October 16, 2012

Sunday Mornings and Milking

When I was a kid, Sunday mornings were a mix of lazy and frantic. Depending on who was milking and doing chores, I was either up at five or cozied down into my blankets as Dad woke Lindsey and I rolled over and slept in until 8. Mom always, or mostly always, made scrambled eggs with bacon on Sunday. She tried to make the eggs so that they would be just finished cooking when we came in from the barn. All hotsy-totsy and yummy. And if you didn't milk, you could still have eggs, but only with the full awareness that you had better leave enough for the three people in the barn. Oh those days of only having yourself to get ready on Sunday morning. Leisurely eating breakfast, standing in front of your closet, spending half an hour trying outfits on and switching them around. The only stipulation we had was that we had to be out of the bathrooms/showers when people came in from the barn. Or else get hollered at through the bathroom door by your earlier to rise sibling. Those days, if you milked, you were king. Or queen. Somehow, it never felt like it when you woke up at 5 AM. But by the time you got back in, you were the important ones. People had to do stuff for you. If milking went longer due to some problem, you were allowed to order people around to get stuff for you. Mom would be running around trying to get everyone whipped into shape, cook lunch, and get out the door in time. Generally she would be standing at the sink peeling potatoes 10 minutes before we had to leave. Dad would always kindly remind her that "We are supposed to be leaving in 10 minutes!" And then there would be a mad scramble for hairpins, socks, shoes, and biblebags while Mom got dressed and tried to remind everyone of what they needed to get/do. Cody would inevitably be walking calmly out to the car/van/bus carrying his socks and shoes while everyone (or most everyone) else sat in their seat and watched him. And listened to Dad sputter about how if the house was burning down, Cody would still be moseying out with his socks and shoes in his hand as if he had all the time in the world. Then on the way to meeting, Mom would fret about how late we were going to be and Dad would switch sides and tell her we had plenty of time. And then he would ask who was going to help Ralph choose his tie while the rest of us set up the chairs. Which is hilariously funny, since we always got there with seconds to spare and Ralph had better tie sense then most of us Vaughans.

This past Sunday, as I stood at the sink in my flannel nightgown peeling potatoes 15 minutes before we had to leave, Justin telling me to get ready, and running through my to do list before leaving (take shower, choose clothes, get dressed, do girls hair, feed Elsie, micromanage Justin (He looooves this), do my hair and get everyone in the van) I realized I had become my Mother. I'm not trying to manage a farm and four more kids than I have, but other than that, I am my mother. Dad always wanted to know why she couldn't get dressed before peeling potatoes. And as a teenager, I always thought, Yes, why not? I still don't know why not. I just know that for whatever reason, I still think I should peel potatoes before getting dressed. Even if that means getting dressed in under 2 minutes. Which, in case anyone is interested in knowing, I can do.

Despite what my Mom thinks, being her isn't a terrible thing. Even after raising 8 kids that are mostly decent, contributing members of society, she still feels bad about her inadequacies as a mother. She apologizes for us kids having had to milk, for making us work, for giving us a life of drudgery. As a young teen, I certainly appreciated my potential role as over-worked, but loyal, faithful drudge. But as an older teen, I liked milking. Mostly. It wasn't my most favorite thing to do ever, but once I was plonked down in the midst of quiet, patient, uninterested in my teenage problems, cows, I enjoyed it. The tick, whoosh of the milking machines; the mindlessness of the work; the quietness; watching the sunrise/sunset; thinking about the meaning of life; taking care of animals completely dependent upon you (I am using the generalized you here, since I know my brothers will mock me about how I singlehandedly saved all 100+ animals from sure death on a daily basis.) All of that does something for you. Takes you out of your complete self absorption. Makes you realize you are just a part of the world. Makes you understand that the little you are doing is important, even if it is only important to animals that can't talk to you. I was needed. And I think that may have been what made us decent, contributing members of society. You can't take yourself too seriously when a cow slaps you across the face with a manure-y tail. You have to have compassion when you see a brand new calf shivering in the cold stall. You have to appreciate nature, it's beauty and greatness and your smallness in comparison, when you watch the sunrise from the back alley, see the storm chase the haywagon down the road, and watch a cow give birth. You can't think of yourself as unneeded when you are awoken on Christmas morning to help muck out a barn that has had a pipe burst and flooded overnight. You can't feel poor and put upon when you have to milk 20 cows by hand because you don't have power and their poor udders are near bursting--they are hurting more than you are inconvenienced.

So Mom, get over it. Milking and doing chores saved us from ourselves. It gave us space to think and be and feel. And to sing really loudly. As off key as we wanted.

And since this post has devolved from Sunday mornings to farmness, I am going to take this opportunity to share some of Olivia's farm related pictures that I love.

All pictures below are courtesy of my talented sees-tir Livie. Her blog is livietess.blogspot.com.


Alyeskane said...

So if your siblings are "mostly decent, contributors to society", which ones aren't?

Bethaney said...

Ha! Well... Depending on who has been nice to me... No, each of us individually is a mostly decent, contributor to society. As hard as it would be to believe, each of us Vaughans has our little quirks. We have our wild and undecent side. It is where we lose our temper, sit around in pajamas, and buy things we don't need. Or maybe that is just me.

The McCoys said...

Hah! Love it :) Totally remember your dad waking you guys up to milk (I think I was just glad I didn't have to get up quite yet...) and your comment about Cody walking to the car shoes and socks in hand made me laugh - remember that too. What a good memory you have - good times!

Evan and Clover and Co. said...

Okay, now I have to sell my house and buy a farm. I am SO glad that we had to milk cows-- it was fun to have a smug, self-righteous inner glow when you heard other teenagers complain about having to do dishes. Or when you had to hold a cow's uterus inside her till the vet came while other college kids were frolicking on winter break.

And of COURSE you have to peel the potatoes before you get dressed, or else your clothes will get starch on them. And I'm pretty proud of getting dressed and making a lunch, complete with fresh vegetables, in a ten-minute space when you were down last weekend.

laura said...

What a great tribute to growing up on a farm! I know my mom speaks highly of her growing up days... and we had some of it too! Haying every summer was my first job - it made my first on-a-payroll-job seems like a walk in the park!!