I heard my mother’s voice come out of my mouth today.
I feel like I’m caught somewhere between the old 1956 movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and Star Trek’s “Enterprise”…where resistance is deemed futile. I turned my house upside down looking for any signs of an empty pod, but all I found were the following: 4 half-eaten very stale graham crackers, 32 lego blocks hidden in various and sundry places, one empty milk sippy cup strategically placed under the couch behind dad’s guitar so we wouldn’t find it in time to actually be able to make it useable again, and about half of my son’s socks that don’t have mates in the laundry basket. (At least that’s one mystery solved.)
Anyway…my mother’s voice? It said, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times…” (insert catchy phrase that you’ve actually repeated a hundred or more times here)…”stop running and yelling in the house! Go OUTSIDE!”. Okay, I have several problems with the beginning phrase, which is why I can’t believe I said it. First, if I’ve had to tell my kids something a hundred times, then I’m not doing my job as a parent – the limit should be a little lower, in my opinion. Secondly, if I’ve really told them a hundred times, why should I repeat myself? They should know by now. And if they know by now, it’s not that they forgot, it’s that they are willfully disobeying. And willfull disobedience is actually nothing more than sin. Which we all have…which goes back to #1 – I’m not doing my job as a parent. Sigh.
Things were so much simpler when I was a kid. If we got rambunctious in the house, my mom just told us to go outside. And we did. Ha. If only it were that simple with my kids. We lived on a farm that was about 363 acres. We had horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens and peacocks. We ate everything but the horses and peacocks, by the way. Not all at once…but I learned not to fall in love with the cute little piglets. Not so much because we were going to eat them, but because they were mean suckers, excuse me, fellas when they grew up.
I miss living on a farm. There are life lessons you learn that just can’t be taught in the city. Washing the dishes and taking out the trash is NOT the same thing as getting up at 4 am to milk the cows and slop the hogs. You can see how those would be two totally different worlds, right? How do I teach my kids the importance of teamwork and responsibility the way I was taught? On the farm, if you didn’t do your job, that meant someone else had to do it. It meant no free time for that person because their free time was spent pitching the hay you were supposed to be pitching, but because you came down with pneumonia, you didn’t have to do it and they did. (did that sound a little snooty? Sorry…just remembering..ahem). Mom and Dad didn’t pick up after us. They didn’t allow us to watch tv or have snacks or anything else until after the chores had been done, we had washed up and supper had been eaten.
I was never bored on the farm. My mom’s friend Mickey once told me as a kid that “only boring people are bored”. It stuck with me. I always had things to do, places to go, animals to see. There were trees to climb, ponds to fish in, and if all else failed…there was the barn.
I loved our barn. It was about a quarter mile from our house and it was a great place to escape to. It was similar to the barn in the above picture, which I stole off a Park’s website (can’t give credit, because I don’t remember where it came from)….except it was flat Texas prairie in the background instead of mountains. Well, flat except for the rows of corn in the fields. I can still smell the scent of the freshly cut hay, stacked up against all the walls, 6 high and 6 deep on each side, spilling out into the aisles. Of course, that was on the top half. The bottom was where the horses and cows came to feed…there were milking stalls and a couple of extra oneswhere we would put the cows at calving time if there were problems. Against one wall, we kept all the tack for the horses. Once of my favorite things to do was to brush the horses down after riding them.
One of the jobs I shared with my brother Don was to pitch hay to the cows out of the 2nd story barn doors every afternoon close to supper time. We would pass the time trying to scare the poo out of one another with ghost stories and alien abduction stories. It wasn’t uncommon to have the call of nature happen while we were out there and walking to the house was just out of the question. There was hay to be pitched and no time to waste, people! So we’d hang it out the barn doors and go. I know what you are thinking…”Ewww…how disGUSTING!”….or maybe “how uncivilized”….all true. But look, we were 7 and 12. Not exactly known for having the best manners. (Which is probably why our mom was always shushing us outside).
One afternoon Don told me to turn around because he had to go, so I went as usual to the opposite end of the barn and pitched some hay out that way. I had no sooner gotten to my end of the barn when I heard the barn doors make a funny creaking sound, followed by a whoosh! of air and then a loud thump. I had a sinking feeling in my gut. I had seen enough late night movies and heard enough of Don’s stories to know what had happened. Some sort of strange being had taken my brother!
I was terrified to turn around. I heard a low moan. Was that him? I stood, motionless, listening. It was only after hearing him whimper again that I was able to summon the courage to turn and face the monster that had dared to take my brother. I saw nothing. No alien. No Don. I walked tentatively to the end where he had been standing and looked out over the edge of the barn floor. There he was. Lying on the ground 20 feet below, motionless. Dead! I started screaming hysterically…then he said, “Karen, shut up and get down here.” It was only then that I was able to fully comprehend what had happened. He was not “peeing”…he was well…you get the idea. He had been holding the barn doors for balance (you should never hold onto 100 year old barn doors…they have rusty and faulty handles!) and had fallen 20 feet into his own poo.
Not to mention, he fell on his right arm and broke it. He was covered in poo and I wasn’t about to clean him up. I ran 1/4 mile faster than you can say “Marion Jones” and got my mom.
Man, I miss life on the farm…
(This post was originally written before I had three kids in homeschool and subsequently published January 18, 2007. Thanks so much for putting up with my leftovers this week while I am adjusting to being a homeschooling mom of three again!)