Thursday, May 5


On Monday afternoon, Kristy came out to the barn with a Mother's Day greeting she'd colored that day. She handed it to me. "But, I'm not a mother," I offered, feeling like Captain Obvious–Kristy is autistic, maybe she was confused. She paused for a moment, then said, "Yes you are."

My little helper
To my knowledge, I've never given birth to anyone, much less had a living being in my womb for nine months. Biologically speaking, I am not a mother. But when Kristy said that I was, I knew almost immediately that I wasn't going to win the argument. Sometimes sanity falls short.

I think it was sometime last summer that Kristy started calling me Mama. "Hey Mama," she calls across the parking lot when I get out of my car. The staff says that Kristy's much less willing to help outside when I'm not there. Nine times out of ten, she meets me in the barn within five minutes of my arrival.

Kristy's eager to tell me the latest animal news–show me a strange bump on Diamond's neck or discuss a recent incident wherein both horses managed to free themselves while being moved from the pasture to the barn, initiating, according to Kristy, an exciting victory run across the farm. She wasn't worried; she knew they would eventually go to their stalls of their own accord. And they would.

Kristy knows a lot about the residents of the barn. While I start to groom the horses, she pokes around, checking on the goats and the chickens. She brings me an egg, freshly pulled from a roost. She's never in a hurry, much to my annoyance when it's her turn to ride, and she'd rather discuss how Diamond is feeling than pick up a brush to help groom him.

Harder than it looks
"How is your little boy?" Kristy often asks. The little boy to whom she refers is my best friend's son Eli, whom I sometimes bring to the farm with me. Because he lost his daddy two weeks after he was born, I lived with Eli the first month of his life. In the morning, when he woke up, I'd steal him out of the bedroom and rock him quietly while he stared intently at the multi-colored lamp shades above my head. I wondered how he felt about not being able to care for himself–was he frustrated or did he feel safe?

When I hold other people's babies, I can often feel their parental misgivings. But I've never dropped one–though I once nearly lost the battle with a baby swing; thankfully, someone showed up to help before I had to consider Eli's legs a casualty.

I've explained countless times that Eli's not actually my little boy, that he lives with his mother, and she cares for him; but Kristy doesn't seem to care, offering suggestions for where I should take him or what I should feed him. Missy, who also lives at the farm, assumes the same. "Are you taking your little boy to get a flu shot?," she wants to know.

"No, that's up to his mom; she decides those things," I explain.

"I think you should take him to get a flu shot."

"Well, I'm not his mom, so..."

"It won't really hurt that bad, ok?"

"Ok, but..."

"Just take him to get a flu shot, okay, Tash?"

"Okay, Missy."


Recently Eli spent the night at my apartment. We had blueberry pancakes for dinner because it's easy to be the coolest mom for one night.

"I'm going to sleep in your bed," Eli says.

"Okay, as long as you don't kick me," I agree.

After an episode of Pink Panther and sufficient story-reading, I tuck him into bed.

"My mommy usually lays down with me for five minutes," he tells me.

I lay next to him, and remember doing the same until my little sisters fell asleep. I remember trying to sneak away after my childhood Chihuahua Chi Chi fell asleep–which was much harder. Eli turns and squirms. Then he faces me and looks in my eyes. He reaches an arm over my shoulder: "I love you," he sighs. Is he trying to manipulate me? Who cares.

Ten minutes later, he remembers he needs to brush his teeth.
Cat reminders left by my little boy

The first thing I remember wanting to be was a mommy. And I wanted five children–because two wasn't enough, three meant awkward dinner table arrangements, and four was too even–five seemed just right, enough to feel like a big family, but not too big.

Now I'm not sure I'll have any children, biologically speaking. Suffice it to say, I have some complications, not least of which being the lack of someone in my life to have babies with. And though I've witnessed the incomparable beauty of birth, when I think of birthing five people out of my body, I nearly pass out. But I'm not all that concerned. As they say, "The show ain't over till..." That saying just took on a whole new meaning for me. And if the final act never comes, I think I'm gonna be OK.

I certainly never imagined having a 'child' several years older than myself. Life is funny that way. I take the greeting from Kristy's hand and smile. "You're right," I say and give her a squeeze.

"C'mon, Mama," she says, and we head toward the house.