Last week, we were driving down the road when out of nowhere, my nine-year-old reminded me of his homeschool gymnastics teacher from last year, and her standing invitation for her students to come visit her at her family's farm this summer.
"You might not know this about me, Mom," Hayden began in a tone so confessional and somber that, in anticipation of a dropped bomb, I had to be careful to control the muscles around my mouth, "but I have always dreamed of wrestling a pig."
When Hayden was out of earshot, I recounted this tidbit that night at dinner, a casual multi-family BBQ at the local pool where thunderheads and spit-drops of rain had us all banned from the water and hanging out with our picnics under the pole tent. As the thunder rumbled and we all shook our heads over Hayden's revelation, a lawyer friend confessed,
"You know, I've always secretly wanted to be struck by lightning," his hands wrapped around the metal poles of the shade tent as the kids abandoned the grown-ups and food for their hundredth game of Knock-Out on the basketball court. "Provided I knew I would survive the experience."
Another friend recounted her seven-year-old nephew's dead-serious proclamation of sumo wrestler aspirations--little Pehri's legs and arms like wiry pipecleaners, a milky-white wispy-haired boy who could possibly be blown off his feet by the evening's strong winds.
This got the writer in me thinking as I looked around the cluster of friends eating hamburgers and watermelon under the tent. What if we all went around and voiced out loud an unspoken desire or aspiration? I have known many of these people for my whole life, and most of them for at least a decade, our families brought together by common sports and schools and the friendships of our same-age kids. What fascinating, surprising things might I learn about them? And what would I say for myself?
What is something that I have always wanted to do?
For me, the list is long and of course it includes things like, 'bump into A-list celebrities at the premier of my bestseller that was optioned for a movie', but I will confess that the first thing that jumped to my mind is a long-thwarted, unfulfilled fantasy of mine: I have always wanted to milk a cow.
It started when I was seven and we were visiting cousins in Seattle. My mother and aunt promised to tote the lot of us to a local dairy, ending in fresh ice cream and including the option to milk a cow. I went to bed beside my snoring cousins imagining this wonder: what would it be like? I have a vivid recollection of deciding that the udder would feel and look very much like brand new, freshly opened, smooth, peachy-flesh-colored Silly Putty, fresh out of the red plastic egg. That the cow would look at me with big, chestnut eyes framed in thick lashes. She would stand, patient and benevolent, understanding that I was an animal lover and I was there to help her, grateful that her very milk would be turned into my delicious ice cream... I could hardly wait.
I remember piling into my aunt's burgundy Volvo and driving out to the dairy, and seeing on a Guernsey-decorated sign that it was closed, that we would not be milking a cow that day. We went for ice cream elsewhere, and flew back to the East Coast the next day, my lone cow-milking opportunity missed. Looking back from an adult perspective, I wonder if this sort of thing is PETA regulated now? How many long-suffering cows really deserve to be groped and pinched and dragged to a reluctant second base by a school group of sticky-fingered second graders?
And on a personal level, why is this still the first 'thing I've always wanted to do' that pops into my mind? You would think that after being a human cow three times, this might not top the list anymore. Nursing and pumping, exclusively in the case of Hayden who was born with a cleft palate and almost no lower jaw, hooking myself up to hospital grade machinery for eight months, might have dampened some of this desire? Apparently not.
And is the whole goat thing really just a ruse to get smaller, more manageable cows into my backyard so I can breed and milk them? Maybe.
This weekend, the first farmer's market opened in my hometown, with eggs and produce for sale from a local learning farm my children and I helped to mulch and plant and build. I was actually able to achieve another long-awaited dream--roll out of bed, take my dog and my market bag, and on a sunny Saturday morning, walk up the street to buy farm-fresh eggs and produce for my family's breakfast. It was reminiscent of my months living in Tarifa or Bucharest, and walking to purchase my day's meals, fresh and local, among the smiling faces of friends.
That night, J and I watched a spot on "60 Minutes" about Mary and her Cypress Grove chevre, a story of a mother who simply wanted better milk for her children, and loved goats, and how she turned a $10,000 business loan into a goat cheese empire that netted $10,000,000. And I had an A-ha moment...
Don't worry. I'm realistic and I know I'm a writer, not a goat farmer. But I am also someone who believes in fulfilling dreams. So I will see to it that Hayden gets to wrestle his pig, and I made a little mental note that two-three years from now, mark my words, a few selections of my first, artisan homemade goat cheese, from my own goats that I lovingly raised, bred, and finally milked, will be for sale at my town's farmer's market.
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Don't be shy. Now that I have fully outed myself and my cow milking fantasies likely register on the Freak0Meter, what unspoken desire do you dream of fulfilling?