Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: The mom behind the feral kids, summer edition
My last column highlighted rural kids in the summer time. What about the mothers behind these farm and ranch kids who run wild for months out of the year?
Well, odds are whoever she is, she’s a little tired. Her hair is pulled up and in need of a trim. She chases husband and children for double-digit hours every day, filling in wherever needed, praying no one breaks a bone, breaks down, or breaks their sibling’s nose.
Instead of a sweet back to school card, she is sending a pre-apology letter for when her child educates the rest of the class on determining plastic toy animal gender based on physical anatomy – we have learned unicorns can be boys at our house this summer. Or, how sorry she is when her child throws out some rather colorful language for third grade. Her husband maintains that cow was exactly what he called her when he went to get her out of the neighbor’s and she crawled through two fences. She seriously considered putting his cell phone as the contact number for the school over that one.
She is getting very good at going from one-inch male slip to two-inch female threaded pipe, in five pieces or less. All while the nice employee at the supply store tells her, again, that supply chain issues continue, and what she needs is popular. Hence the single adaptor piece needed being out of stock, but on order.
Meanwhile, her mind and body wander back and forth, piecing together transitional pieces, wondering if said employee would have the gumption to finish his speech if he had to face the man waiting impatiently for the parts. Not that the employee is at fault – he can’t control supply chain issues. But, issues of any kind do not change the fact that something must be fixed. She will come home with some temporary or permanent solution. No excuses, and little to no humor if she gets teased much about what she managed to literally piece together.
Of course, that quality time in the supply store is her free time for the week. Practically a vacation, as is dodging tourists and elderly drivers with a four-door pickup, 24-foot trailer, and six manual gears, all the way back across town to get groceries last, so the cold stuff will make it home.
Her off-farm job/on-farm job/side hustle/mad penny-pinching skills/general frugality, or some combination of the aforementioned traits is keeping the place semi-afloat. Or at least covering the monthly bills and an occasional bag of good chocolate at the grocery store. Tucked in by the milk, so it doesn’t melt on the way home, and remains far enough out of reach to ensure it’s not gone upon arrival.
Things like dirty fingers, smudged faces, scratches, and even a little blood cause far less alarm than missing an opportunity to say please, or thank you. She regularly tells her kids if they don’t want to fall off something, they shouldn’t climb it, hang on it like a monkey, jump off it, use twine as a bungee cord, add water to it, or any other number of life choices resulting in a less than desirable outcome. Despite what society says, there are dumb questions and dumb actions, and in her house a general lack of sympathy when either are knowingly pursued.
She answers nearly a thousand high quality questions per day, ranging from average little kid questions to college-level inquiries regarding any number of topics – some she attended college classes on, some she didn’t. Occasional texts from her husband asking things like, “What’s the weather going to do?” are the icing on the daily question cake.
She knows all the yard kittens by their kid-given names, and sometimes stops for a few moments to hold and pet one. She prays for moisture. She has tan lines, but not the kind that come from sitting on a beach. She is down to one winter coat to get clean and put away, or hung back up on the porch.
She shares the struggles her husband faces year in and year out, and she can also see the big picture of shared dreams coming true. There are aspects of what they do together that feed her soul in ways no other occupation or lifestyle could. She’s a key part of why those feral kids are raised in the way unique way they are.
It feels like fall around here. The trees are starting to change, we went from 100-degrees to the mid 50’s in a matter of hours last week, and the weather has been dancing back and…
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