Today we’re going to see the newborn lambs.
I told the kids that we were invited to Bella’s painting teacher’s farm. The lambs are just a week old.
“Do you want to go with me?”
Both were focused on screens when I asked, because, yes, we have a variety of them in our home, but they each looked up and made eye contact with me and declared : “Yes! We’ve never seen a lamb in real life.”
So it’s a date.
We’ll wear grubby shoes that can stand the muck and we’ll venture into February and farms. We’re city folk and although we have cattle dogs (these adorable corgis), the only herding action they get is with our Russian Blue cat and well, you can imagine how that goes.
“Will they be small enough to hold?” I’m asked as I’m whisking my store-bought eggs into a bowl and chopping grocery broccoli for the quiche. Not a farmer. In the least bit, although I’m romanced by the idea for a moment or two.
“Perhaps, we’ll see.”
I remembered when I was about 8 and I watched a mother cow birth a calf at our friend’s farm.
It was a damp and miserable day, and the blood and suffering was intense, but hey, when would I ever get that chance again? I don’t remember the friends or anything but the windswept field and the suffering cow and the lady farmer who shoved her arm right up there and pulled out a wriggling wet sack. The cow moaned and the sack tore and the most remarkable thing appeared: a tiny, miniature of the big mama cow. Black and white spotted with large eyes. I sat on my heels, my face freezing and my nose dripping and within the stretch of a few long minutes, that calf was rolling in the weeds and trying to stand on his own four feet! That was the first time I’d ever witnessed a living thing come into being.
As I chopped the mushrooms and kale and spinach and tossed them into a glistening puddle of oil in a pan, I thought of my little lambs, the four of them and the two I lost before they were born, the ones I call angels (even though that’s not theologically sound). I think of their soft, round heads and little, hungry mouths, those lower lips that trembled from the infant wail.
They’re each so autonomous now, in various stages of big-ness. And no one crawls into bed with me in the dim light of morning. Not any more. They were small enough to fit there, in the island of mattress between me and the edge of the bed. They’ve enlarged the landscape of my heart just by coming into being, into my world. Sometimes the space they’ve left behind as they’ve grown up echoes and I feel small.
And I think of my mom, 1200 miles away; time seems to be shrinking her frame. I remember laying my head on her lap in church, the scent of her Trident gum wafting over me and the immeasurable softness of her arms and her clear soprano voice joining in the hymns at church. I was the small one, the littlest lamb, the one inadvertently enlarging hearts. Now, sometimes when I visit and we embrace, I am the larger one, the stronger one. My mom’s hair has whitened and is soft as lambswool and she looks at me without answers to the questions. The what-next questions and the what-ifs. Eternity doesn’t pose a concern; she’s a woman who knows her savior, her future. It’s the space in between. The million and one things that could go wrong between age 85 and heaven’s gates.
The crust is pressed into pie-dishes and ingredients wholesome and earthy and fresh fill up the dough. As they bake, I clean the kitchen. I repeat so many of the small, imperceptible actions that made up my own mother’s life. The preparation of food, the cleaning, the signing off of homework pages, the searching for moments to connect with little ones getting bigger and learning to walk out into the world.
Yes, we’ll see the lambs, and hold them if we can. It’s the best thing to do on a February afternoon.
“Then feed my lambs…”