When she met us at the back door, she was red-faced and deeply distressed. I could see she'd been crying. What could be wrong?
"It's the bath," she gasped, and started sobbing. "I'm losing my mind... I really am. Look!" and she pointed a shaking finger towards our bathroom. Great clouds of steam poured out the door as I opened it wide. It took a moment for the 'fog' of steam to lift and our confusion to clear. What confronted us was our bath, almost overflowing with extremely hot water. It was a deep and long old-fashioned iron bath on legs. No-one knew its capacity-but it was a lot... and it was all rainwater!
Poor Mum. I'll run them a nice hot bath, she'd thought. It'll save them time when they come in from milking. And time is all-important today. Wonderful thought, but...
An even earlier than usual start to our day had seen me getting the milkers in even before first light. Without our trusty torch I would have missed many a girl lurking behind the tall swamp grasses. This was the day of our long-awaited appointment with the Loans Manager of our Bank's city branch to try to coerce him into granting us a large mortgage. Dear Mum thought to save us time by having the bath all ready. In her typically organised fashion, she was already packed and ready for her trip home so there would not be the tiniest hold-up. So what could possibly have gone wrong?
"I forgot to turn the cold tap on." Her distraught face was pale and tears rolled down her cheeks. We hugged and kissed her and tried to hide our dismay at being confronted by a bath full of water near hot enough to cook a lobster. As stoically as possible, we set about bucketing out half of that burning hot rainwater and tipping it outside on the already soaked garden. We needed to choose our 'dump' area most carefully so only the weeds were scalded... to death, we hoped. It would happen in winter, on a day we would be away for the whole day, otherwise I could have recycled it through my washing machine. Even then, if time would have permitted, I would still have needed to add a great deal of cold water to cool it sufficiently to handle.
Mum's guilt and remorse convinced her she was now ready for the 'old girls' home' (as she called it). "I'm losing it-I am. No use to anyone any more.... " Our best attempts at comfort and reassurance fell on deaf ears, and she had many a quiet tear in the back of our car on the trip to the city, firmly believing we would never invite her back. Despite the mishap, we did make our bank appointment on time, although we didn't get mortgage approval until much later. The best outcome was that our dear Mum returned for many, many more farm getaways. It took a while, but the day finally came when we were ALL able to laugh loudly about that 'bloody hot bath'. It became one of Mum's all-time favourite 'remember the time when... ' tales.
Mum was newly widowed prior to our first year on the dairy farm. At first she stayed with us for a few weeks whilst searching for another smaller unit. Then our farm and our love became the refuge she sought on a regular basis, to answer her loneliness and sudden lack of purpose. Escaping the pollution and busyness of city life in exchange for our simple way of life was no hardship.
She loved the space and clean air of our farm; the daily routines and seasonal rhythms; found it blissful to fall asleep to the sounds of cows moo-ing out in the paddocks; to wake to a hundred birds twittering, and the odd chook announcing her egg to be the first of the day. The odd baa-ing would drift across from our neighbour's paddocks, to join the barked warning of our dogs to any foxy types-"don't even think about a visit", and a cat or two imperiously demanding breakfast. Mum could snuggle down under her warm bedcovers for just a little longer, happy in the certain knowledge she was definitely 'far from the madding crowd'.
Although we will always regret my Dad never saw us on the farm we had longed for, the timing was simply amazing. In the earliest days after Dad died we were still in the city and could support Mum through her first terrible days of grief and loss. After our move to the farm when she had a desperate need for interim accommodation, we were able to support her again. And then her 'farm getaways' began.
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Old McLarsen Had Some Farms - a memoir: Book Two - The Milky WayNon-Fiction
As the title suggests, my second book of memoirs encompasses tales from our decade of dairying on our own farm, back in our home State of South Australia. A different learning curve from the first farm, but no less steep. This time much experience w...