Taking the Plunge
My daughter gets married today, and although I feel entirely swept up in an unexpected sea of emotions, subconsciously I have been preparing for this occasion for years. Chris once said, “maybe the goats aren’t just goats.” I asked him what he meant, but in truth I instantly knew. The chance to have dozens of babies each spring, animals which need love and attention and constantly force me to learn and grow were an insurance policy against losing the daily job I loved the most, being a mom.
Lila wears heels to climb mountains, has the gravelly singing voice of river stones a million years old and is equal parts goat herder in bright farm boots and the confident click of shoes on electric Boston streets-a constant reminder that anyone who can be easily defined is likely not worth knowing.
She and Tess are my greatest work, the selfless friends I always wanted, the people I still aspire to become, the things gone right in a world too often gone wrong. There have been times when I have known them better than I've known myself, when my compass when disoriented by insecurity has been to ask, what kind of mother do they deserve? As babies, their soft, dimpled curves absorbed everything extra and unneeded, stripped away the clutter of a world mostly beyond my control, until all that was left was the delicious rock rock rocking of the moment, the liquid comfort of now.
Those night were my church, my salvation and a religion of one plus her. Those nights reminded me (no matter how tired I was) that I was the luckiest person awake in the world, unsure of where I began and my sweet daughter ended, it was a chemistry beyond words, and beyond any elements combined.
The baby years were easy, I acted without thinking. Every new discovery was like magic and I drove recklessly without a map, hurtling into each year eager to see your next smile, your next word, your next song.
Now, I stand watching from the side of busy highway which is your twenties, dying to yell slow down, yet knowing the only way is forward. When true love presents itself, you’d be crazy not jump head first into it. Both Lila and Ethan are in a delightful free fall.
Their story is a romantic one. They met when he was last home on leave at the bakery where Lila works (which his mom owns). They spent every minute together and now seven months later, after hours of Skype and many letters and emails, they are together again for a short spell while he is on leave from Kuwait and wanted to tie the knot in a small ceremony with family. At first I worried that the whole relationship was too rushed, then I stepped back a bit and realized that there is no predicting what love will last and what love won’t and even if there is, mechanical time likely plays no role in a marriage’s success. The older I get the more I realize there is no “right time” -- that waiting for it only leads to inaction.
It is the times I jumped in without thinking too much...into the cold Popham beach wave, into that first kiss, into parenthood, into starting a farm and cheese business -- it is in these times that I have felt most alive, most on track. I have never been one to wait, why should the daughter I helped create be any different?
I remember the night I met Chris as if it was yesterday. Suddenly, my earth tipped drunkenly on its axis, the sky a puddle at my feet, the Portland pavement a granite mountain rising into the sky, and my heart, as if carried by a thousand fireflies, electrified, soared towards sunlight a world away, leaving the grey behind. There was a heavy moon, fat and happy with expectation settled over the parking lot where we kissed, and when I remembered that tides shifted at her demand, it was no wonder that the tar beneath my feet suddenly turned sand, that the summer heat of the night sent chills like an icy Maine wave up my spine, that it seemed --like a ship overturned in a storm, I might never right myself again, and I was in no rush to regain my balance.
We had no idea what was in store, no idea that in the dark, years were lining up among parked cars which included two daughters, 23 goats, a chicken house, some motorcylces and an old barn. We simply saw the current moment. Two hearts with every reason in the world to be closed, were suddenly ungloved and open to moonlit possibility.
I see that same light in Ethan and Lila. From their first date at Portland Headlight, they couldn’t get enough of each other, they look more illuminated the closer together they stand as if one is a candle and the other the oxygen which helps it burn most brightly. That kind of magic is a rare thing to see in a couple.
As preparation for letting go, I like to imagine the future --Lila and Ethan pouring from the car, family and stories flowing behind them and I will wait for the quiet moment after hellos when Lila and I will walk through the nighttime barn, whispering into the dark, breathing in the magic of sleepy goats watching us from their stalls, and in that perfect dark space she will again give me the gift of feeling whole.
Until then, I get what Chris meant when he said the goats aren’t really just goats. I busy myself with planning for kidding season, spend hours imagining those sweet hoppy kids in the barn and get more excited each winter day to get into the cheese kitchen again -- and a bit of the void left by grown kids is filled. And in a way, nothing fully satisfying is just about doing that thing. The best jobs are not jobs at all, but opportunities that (if we are willing to take the plunge) tap into and challenge the best parts of ourselves, keep them warmed up so that when they're needed we're ready.