An alarm clock goes off somewhere downstairs. It’s 3:30 am and I wander into the kitchen where grandma is dressed and preparing breakfast for the men. Places are set at the table when she feeds the dog and pats me on the head asking me if I might want to go back to bed. I say “No, I want to go to the barn today.”
She hollers up the stairs every 5 minutes for half an hour. “Get up!” Each time the pitch rises in her voice until she hears fumbling footsteps. The men enter the kitchen, with yawns and grumbles, just before we walk to the barn in the dark of early morning. I’m too little to help so I set off to find kittens in the corners of the barn. Switches are pulled and motors come to life to the clanging of milking machines being assembled. She opens the barn door where the cows are anxiously awaiting entry. They know their places and file in, much more orderly than kids would, extending their heads through stantions that will be closed keeping them there.
I hear the scuffing of rubber boots and the men take up their duties of closing stanchions and graining each cow according to her own needs. When I get a little older, I’ll be helping. But, for now, my job is to stay out-of-the-way of the cows. I walk along by their heads, petting the friendly ones. Tigress and Ginger are my friends. Each cow has a name. The number tags are many years beyond. My grandma will laugh, harder than I’ve ever seen, when I announce that Raindrop really looks like my Dad and a cow will be renamed “My Friend”, this summer, just because of my insistence that she was.
Later on, Grandma will rush to put on lunch and then take a power nap of about 20 minutes. She may be running the rake in the hay-field, shortly after that, then back to the barn for evening milking. After evening milking, there’s supper. Grandma was the best cook. She never measured with cups. Only now, I realize it was more efficient in time saved, not by choice. Seven days a week, every single day of the year, Grandma worked. She mowed her own lawn, washed the laundry and did the grocery shopping too.
Grandma rarely wore make-up or fancy clothes. She loved to read. Anne of Green Gables was her favorite. She would doctor any injured person or animal and put out milk for the feral cats without fail. She loved extra oregano and green peppers in her spaghetti sauce and thought daisies and phlox were the sweet touches placed on earth to remind her of delicate things she wouldn’t, otherwise, be able to enjoy.
Grandma used the phrases “between a rock and a hard place” and “at sixes and sevens” when she was frustrated. No swearing, ever. On the rare occasion that I was irritating her to distraction, she’d say, “Don’t make me get ugly with you.” I didn’t know what that meant, exactly. I do remember looking at her face and wondering how my beautiful grandma could EVER be ugly?
Our minds often tell us what we already know in dreams and flashes. When she passed away in 1999, I had a persistent flashback of a movie scene that plagued me for months. It was Dorothy embracing the Scarecrow, in the Wizard of Oz, and whispering in his ear, “I think I’m going to miss you most of all.”
Gotta to love it when your mind gets things so right!