After a full day of planting progressively more crooked rows of kale and cabbage and turnips – “a lot of food,” as Alison put it, “the kids will never eat” – and with a squirmy newborn finally asleep in my arm I prepared to sink deep into the couch like a tired, sweaty sack of grain.
I mentally scrolled through the available entertainment options. ‘Deadliest Catch’, ‘Hoarders’, ‘Doomsday Preppers’ – nothing numbs the sting of your own problems like watching the more acute ones of total strangers. I opened the fridge, removed a tall, frosty bottle of root beer, pulled the top, and took a long, creamy, impossibly refreshing sip.
But as I headed toward the sofa and my fully-charged laptop I caught a glimpse of something far more entertaining than any reality show. Alison, out in the garden, now in a cool early-May drizzle, encircled by a cloud of small children. Five little electrons in buzzy orbit. I had turned in my shovel twenty minutes ago. But Alison was still planting.
I discreetly took a seat in the side-porch rocking chair, still cradling both my baby and my rapidly disappearing root beer, and propped my sooty, hairy legs up on the railing. I summarily ditched my Netflix plans and tuned in to the steady, rhythmic song of rain against roof and the instant classic now streaming live on the panoramic screen in front of me.
A two-year-old boy, still wearing candy cane Hanna Anderson pajamas, clumsily danced around Alison in his still-two-sizes-too-big rubber boots, eager to help, but actually crushing the fragile edges of just-planted lavender. Another boy strutted up and down the tight rows of chest-high garlic – hoe deployed like a musket and trowel dangling from his tool belt – marching in formation along the rich soft strands of Mother Earth.
Meanwhile, the entire barnyard pulsed with activity.
The freshly sheared Merino ewes in the pasture beyond were tethered tightly to their lambs, taking advantage of the cool of early evening to continue their systematic mowing of the already-knee-high clover. As they chewed, the mothers stole periodic glances to scan for would-be threats.
Over by the barn, the Nubian milkers paced in their yard. Pendulous banana-peel ears bounced comically, while udders stretched taut as a snare drum, quietly filling with rich milk. They, too, nervously surveyed their charges who chattered and wrestled playfully like children at recess.
Swallows darted in and out of nests, bringing provisions to noisy chicks. And in the hen house, up on their roosts, the broody hens, just barely a year removed from heat lamps of the hatchery, sat patiently on their eggs, in anticipation of a motherhood they had never experienced, even as tiny chicks.
The rooster – Enrique Bob – perched on a fence post, his comb and hackles drooping under the weight of the rainfall, passionately crooning his tired old ballads to an audience that had lost interest weeks ago. No real responsibility, a womanizing drifter, another blowhard – in a world full of them – intent only on administering his own special breed of romance.
Back in the garden, Alison toiled with the herbs. Legs spaced, head down, hands outstretched – like a long snapper for the Green Bay Packers – arraying parsley and peppermint into the fertile, coffee-ground soil. Running on mere fumes – “moving in slow motion, but still moving,” she calls it – leading the children in song, gently soliciting their help, teaching them the garden lessons she had learned in the wee hours, as she nursed the baby and read truckloads of Amazon.com deliveries by the light of the bedside lamp.
There I sat, surrounded by all those wonderful mothers, all that beautiful Earth. Charmed and awestruck by the sight of it all.
Our oldest boy James came and stood by me. We agreed that we would have a lot to celebrate come the second Sunday in May.
“It’s sorta funny,” he said in a thoughtful voice, gesturing his arm toward the garden and barn, “Mom shares her Mother’s Day with all these cool animals.”
I nodded, pleased that, at such a tender age, the boy could see it just as I did.
“But, Dad,” he said, “you share Father’s Day with the rooster.”
A sincere tip of the cap to all the wonderful Dads out there – thanks for all you do to make the world a better place!
And shame on the roosters. FYI: Enrique Bob was peddled on craigslist (for free) after all the singing began interfering with my conference calls.