Back when my now-adult daughter was in kindergarten, I excitedly attended her first parent-teacher conference, anxious to hear the teacher’s impression of how hard I’d worked––um, I mean, how hard my daughter had worked at kindergarten preparation. She could spell, write, and read her first and last name, address, phone number, mom’s name, where her mom worked, etc…She knew her colors and shapes. She recognized the alphabet letters and numbers to 1000. Out of sequence. Okay, I might have exaggerated the numbers a little bit. I was not expecting her teacher to tell me my daughter was having trouble recognizing her farm animal sounds.
I smiled politely and said in my pearl-wearing, sweet tea drinking best southern drawl, “Oh my goodness! Well, we’ll work on that tonight.”
I left that elementary school seething. How dare that teacher say my child couldn’t recognize an oink from a moo and the animal it went with. My child. She knew her farm animal sounds as well as she knew her numbers. We had a See-N-Say at home.
A few days later, I was driving home from somewhere with my daughter strapped into her booster in the back seat. We passed a couple of farms along the way and I spotted some horses grazing in a pasture. I seized the teaching moment, or at least the moment to prove the teacher wrong, and said, “Look, Nina––what does the horsey say?”
My daughter happily waved to the horses and said a big ‘ol “Mooooo.”
Flash forward a few years and my now married daughter had her own baby. I had offered to babysit one day while Nina had to work and she was going to drop him off at my house on her way. All is fine until about 5:30 in the morning and I get that phone call no parent wants to get at that hour. I spring up in bed and grab the phone and Nina’s on the other line, crying, screaming, nearly hysterical and she shouts, “Mom, I had a wreck!”
My heart racing, I jump out of bed and quickly get dressed with the phone in the crook of shoulder and neck. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she cries.
“What about the baby?”
“He’s fine, too.” More sniffles and gasps for breath, then, “We’re both ok but I think the cow’s dead.”
It took me a minute. I bit my tongue. I would not ask her if she was sure it was a cow.
I asked her where she was and told her that her brother and I would be there in a minute. We got to her about the same time the Highway Patrol did. In her defense, she was not speeding. It was still dark outside, rainy and cold and she was on a curvy, rural road and we don’t have street lights on rural roads around here. It turns out that one of the local farmer’s fence had fallen into disrepair and the bovine trekked across the street to greener pastures.
Except it wasn’t just one cow. It was a HERD of cows. A herd. A follow-the-leader line of cows crossing the road on a rainy, dark morning.
After she gave her report to the trooper, she turned to me, still crying, and said, “It was awful, momma. Cows were flying through the air like bowling pins.”
The trooper walked away at that point. I suspect he might have been laughing.