Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

M Is For Memory (and MArmar)

I stood in the open barn doorway. An old man sat on a stool near the back end of a brown cow. The cow was munching hay; something made my nose itch. There we are, the old man’s voice was a quiet lilt. You’re a good cow Sassy, he patted the side of the cow’s rump and went to lift the pail from under the cow’s body. Oh, the old man spied me. You must be the little miss who’s visiting us. I moved so that the barn wall hid most of my body but not so far that I could not see the cow. It’s okay, the old man’s voice was a quieter lilt. Old McPhearson won’t hurt you. I remained partially hidden. Would you like to see Sassy?

He sat on the stool, placed the pail under the cow again. I’ll bet you never milked a cow. His soft lilt invited me, Would you like me to show you? Moving, almost against my will,  through the fog that filled my inner ears, filled my heart, I slowly approached the cow. That’s right, the old man coaxed. I won’t hurt you. Now, I was next to him. He took my hand. My eyes shut. I felt something firm and furry against the skin of my fingers. That’s Sassy, the old man lilted. Take a look, I opened my eyes. My hand stroked the short fur on the cow’s underside. Would you like to try milking her? the old man’s blue eyes looked into my dark brown ones. He took my hand and placed it on one of the soft furry teats. Now squeeze, his lilt instructed. I contracted my hand. Nothing happened. I looked at the old man’s leathery face which, lit with a smile, had crumpled into deep ridges and valleys. Your hand’s too small, he chuckled. I returned my eyes to my hand. I’ll just have to help you. The old man placed his hard, leathery hand over mine, Now, we squeeze and pull. A stream of milk squirted into the pail. I jumped. It’s okay, the old man’s face crumpled into more ridges and valleys. You’ve just milked you first cow!

Lysse, Marmar’s voice called. Off to your mother, the old man lilted. We’ll milk some more tomorrow. Slowly I walked away from the cow, the fog a little less dense. At the door, I turned and looked back at the cow. The crumples in the old man’s face had relaxed into many deep lines.
Cow, I held up the book for Papa to see. Cow. Marmar stood beside him, her face a puzzled smile, It’s just books. Marmar lay a hand on Papa’s arm, She’s fine. I sat on the pile of books, some of them open face down, that had come crashing down when I stood on a lower shelf to reach the one I wanted. A picture of me, my arms wound around Papa’s arm as he turned the pages of the book had flashed across my mind. The cow, standing in a field munching clover, was etched in the midst of that flash. Cow, I showed Marmar as she bent over to lift me and the book into her arms. Papa began replacing the pile on which I had sat. What are we going to do with her? he asked Marmar sighing. Cow, I pointed to the page for Marmar would see. Love her, Marmar, her voice a gentle definitive, kissed my cheek.

I have something for you, Marmar opened a big white shopping bag. From a swathe of tissue paper, she lifted something brown. Cow! I hugged the stuffed leather beast, nearly a quarter my size, to my chest. Yes, Marmar nodded her head. A cow.

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