By Alice Goldman
My sister and I crossed the river and joined up with our cousins to walk by the mountain and go to confession. We confessed what was appropriate – stole three pennies; disobeyed my father and mother; fought with my sisters; stole sweets from Mother’s apron pocket, kicked the dog. When we were finished, we went through the graveyard to steal some daffodils.
We each took a bunch, and there were lots left in case the dead needed some burst of colour.
On Good Friday, it was a habit among children to not talk on this day between twelve noon and three o’clock, to show sympathy for Jesus on the cross. Mother fasted and was in miserable mood, eating only a potato and carrot and two pieces of bread all day. Father was excused from fasting, because of his heavy workload. On Easter Sunday, Father sits down to his breakfast. It is an egg, courtesy of one of the hens on the farm.
Our cousin comes over between the masses. He announces that he has swallowed six raw eggs, and Mother mulls over whether she might do that with just one egg.
Us children aren’t invited to an egg but we got something tastier than eggs – the flat marshmallow oval with cracked chocolate covering it.
Easter is quickly over, and now spring comes in its warm sunny days, long evenings and bluebells and violets and primroses and cows slips. The swallows have returned from South America and they dart into the shed and make their ness where the rafters meet the galvanised roof. The wrens have an alcove of moss and twigs leading into her curving narrow home. The robins nest in the thick mesh of briars and hawthorns and the jackdaw builds her nest in the chimney that is unused. We wake each morning to the breakfast and chatter of these guys.
The farmyard is a hub of life in its many forms. Clutches of newborn chickens learn how to walk, staying close to mother. They get choice food, hard-boiled eggs chopped and mixed with green onion. It smells so good, too good for us though. Here is an odd sight – a big brown hen and, following her, a clutch of ducks – a neighbour gave us a setting of duck eggs and the hen hatched them as if they were her own. They are adorable for a few precious weeks until they get feathers and soon they are independent and stray away from the mother. Daddy starts thinning the drills himself – the carrots and parsnips – as they are more delicate.
So we push away the weeds, and their thick roots and drag ourselves along the furrow heaving the caked soil from the drill. We thin the extra plants and prop up the strongest one and move on.
We hear the bees and see the butterflies along the hedge. It is a sight worth stopping to take in. The flowers and the honeysuckle by the gate along with the warm day it is. And I hate turning my back to it and head back down another drill. Someone says ‘dinner time’.
I straighten out by lying in the meadow close by the drills and I roll and roll and roll. I know Father will deal with me later when he finds the meadow flattened. I convince him that it was my sisters who did that.