Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Sentimental and Silly

We have reached a milestone in SIP (Stay In Place. Another tag for this thing we are trying to accomplish in the time of COVID19. Stay home, and stay safe.)... you see, all of this time at home combined with a necessary preoccupation with procuring food, means that I visit the chickens, often, frequently, a whole hecking lot. Eggs, ladies? I pip, as nonchalantly as I can manage, every hour. You see, they're laying, which is really fortunate, but one of these egg-heads has a nasty habit of breaking eggs... ok, yeah, and she eats them. Gross. I know. And frustrating. Well, with all my visits, casual as I try to keep them, the milestone is... they're not all that interested in seeing me. Funny thing, in the eight years we've had our goats, I have never seen them asleep, because they would always be alert to the sound of my approach. Goats would greet me, chickens would purr and come curiously, even run, to meet me. Not any more. Tasha will sleep straight through any of my visits. The hens stop mid-sentence, look at me sideways, then circle closer, turn away from me. Like I can't tell they were talking about me? Like they wonder how long these drop in visits will go on for. Even the goats have settled down, and will glance indifferently in my direction when I come around, say good morning, pat their heads.

*sigh* The perils of SIP... familiarity.

Sunday morning, I stumbled on something that made me a little more interesting to the goats than I have been in recent months. I was a bit startled by the wide-eyed and fixed gazes from Tasha and especially Ada. I almost blushed, and flattered myself, They do love me. Ahhh... Then it dawned on me that their focus was about three inches above my eyes, and on the crown of flowers I was wearing. I was not the beloved mother and caretaker, I was simply a peculiar vessel for food. Their adoring eyes were fixed on me, but those looks and affection were for tasty snacks. They came closer, looking like fond children, alas, not to dote on their mom, but with peckish notions.

When I was a girl the women in our family received corsages on special occasions. I remember all of the extra attentions my mother paid when it was Easter or Mother's day, when we were going to visit family, meet at church, or celebrate with aunts, grandparents. It meant having my hair brushed and plaited, finding nice shoes for my brothers or their best shirts, possibly there would be pies loaded in the back of the car, and always happy anticipation of the specialness in store for us, like visiting cousins, getting treats, seeing decorations. I remember feelings akin to pride, admiration when my Mom would wear a prettier dress, or arrange her hair a new way. She stood at the bureau mirror, with the top drawer open, where she kept her lipsticks, tiny, white tubes... Avon samples. I loved to watch her apply her make-up, fix her hair, get ready. And many times, en route, we would stop at a market, and she would pick corsages. They came in clear, clamshell boxes. Most were orchids, and all of them had florist ribbon, maybe some greenery or a spray of baby's breath. Sometimes she would ask my opinion about colors, or flower types. If we were seeing all the aunts, and grandmother, she'd have to pick many, and I admit, I would hold my breath, hope... maybe she'd get one extra, maybe it was my turn to wear a corsage, too. The ones for Christmas! They were so extra! with tinsel, and glitter, maybe small ornaments, extra ribbon. Women wore them with long pins struck through their dresses, over their heart, beneath their shoulder. In an era, the 1970s, when formality and old traditions were falling away, when I was more often in jeans and a Hang Ten T than party dresses, that kind of refinement and glamour was rare. It was so uncommon, in fact, that for me it became both distinctly and secretly appealing, and something to resolutely eschew. There was never an accidental extra corsage, and I was never old enough for my own. I wore a wrist corsage, when Geoff took me to prom, and I still have the dried roses, and crumbling baby's breath in a box somewhere. But, I can't deny, I would love to be in a room with familiar women, pinning large orchid corsages, on each other, putting out platters on a side table, tying on aprons, steaming tamales in a small and crowded kitchen.

I think of corsages, and aunts in nice dresses, every Mother's Day, and how beautiful my mother is, and was, how much care she gave to make occasions special, and the many ways she would honor traditions, add extraordinary measures to holidays, and family gatherings. Her means and resources were limited. We counted pennies together, and did a lot to make do. Still, she would show us that it mattered... it mattered to dress our best, to iron a skirt, or bake pies, to shake hands, hold doors open, put flowers on the table, make presents pretty with bows and neatly folded wrapping. She gave us a romantic glimpse of her own childhood, when even tablecloths were pressed, and women had cooking aprons and serving aprons. I have the lace mantilla she wore to church, and I would so love to see her and my Grandmother dress for a family gathering, matching earrings to dresses, purses to shoes, applying lipstick with that practiced gesture that looked simply instinctive. I woke up with these instincts and recollections, and I longed to go back, to connect to those ways and traditions, so I made a flower crown to match a favorite dress. I made space for picking flowers and gathering supplies to make the day special, to look my best. I can't say that it was entirely successful, I mean besides the admiration of my goats. It was not easy to be away from Moms and Aunts, cousins, and Grandmothers, from old traditions, and romantic memories. Maybe I have spent too much time eschewing lipsticks and new hairdos, and I am not comfortable with my reflection. Maybe, during a quarantine, feeling sentimental and wistful sets a course toward more bitter than sweet nostalgia. We may Stay in Place, but my heart wanders.

When I showed Maria the pictures of our goats, and their yearning expressions, she laughed with me, then we agreed the goats would look darling in wreaths of their own. It would be a shame to deny them the pleasure, though we knew full well what would become of flower crowns made for goats. Just for fun, I made a sturdy ring of lemon geranium branches, and filled it with sprigs of lavender and two red roses. And we presented this to the goats. First, we tried to crown Tasha, and that was impossible. She twisted and butted and couldn't stand still. Ada was pushing and shoving, too, and we tried to put the crown on her, and that was not successful, either. The flowers were bursting apart, the goats wild eyed, and champing eagerly. I picked up the largest rose, and Maria declared, "It's such a pretty flower," just at the moment that Tasha inhaled it with satisfaction. We had hoped for just one adorable picture of a goat in a pretty crown of flowers, but I am glad I got a picture of my beautiful daughter laughing at the spectacle of us feeling sentimental, and trying to be be glamorous with silly goats.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

Lovely storytelling, Natalie. I envy how you can make writing seem so effortless. I know it's not effortless, but you make it seem that way.