The thing about living on a farm and doing exactly none of the work is that I’m 0% invested. I get to gaze out my window at galloping horses, drive down a winding road fluttering with apple blossoms and waving pink cherry trees, and smile at the new baby lambs that keep appearing on my way to take out the garbage. But I don’t muck out the stables. I’m not concerned with water tables or frosts. If a baby lamb is born dead, I never know. I’d be a terrible farmer.
One side of the road is blanketed in bright yellow, a vivid gorgeous sunburst of tall buttercups horrifying called “rapeseed.” Where did the name come from? Nevermind, I don’t want to know. Just kidding; I do. It comes from the Latin, “rapum” meaning “turnip.” Of the mustard family.
The material point, as Mr. Darcy would say, is that I’ve lived for MONTHS under the illusion that I was surrounded by barley when, in fact, I was surrounded by lies.
Yesterday was a long day. We’d poured a glass of wine and settled in for a good ole post-workday gripe session when the heart wrenching cries of our youngest reached us. The child looks like a Raphaellean cherub so even if one hand held a smoking gun, the other unfurled a signed confession, and the corspe had written “Auggie killed me” in his own blood, we’d gather our baby to us and ask how the nasty man had hurt his feelings. Our oldest had told him to shut up, Auggie didn’t, Mal kicked at him, Auggie continued to talk, Mal grabbed him by the arms and shook him. Filled with righteous indignation, we charged the living room where Mal was uncharacteristically silent. Bella (gleefully) intercepted us with, “That’s not exactly what happened.”
The account was more or less true, but for the ending. When Mal grabbed him, Auggie kicked him in the balls.
Lockdown may or may not be over, who can tell, but we still make our kids take walks with us sometimes. No one ever wants to go. Until they get outside and their spirits immediately reach up into the sky and out to each other in either joyful genius absurdity or in spiteful unification against us. The material point is they always have a great time. Around the bend in the farm road, at the end of the hedgerow, we come to the bleak, empty, gravelly intersection (Aye, that’ll get ye to Whitcross). From this point all four roads and four fields surround us–two are always fallow and two grow various stages of barley or (Liar) Rapeseed.
Recently, Auggie strolled along between them and remarked how nice the yellow fields were. He then turned to the fallow muddy side and pronounced, “That farmer just isn’t very good.”
And that’s sure what it looks like.
Many people I know are experiencing exciting things: babies, moving, promotions, dreams fulfilled, etc. However petty, it makes me wish I had a little baby, or a new start on the horizon, or an exciting affirmation to celebrate. To my shame, even when I have such things there’s always something else I’ll wish I had. I know this. So, I try to keep perspective. Two years ago, I was preparing to move overseas again and carefully nurturing resentment disguised as hope. If I sallied forth armed with righteous indignation and a beautifully crafted martyrdom, then surely there’d be some sort of reward. A kind of grace. A gifted strength. A “heart” or “like” to my beautified life post. As if a teensy poetic bitterness were a sort of vaccine against despair: keep some of the death in there to trick the spirits. An “If I tell myself I’m content long enough, it’ll be true” sort of crap.
Which brings us to today. I was all over social media documenting my charmingly creative children entertaining themselves with a deck of cards, a pillow/chair pirate ship, costume changes, and board games. Look how old school we are! Aren’t we delightful? I made a passively parental-aggrandizing comment about being compelled to document the enchantment. I admit it.
This is why.
A few hours after those posts was my first Covid vaccine dose. The kids had to accompany me. I’d such hope it’d be uneventful, especially since they’d been one Peter Pan short of the Darlings ALL DAY LONG. I read a half-hearted standard Fishburne Riot Act to them in the car. Sit still. Don’t fight. Sing quietly. We entered the gym, got hand sanitizer, I was given a clipboard and directed to a metal chair in a row of 6 foot-distanced metal chairs, and my children were infused with a 500% increase of Energy, Rebellion, and Evil. They bounced and twirled around me, spun starfish-style on the floor, pushed each other off chairs, rifled through my bag, droned inane questions at me as I tried to fill in my ID numbers, loudly commented disrespectfully, banged heads against chairs out of insane boredom, and accused me of lying to them about how long it would take as the woman asked me a series of questions ending with “…are you breast feeding, pregnant, or planning to be?” I laughed loudly in her face before collecting myself to intone, “No, ma’am.”
Later, Bella tried to Last Word me but I shut her down with a statement and tone I rarely use for fear it will crush a small spirit and cause irreversible therapy-inducing damage: “You were wrong. Just say you’re sorry.” Which she did. Because once we’d left and the cold rain-heavy air hit us, everyone was perfectly pleasant. It was then that I saw I’d gotten three more “hearts” on my Instagram post of familial bliss.
Please “heart” this: It’s all a lie.
It isn’t that the Farmer is bad. He isn’t trying to trick me or lie to me; I get that. Half of my area has been mud and dirt and the other half has been unpredictably bright and gorgeous. I’m sure the Farmer is frustrated with me as I throw elegant passive aggressive fits passed off as “literature” or “social connection”. I know how to behave, how to defend my spirit from wasting disease. I’ve had the vaccine for years. It’s really small–the size of a mustard seed. Sometimes complaining is a quick end to the fight, a swift kick to the nuts of irritation and disappointment, but vaccines come in doses. They need boosters. They involve waiting in line. Patience.
The material point is: I was wrong. I’m sorry.