I wanted to post last night but I just couldn't. We spent all day at the farm. And here I'm going to set a new record, hammering in a digression only two sentences into a post: Several summers ago, I thought it would be fun to take Charlie to a farm, so I signed up for a local field trip. I should have known exactly what we were in for when we were instructed to wear rubber boots, but, no, apparently I am not as intelligent as my dazzling repartee might suggest. (In fact, I have "sparkly disco bitch" written on my hand in Sharpie in case the occasion ever arises to whip it out again.) Anyway, it was a real working dairy farm, by which I mean it was horrible. You stand at the entrance of the barn and look down an endless corridor of packed-in double cow ass. The cows are backed up against the fence that lines both sides of the walkway, for easy access, of course, and they are busily engaged in the business of being cows. Cud goes in, and...everything else comes out. The urine just splashes in torrents. The farmer practically had to shout to be heard over the steaming Niagara of piss.
We shan't discuss the solids.
So then they take you outside and you're positively gasping with relief, taking in great lungfuls of what is, in comparison, fresh sweet air, and they lead you down the hill to where the calves are kept. Oh! you think, delighted. Calves! Velvety babies, pink noses, trusting eyes...plastic...igloos? ...Piteous...bleating?
The calves have been separated from their mothers and they're confused and agitated, crying the baby bovine equivalent of Hey, man, what the fuck? You poke your head inside a tiny fiberglass hut to see a calf and you immediately back out, because those things are, I don't know, like a goddamn tagine full of live sad cow. It's hot in there, and there are pulsing clouds of flies, and your boots are sinking into...byproduct...and the only question is whether you'll whimper it first or your kid: "I think it's time to go home."
Yesterday's farm was better. A very clean cow the children could milk, calves in no visible distress, tame-ish chickens to chase and pick up, goats who had apparently had their innate evil surgically excised — everything well run, pristine, and as utterly unlike a modern farm as it is possible to be. I mean that in the nicest, most relieved, least traumatized way. Charlie did the farm chores, herding poultry and gathering eggs, giving a compliant teat a brief productive squeeze. (Equipped with a digital camera, he diligently documented the experience. We now have no fewer than five dozen pictures of close-range animal anus.)
Ben scampered around happily, occasionally riding hell for leather on a scaled-down pedal tractor as if he hoped to outrun the USDA: Inspect MY pork for trichinosis, will you? He jabbered happily about every animal he saw, tried to apprehend a rooster, weeping when it eluded him, and — oh, yes, filled his diaper. In fact, he overfilled his diaper. In every possible direction. I will not go into details — we shan't discuss the solids — beyond saying that I removed his romper, my top, and his socks, and then set fire to the bathroom. He spent the rest of his day in a spare T-shirt with its hem flapping freely around his naked baby thighs, and I made do with a light sweater I'd thrown on that morning as an afterthought, which showcased my every doughy roll but kept me from scaring the horses. And our day continued unspoiled.
Unspoiled and really wonderful. We met friends there from out of town, a family we met a few years ago at the Tyler Place. Charlie and their four-year-old son got along beautifully, neither poisoning the other's cistern or mutilating each other's livestock. Spending time with J. and M. as we watched the kids work the farm — sexing chicks and castrating lambs and whatnot — felt easy, familiar, and satisfying. There are days I feel we do right by the kids, and days we do right by ourselves; sometimes we manage both. This was just such a gift of a day.
But, God, was I flattened last night. I sat down at my computer to check my mail on my way up to the laundry room. Half an hour later there I still sat, inert, with the bag of soiled clothing from Ben's blowout on my lap. Let me make this clearer: I sat for 30 minutes holding a sack of crap, too tired to walk up the stairs. That's when I knew that posting would be a mistake. "Went to the farm" is all I could have typed before slumping to the floor, my fall cushioned, I hope, by a grocery bag of toddler flop.
And just think of all you'd have missed!