks to you.) The town was an ailing general store and a post office, a railroad track down the middle, and ten or so houses, maybe fifteen. A mile up the road was a church. The school bus was an education in chewing tobacco, sibling beatings, pregnancy, and girl fights.
I don’t belong here, I used to tell myself. Yet if I wanted some place to claim me now, it’s the only place that even might.
In grade ten, we had a writing class led by an eccentric teacher in her sixties, a writer herself. Outside of music, it was the only creative water I was offered to drink during those years. The rest I had to find myself.
In the fall I reconnected with an old friend. I lived in the preacher’s house at the top of the hill twenty-five years ago. She lived closer to the general store. We rode the same bus and took some of the same classes. We sang together in choir, but otherwise, we had different circles of friends. We were friendly acquaintances with a similar appreciation for humor.
We both hurt, but we never talked about it. I cried myself to sleep at the top of the hill, too self absorbed to note the torrents and rivers of tears washing from her soul down at the bottom. We are talking now as we didn’t then. I am a writer. She is a painter, a photographer, and who knows what else. I’m not convinced she’s finished becoming all that she is.
The name of her site is a good enough introduction to her humor. If want to see art that is beautiful, thought provoking, sometimes funny, and sometimes sad, check out Wigglebutt Studios on Facebook. I recommend it whether or not you’re an art person, and especially if you are.
How we two came from the barren soil of that place, I have no idea, but we did. Maybe seeds from tiny town aren’t so unlikely. Maybe they’re lucky. I’m from the same place as Missy Friedl-Shipley, for heaven’s sake.
Ode to an Old Farm Girl
Oh the brand new is spanky and starts up real quick
Supposedly rarely in need of a fix
But the old’s not so bad, it feels good to drive
She might not be perfect but she does alright
I like my things real like the Velveteen rabbit
The old girl’s the one until she says she’s had it.
The husband, he dreams of snow blowing machines
But me, I’m in love with this tractor
It was hard to get a good picture of this tree. When I tried to show the whole tree you couldn’t see the fact it’s hanging in mid air. The kids would laugh if they were out walking with me and got to go on the path underneath it. (The oddest thing of all was that I couldn’t find a stump. I walked in circles trying to figure out how it got there with no results.)
Other oddities of late include:
Girl one plays school during the following times: after school, at school, and on weekends. She has notebooks of plans, treats for good students, games, and lessons in a constant state of readiness. When there is no one to play school with her, she does her prep work for when they might be available again.
Girl two is climbing walls now. Door frames to be exact. She takes off her shoes, grabs either side of the trim with her fingers, and starts climbing. She is especially fond of doing this near the kitchen. Right at the top with her head touching the ceiling, she calls to me while I’m cooking, “Can somebody help me? I think I’m starting to lose my grip.”
Boy two has developed a fascination with imitating the dog and gets himself giggling with delight. The dog lifts a paw, he lifts an arm. The dog stands up and walks in a circle. Ditto. The dog lies down, stretches and yawns. Repeat. “I’m practicing being Phil,” is his explanation. Boy two got extra large black glasses when he went to see The Hobbit in 3D. He popped out the lenses afterwards and declared himself Phil. After days and days of continuous glasses frame wearing, I have restricted them to Tuesdays and Fridays only. So, yes, today he will be wearing them to school and everyone will be calling him Phil all day, because as he explains, when he wears them, that’s who he is. I have no explanation.
Boy one’s responses to hot and cold are approximately parallel to the rest of his emotions. As in, sometimes he is freezing and will die if he does not have blankets and sweatshirts and a hotter fire in the room RIGHT NOW. And sometimes he goes out cross country skiing a night, and stops by after a loop to remove clothing because he is SO HOT HE IS DYING and we really have NO IDEA how hot he is.
I’ll close by adding that sometimes when the children are left alone too long, they take the wings off flies and name them so they can have pets in their rooms.