The wild winters freeze-thaw our wellies into chapped, smiling crocodiles by the time our sorry excuse for a spring arrives. Out at eight in the evening in the black, standing against sleet so strong it warps the light from our lanterns. Lanterns? More like search-guns. Torches with triggers that come with a safety warning. We point them to the sky and cross the beams to pretend we’re Hollywood, or flash them to distract the UFOs and other strange lights we see on clearer nights.
In sleet so strong we search for lambs; shivering, twitching masses in puddles, in reeds, who need their lungs rubbed to call for mama or to be put in a shoebox under a heat lamp by the bed and fed colostrum every two or three hours. The same frequency as a human baby.
Not all were so lucky. One morning we found a dead lamb by the fence, licked perfectly clean and dried in the crisp sun, but no mother nearby. And no wonder; the lamb had no way to breathe, no facial features to speak of. It was as if someone had pushed its nose into its head, leaving a hollow cone. There were bumps for eyes, forever fused and grown over with woolly fur. All just woolly fur. No gore. Sheep don’t produce congenital abnormalities at any greater rate than humans do. But when three hundred ewes drop up to three lambs each in the space of three weeks, it’s definitely more noticeable.
So the lamb with a hole for a face was sent to the vets as a curiosity case and became an anecdote to tell the neighbours and familial city-dwellers. There are strange sights to see on the farm.
And why am I telling you this?
I tell you all these strange memories with affection because that’s what childhood homes are supposed to grow, right? Affectionate memories. And home is nostalgia and nostalgia is a lie we wrap around ourselves at night, when we’re in bed, still awake, in need of somewhere better than here to visit for free in our sleep. A blanket full of holes.
A blanket full of omitted memories woven when we were too young to be observant enough, but somehow saw too much. Whether it was the unpicking of our parents’ relationship, a silent father, a violent mother, a loss, a death, a shameful act, or a tragic accident, we all saw too much.
So when I close my eyes, I try not to think of that final spring’s empty fields, or of the keys posted back through the locked door’s letterbox. In my sleepy head, no one has stepped foot on the farm since we left, and I can still walk the fields with a flock of pet lambs at my heels.