You ain’t heavy….If I just keep lifting

When I was a little girl, I had a calf named Tiny.  She was a little Holstein heifer; she was not Belle’s calf, Dad bought her; she was such a runt, I have a sneaking suspicion that Tiny came cheap.  I loved Tiny.  I loved Tiny as much any kid loved their dog, as much as Bonita loved Nikki, our German Shepherd.

The grass was still frosty in the morning when Dad showed me how to teach Tiny how to drink from a bucket.  First I mixed up a powder milk formula for her; Belle had her own calf, plus we needed some of her milk for the house, so Tiny drank formula.  I used warm water so Tiny would think she was drinking from her mother, then I wet my fingers with the formula and put them in front of Tiny’s nose.  She gave a little sniff, licked my fingers, then slurped all my fingers into her mouth and started sucking them like there was no tomorrow.   It almost the same way as when I put the vacuum cleaner hose up to my cheek and I thought my whole face was a goner, only really wet.

I gotta admit, it was atinsy bit scary and at the same time it made my skin have those happy tingles like when somebody remembered  my birthday with no reminder at all.  Slowly I lowered my hand into the bucket as Tiny kept on sucking.  Then I pulled my fingers out.  Up came Tiny’s head all puzzled-looking thinking, where did my teats go? So we started all over again.  Eventually, Tiny didn’t need my fingers at all, but I still let her suck on them, ’cause by then it just felt like her way of saying she loved me, too.

Dad lifted Tiny up and moved her around, just like she was one of his own kids.  I lifted Tiny too, but it was hard for me to walk with her, ’cause her legs dangled down almost to the floor, probably because I was  a whole lot shorter than Dad.

“If you lift Tiny everyday, you’ll be able to lift a full-grown cow when she’s grown,”  Dad told me.  “But you gotta lift her every day.”  Dad’s eyes got damp looking and twinkling like they did when he was telling a story about a telephone extension he sold when he was fixing someone’s line  in the city.  Those stories always ended in laughter, but not so this day, he was all solemn looking in the face, like he was in church, except for his eyes didn’t look so dazzley in church.

I would be about the strongest girl in school, even stronger than Jeannie. She was super strong, ’cause she had four brothers and no sister.  She was tough as any boy.  I never saw Jeannie cry and she could hit a baseball harder than any boy in my school.  I had mostly sisters, I wasn’t all that tough, I cried easy, but I was stronger than most of the kids in my grade.  I knew because I could beat them at arm wrestling and pull-ups.  That’s because of the bales of hay and buckets of silage I lifted doing chores with Dad.

Twice a day and sometimes more, I went out to the barn to feed Tiny and lifted her up as far as I could, burying my nose in her soft hair that smelled like fresh straw and damp skin all at once.  If she was lying down, I snuggled right up beside her and told her all about my day, with a soft voice, so only she and I could hear.  There’s something about the way any baby smells, a kitten, a puppy,  piglet, Tiny or my baby sister, Julie, maybe it’s all the milk babies drink. The smell just opens up my heart and makes me want to breathe in deeper.

I liked being in the barn anyway, especially when Dad was there.  The cats gathered in back of Belle while Dad milked, and sometimes Dad squirted milk in the cats’ mouths.  If he missed his mark, the cat got all offended looking, as if Dad did something on purpose to disgrace her.  He always gave the cats a little shallow bowl full of milk.  As soon as he finished milking he gave a little “Haruph” and hoisted himself off the stool and limped his first step,  like he’d been sitting there for days and he was all stiff.  The cats all stood six inches back from the bowl, waiting all polite-like for the milk to be poured.

Once our old sow, Red Rose’s eight piglets got out of the pen and came a tripping over each other running like it’d been a month since they last ate, and didn’t already just nurse from Red Rose.  They slobbered and grunted in that cat dish, spilling milk and putting their front feet right in the dish.  The cats sat back on their hind quarters and put their noses in the air at each other.  I could just hear them thinking, Well! I never. All smug and prissy. If a cat could turn up their little finger, our cats would’ve.

I did pretty well, lifting Tiny, all though the summer.  Then we went on vacation camping.  We were gone a week, and Dad said he wanted to stay another week.

I started crying, “I gotta get back to Tiny.”  So we went home and didn’t stay an extra week.

Mom said it had nothing to do with me, and I just let her think that, ’cause she and Deanna and Bonita, and Vickie, and the Little Kids, if they were big enough to think at all, would be mad at me if they thought we could have stayed an extra week if it weren’t for my blubbering.IMG_5528

When I got home, first I hugged the carpet in the frunch-room and rolled around on it for a bit. I was so happy to get home.

I had to see  Tiny.  There she was happy to see me, looking like she hadn’t changed a bit.  I scratched her neck and she pointed her nose right up toward the sky in delight; she sucked at my fingers just like always.  But I was unable to lift her. I pulled and tugged, but no luck. Just like Dad said, I had to lift her everyday, if I wanted to be able to lift a full-grown cow.

I have grandchildren now, I gave up on lifting calves.  When my  first grandson was still a toddler, I told him that if I lifted him everyday, when he got to be a full-grown man, I could carry him down the aisle on his wedding day.   By eleven I could still lift him, but his feet were starting to brush the ground because he’s almost as tall as me. He’s sixteen now and has a pretty busy schedule, so I don’t see him as often as I used to. That’s probably the reason I can’t lift him up anymore.


Staying the Halloween Jimmy-legs

I believe Dad liked Halloween as much as I did.  He stayed out of the costume discussions, never shopped for Halloween treats, and never considered dressing in a costume himself.  Still, he took us kids around to the neighbors; it was his idea to have a Halloween party when I was a little girl; and one year, when I was a not so little girl,  he stayed at home and ready for all the trick-or-treaters.

Our house got just a few trick-or-treaters, ’cause it was in the middle of the mile and just a few houses were on that mile.  That was a lot of walking for a few Squirrel Chews, Red-hots, Neccos, and Continue reading

Staying the Halloween Jimmy-legs

I believe Dad liked Halloween as much as I did.  He stayed out of the costume discussions, never shopped for Halloween treats, and never considered dressing in a costume himself.  Still, he took us kids around to the neighbors; it was his idea to have a Halloween party when I was a little girl; and one year, when I was a not so little girl,  he stayed at home and prepared for all the trick-or-treaters.

Our house got just a few trick-or-treaters, ’cause it was in the middle of the mile and just a few houses were on that mile.  That was a lot of walking for a few Squirrel Chews, Red-hots, Neccos, and Continue reading

Would you like to ride on a Star? Carry Moonbeams home in a Jar?

I can count the times on one hand, maybe even leave out the thumb, the number of times my family went to an amusement park when I was a little girl.  When we did, it was like rolling up all the fun of a week-long vacation into one day.

Of course, I always went to the County Fair in August, but I only looked at the rides.  For one thing, I was busy with Lady Bird, in the 4-H show, making sure she kept her tail clean.  Dad took to us kids to every single display of old-fashioned tractors, trucks and tools  He said, “This is what we used when I was a little boy.” He had that happy grin on his face, like he was sharing something super-interesting, that no kid could live without.  Why would I care about something that happened such a long, long time ago?  Those tools were rickety and rusted looking, and some of the needed horses to work.

Mom told me when she and Dad were dating, he liked to take her to the Fair, too.  Once a hawker was gathering people around to tell them about a treatment for hemorrhoids.  He shouted out in that special carny voice that’s way louder that a normal voice and each syllable is pronounced distinctly, so you know exactly what he’s saying; that same kind of voice Mom used when she’s angry, and she wanted me to know she meant business, only a carnie left out the angry part.

“Many people are embarrassed to tell their doctor they have hemorrhoids,” the carnie shouted.  “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”  Dad and Mom saw the crowd kind of shuffling around and looking down, like Continue reading

Wax Fruit, Butterscotch, and Swings

When I was a little girl, Mom took us to Grandma’s house at least once a week.  Of course Grandpa lived there too, but it was Grandma’s house.   For the most part, it was a slow, quiet place to be.  Grandma’s house never had a speck of dust or a newspaper out of place, she had a small box of strange toys, a swing that barely moved, and a bowl of wax fruit on the table.  If we behaved ourselves, Grandma threw candy at us.

Grandma saved a little cardboard box of toys Aunt Annie played with when she was a kid; by the time I was big enough to remember,  Aunt Annie was a teenager, and mainly laid around on the davenport twirling her pony-tail with her pointer finger, blowing bubbles, and looking at pictures of Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson.  Ricky and his brother David had a TV show, with their parents Ozzie and Harriet; once Ozzie hurt his back and he spent the whole show grabbing his backside, saying, “Oh, my sacroiliac,” with lots of people laughing it up in the TV-show background.

Aunt Annie and her cousin-girlfriend, Joey, took me to an Elvis Presley movie one time; a whole bunch of girls in big, full skirts jumped up and down, screamed, and grabbed the side of their heads through the whole movie.  It was the goofy-daffiest thing I ever saw.  Maybe Aunt Annie went so goofy at the movies like that ’cause her old toys were kind of boring.  The only good thing was a red, stuffed pony with a brown nose and little bits of old brown yarn for a mane.  Bonita always made a be-line to the toy box and grabbed that pony before anyone else got a chance; she never let go of it until it was time to go home.  Sometimes, when I stayed overnight, I played with the pony, but to tell the truth, it wasn’t as much fun without Bonita.

Grandpa made a  big wooden lawn swing, big enough for three or four kids to swing on, but it was against the rules to swing high.  Grandma lifted me up beside her to show me how the swing worked; she put her feet flat on the ground and pushed with her heels, the swing moved back about an inch, then floated forward again.  Grandma just sat there leaning back with her eyes shut, breathing in deep, so all the sweet smell from her flower garden got caught up in her memory.

“Grandma?  Do you want me to show you how to pump?”  Maybe nobody showed her how a swing was supposed to go.  Mom told me Grandma’s real Mom died when Grandma was a little girl, after that she got a wicked step-mother just like Cinderella.  Grandma opened her eyes and looked at me without moving her head.

“This is a relaxing swing,” she said.  She wrapped one arm around me, and squeezed me in close.  I sat there, surrounded by her soft grandma skin, trying to get the hang of the relaxing swing, all the while feeling like my legs were just jumping inside like they did when Ricky Nelson was singing on his TV show.  When Grandma went back in the house, I backed up the swing’s seat ’til it rested way up my back, then jump-plopped my butt up on the seat and got a real good swing going.  Pretty soon Bonita and I were pumping that swing, standing up on the seat with Loren and Vickie between us.  Loren laughed out loud and Vickie got those blue eyes all wide, never even taking her two middle fingers out of her mouth, both of them with wisps of blond-white hair blowing back off their faces.  Now that’s the way a swing’s supposed to work.

I never understood why, with all the stuff Grandma and Grandpa grew, why a bowl of wax fruit, apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, sat on their dining room table.  I liked those Nik L-Nips from Glebe’s , so maybe Grandma’s waxed fruit was tasty too. Every time I went over to her house, I picked up each piece of fruit, ran my fingers over what looked like real fruit skin, smelled them, and sometimes just touched them with my tongue.  One day, I couldn’t stand it, I just took a bite out of the apple, and Bonita took a bite out of the peach. I had to see what that fruit tasted like.  When she saw those teeth marks, Mom was mad as a wet hen.  She told us to get outside, and to stay off the swing.

Bonita said, “Mom?” she was super sorry, I could tell by the way her eyes were looking up from under her chestnut bangs.  That wax tasted horrible; all I could think about was getting some water.

“Don’t even call me Mom,” Mom said.  “Now get out of here.”

“Rita?” I said to Mom, ’cause that’s what Grandma called her. “Can I have a drink?”  Bonita was already going out the door, looking all hang-dog; she just stopped like she got shocked by an electric fence; her head popped up and her eyes just about fell off her face.  Right at that very moment, for some reason, I thought, Hey, her face looks just like Mom-Rita’s. I stayed quiet though, ’cause that look on two faces at once told me I better zip it and high-tail it outa there.

The Real Deal

Grandma had a secret stash of hard butterscotch candy, she hid somewhere in the kitchen.  Maybe Deanna knew where it was; lots of times she was in-on grown up stuff.  Sometimes, when everybody sat quiet and nice, Grandma got the candy out and threw it right at us, then she ducked behind the kitchen doorway, to trick us and make us think it was like manna from heaven, only a little bit more hurty than I imagined getting hit in the head with magic bread.  It was impolite to ask Grandma for candy, and I knew better than to scrounge around in someone’s cupboards, even Grandma’s, so I waited and hoped.  Grandma almost always thought I was good enough for butterscotch.

Nowadays, I understand the value of a relaxing swing.  I like to put a bowl of fruit or vegetables from the garden out on the dining room table that anyone can bite into anytime they want, and I have my own stash of old toys and candy waiting for good children.  I get called Mom, Granny, Grandma, and G-Mom, a little confusing, yes, but I love them all.  It took a lot of years, but I discovered a secret Grandma and Mom kept from me:  No matter what they do, grandchildren are always good.

A Secret Toy Hide-a-way