Yesterday the seven-year-old killed a snake that was longer than her (while holding a stuffed animal). Several days ago while milking with the nine-year-old the goat kicked over her bucket of milk, drenching the child and milk stand. Last week a late frost killed most of the tomato plants, despite our best efforts to cover them sufficiently. This morning the one-year-old got ahold of a folder full of important papers for one of the puppies that is being sold, scattering them all over the floor and scribbling on the folder.
When the parents had a date the other night chaos erupted around the table, complete with a pile of rib bones being pushed towards me (I have a phobia of bones for some strange reason). Squabbles take place, half-done jobs sometimes slip through the cracks and the same bib that I’ve washed four times (and have yet to see anyone wear) ends up in the dirty laundry again.
Yet my sister shoos me outside to enjoy the hammocks for a few minutes. “Take your mid-morning snack out and blog in the sunshine,” she encourages. As I sit here three of the children come over to join me. One of them places a white fluffy puppy on my arm, another one climbs in the hammock with me, and the five-year-old pulls a chair up to within an inch of me then peels an orange while regaling me with stories of how he and his brothers are going swimming in the creek later. “You can swim, too. And swing out on the rope swing!”
Yesterday the children carefully rearranged who would do what chores and when so that they could take turns swimming during their free time. The work was done eagerly and early and not one but two meals were eaten out on the picnic tables, the warm sunshine and cooling breeze creating the perfect atmosphere.
The hustle and bustle of family life on a small farm slows to a standstill and pauses twice a day as each morning the family gathers for devotions where the children take turns choosing what hymns to sing, and the evenings close with John Bunyan’s classics being read out loud.
Watching my nieces and nephews remind me of my childhood. A childhood filled with siblings, school, chores, and excitement. The children here are building a little pond complete with dikes and dams. When I was a girl my siblings and I sectioned off the creek, then each of us created our own little island. My nieces and nephews display the same joy and delight in finding where the mama cat hid her kittens as my little sisters and I were fifteen years ago.
Nearly daily the nine-year-old asks the same questions about being able to plan and cook a meal all by herself that I did when I was her age. Their mama reads them the same books that my mommy read to me when I was a girl. And the outside world is their kingdom, waiting to be explored, conquered, and claimed.
“Aunt Lydia,” comes a little voice behind me. “Do you want some of my oranges?”
I smile. Because I look back on my gardening, animal-y, books-being-read-to-me, tipi-building, woods-exploring, big-family happiness of my childhood and see it happening in the next generation.
And that is wonderful.