Mother had two good friends: Carmen, her goat whose derriere closely resembled the posterior of the Ford Taurus popular in the mid-nineties, and ate only sweet feed. Laura on the other hand [name has been changed to protect the innocent] was a fellow mother ATIer whose posterior closely resembled the rear of the dodge ram expansion van popular for large families in similar years, and who only ate whole foods bought from Mother’s food co-op (anything but sweets I can assure you).
Both of these friends were the object of many jokes and stories amongst all of us kids. Sometimes we joked about them separately but every once in a while a Laura/Carmen story would roll around that we could incorporate into the other. (Like the idea of them both being comparable to cars) We kids had an intense dislike for Carmen who Mother said was the most beautiful goat we had every owned, but had quite a love-hate relationship with Laura.
Laura wore pants the first time we met her and had prayer with Mother that God would change her heart and give her the desire to wear the ever-pleasing full skirts that we already wore. The change took place almost overnight and Laura called claiming she had been awakened in the middle of the night with the desire to dispose of all articles of clothing that contained legs. Mother rejoiced in her noble decision and we kids made up more Laura jokes to tell at the dinner table for Dad’s benefit.
Christmas was our favorite Laura time. Each December she would send out a lengthy, all-informative newsletter containing pictures and details of each family member’s most private happenings, and every large item purchase her family had made during the year. (Large item purchases consisted of those which cost over $500.)
Laura’s Christmas letters contained bright and lively worded script to accompany the beautifully landscaped farm her family had bought: the boys were diligently working in the chicken coops with their father; each of their 9 outbuildings was being put to such good use as a school house, guest house, prayer house, etc, after the children had remodeled the insides of the structures themselves. Laura bragged about her new computers, new flooring, new clothes (or jumper patterns), her ability to take a nap every day, how her children were child Einstein’s, her new van, and her flawless homeschool strategies. Instead of washing clothes for a family of 9 daily, Laura required all of her children to wear their clothes two days in a row. Instead of hiring a housekeeper, Laura taught her children good skills by making them sweep the floors around a dozen times a day. We thought Laura was evil and her kids did too. And those Christmas letters were so long.
Our favorite was the year that Laura’s family had the flu, bought a new farm, and a new computer all within a period of 12 months. The letter opened with how many gigabytes the computer housed, how many bodies of water (“clean, clear, beautiful water”) the farm owned, and ended with what kind of loose bowels each member of the family had suffered from in the past month. We kids, who never shied away from crude discussion, were proud and pleased with Laura’s ability to translate a real-life experience – such as the runs – into the context of a Christmas newsletter. We considered this to be a skill that most ATI mothers were sadly unable to do. The computer and farm each had pictures to prove their existence, but I guess Laura thought that words were ample enough to prove the sickness.
The Christmas that Laura’s first and only daughter was born, she wrote of the reason behind her naming the poor little girl Alleluia and why she would call the child Luia for short. Such explanation was not really needed since anyone who knew Laura could think of numerous reasons to name a child in such a manner…
When her first born began dating his first girlfriend, Laura blissfully declared in print – much to his horror – that they would undoubtedly be engaged before the next Christmas letter. Since Peter had only been dating her a month and the girlfriend was terrified of Laura, we all doubted a Laura-positive outcome. We were never sure if he married the same girl Laura wrote of or if he hurriedly found another before his mother could stamp the next news fest; regardless, Peter did indeed get engaged before the annual cards could be sent.
I guess Laura never caught on to our dislike of her ways even though we always tried to go out of our way to show our displeasure. One month we hid in the trees leading to our driveway with high powered water guns and blasted Laura’s newly bought, newly waxed conversion van as it entered the property. Laura was furious as her short frame wiggled down from the driver’s seat. We all put on our most righteous attitudes while we welcomed her to Grace Brooks Farm and thanked her for her order.
The next Christmas when she called, we all answered the phone “Happy Hanukkah, this is child’s name.” Somehow it made us feel better.