Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
- TITLE: The Passage of Love
By Deborah Cooke
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Mary ran her hand over the warm smooth side of the yellow heifer, allowing her palm to rest gently on her underside, touching the ridge of hair along her ribcage. She leaned into the young cows’ side, resting her head to hear the breathing.
Her Grandmother smiled knowingly up at her. Mary responded with deep pleasure. She loved to watch her grandmother, tuck her head into the soft warm flank of the beautiful creature and rhythmically pull the milk into the bucket balanced between her knees. She loved the sweet smell of the hay on ‘Tooly’s’ breath; she loved the feel of her tufted and smooth hair under her hands; she loved watching her grandmother handle the cow with the skill of understanding animals well.
Enjoying the moment together, the two smiled again, then with a quick flick of her hand Gran squirted Mary with a spurt of warm milk and as quickly returned her aim into the bucket. Hearing the last quick splashes of milk, Mary reached up to undo the wooden lock holding the cow in place.
A step backwards and Tooly rubbed past Mary looking for one more pat, before she ambled out into the paddock for the day. Mary propped the little milking stool into the feeding stall and took the other side of the bucket and the two walked back to the little house together.
They walked along between the rows of beans and tomatoes, tied back with old stockings; the path worn hard by the years of passage to the back door. Gran shook off her shoes inside the door and Mary scraped her bare feet on the bag mat inside. They passed through the wash house, hanging with old coats and rabbit skins drying and home made cheese maturing. The odour was familiarly pungent and pleasant. The tiny kitchen held a variety of welcoming smells, textures and colours. They poured the still warm milk into the little billy on the marble topped table and pushed on the lid.
Her grandfather ‘Jack’ appeared at the door, pulling his pipe from his shirt pocket, waggling it under Gran’s nose with a little wink and tilt of his head. She took her cue and pushed the big kettle to the front of the stove and pulled down the tea caddy, spooning two scoops into the blue teapot on the hob.
Mary found the cups and a plate for Gran’s puftaloons and set them on the marble top. Together the threesome sat on the porch, sipping hot tea, dipping the puftaloons while Jack puffed at his pipe, then tapping it on the step and putting back in his pocket. Mary picked up her billy, kissed her grandparents and made her way home.
Forty five years later, Mary sat in the room of the bustling country hospital, waiting for the arrival of her first grandchild. What would she invest into this precious life, this amazing gift? Would there be the same moments shared that would belong to them only; grandparent, grandchild?
No cows to be milked; no vegetable gardens to be wandered through; no wood stoves; no animal hides to be dried or cheeses to be squeezed; what did she have to offer this child.
She was a single parent and living in a refuge, supporting young women. Would she have the same time to give this child as her grandparents had given her? Would she have enough room in her heart to love as she had been loved?
The bundle was rolled into her arms; two eyes were open wide, staring fully into the bright hospital lights, perfect in form, in the image of his creator.
Days rolled into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. More grandchildren arrived and others who chose to call Mary grandmother were added to her. She loved them all; saw wonder in them all; found delight in them all; discovered uniqueness in each of them.
Not cows, but computers; not vegetable gardens, but pasta on a Saturday night; not wood stoves, but barbeques; not animal skins, but sleeping bags on the floor; not puftaloons and hot tea, but stories and hot chocolate to be shared, and time, always time for them.
And she had a love to offer, a greater love; the love of the one who first loved her. She could always draw from the well that was offered to her; forgiveness, peace, endurance and joy, wonderful joy.
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