Charlotte

Charlotte was dark with large eyes and long legs. When she walked, she held her head up high. She was also fiercely jealous – becoming enraged whenever anyone came into close proximity to my father. When my parents went for walks and held hands, Charlotte would barge between them, causing their fingers to separate. She would proceed to press her body against my father’s leg, pushing him away from my mother.

Charlotte was a Nubian goat, the kind with long floppy ears. She was actually very pretty … for a goat. Her coat was made up of blacks, browns and whites. When my father brought Charlotte home to our little farm, my brother named her Charlotte after his favorite book Charlotte’s Web.  

But our Charlotte was nothing like the kind, demure spider E.B. White created. She was aggressive with a rather sadistic streak. Whenever my father would let Charlotte out of her pen, she would scan the lawn for me, lower her head and charge. More than once I had been obliviously playing, minding my own eight year old business, only to be whacked by Charlotte ramming her head into my body. (Thank goodness she was de-horned.) Another time she sniffed my hair before proceeding to grab a mouthful and pull it out by the roots. I was scared to death of her.

When not occupying herself with terrorizing me, Charlotte enjoyed showing off for my brother. It was as if she sensed testosterone was near and was suddenly overwhelmed with circus-like energy. Charlotte would run up the side of the barn and do a backwards flip, which resulted in much clapping and yelling from my brother. This would encourage her to do more tricks.

As much as Charlotte adored my father, her sentiment was not reciprocated. Her purpose was for breeding and not as a pet. This meant she was loaded into our Jeep and we drove her to a farm where she could have a “date” with a male goat. This did not go over well. Even though Charlotte was technically in heat, (meaning, she was fertile and should have been in the romantic mood) she did not approve of the male goats that were presented to her.

The male goats did their male goat thing: peeing on themselves. Snorting. Charging. These wooing tactics usually work like a charm for other female goats, but not our Charlotte. Her standards were higher. She wasn’t interested in any of the huffing, strutting, urinating bucks. For an hour we watched Charlotte dodge one frustrated male goat after another. Even I – who truly had no affection for Charlotte – felt bad for her.

In one last ditch effort, my father tried having a male goat visit Charlotte’s pen. Like a horrible blind date who just won’t leave, Charlotte had an obnoxious suitor in her pen for two days. This was also a disaster. Finally, the rejected buck was sent back to his farm and my father decided Charlotte needed to find another home as well. If she wasn’t breedable – he had no use for her.

Finding a home for a female goat who wasn’t interested in male goats, and could be aggressive, was difficult. But after several weeks, Charlotte was loaded back in the Jeep and we drove her to her new residence. I sat in the back seat, terrified she would rip more hair out of my head. The ride seemed endless. At last, we pulled into the driveway of Charlotte’s new home: a farm that used animal’s blood for medical research. Every day, someone would take a vial of Charlotte’s blood and use it to develop medicines.

I watched as one of the lab personnel attempted to drag Charlotte away from my father. She resisted – her long ears standing parallel to her head. Suddenly, she looked up at the man who was pulling her and all at once she relaxed. Without giving us another glance, Charlotte walked alongside the man, her head held high. She had replaced my father … or she was eyeing this new guy’s hair and planning her next scalping.

 

 

 

Milk is Ruining My Life

I pour the creamy, white liquid into the glass. I’m just about to take a sip, but then freeze. Wait. Wait, just one minute. Did this milk come from a cow treated with artificial growth hormones? Is this milk lactose free? I wonder if the cow was injected with resistant building antibiotics. Was the cow humanely treated? Did it enjoy being milked – or did it feel violated?

How did such a benign substance become so risky all of a sudden? When we were children, we were told to drink milk because it was good for our teeth and it kept our bones from snapping in half. But now everything seems so complicated! Fat free milk, skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk. Milk with DHA added.

Should we drink pasteurized or unpasteurized milk? Supposedly, unpasteurized milk has not been meddled with, and contains more nutrients and healthy fat than pasteurized milk. On the flip-side, because of the pasteurization process, pasteurized milk doesn’t harbor pesky deadly bacteria that is more likely to be found in unpasteurized milk. Hmmm … healthy fat verses dangerous bacteria …it’s a tossup.

I grab my keys and drive to the grocery store. I’m relieved to find they have an entire section devoted to milk substitutes. Thank goodness! Problem solved! Or so I thought.

The first option is rice milk. This looks like a great choice, until I remember it was just all over the news that arsenic was found in rice products. (I need to consume arsenic like I need a hole in my head.) And rice is a grain, right? Isn’t there this whole paleo diet movement? The diet rage that says we shouldn’t eat grains because our ancestors didn’t eat grains and they lived to be nine hundred years old, so we should abstain from grains too, so we can live to be nine hundred years old with no teeth and incontinent and yell at our children because they never visit us.

I scan the shelves. How about soy milk? Oh. Estrogen overload. Well, then. What about almond milk? Hmmm … Not only am I not a fan of almonds, but what if I develop a nut allergy? What if I’m standing in my kitchen, enjoying a nice cold glass of almond milk, and suddenly my throat swells shut? There I am, gasping and writhing for breath because I need an epi-pen in order to breath. (Which I don’t happen to own since I’ve never had a nut allergy prior to this whole milk dilemma.) I drop dead on the floor all because of a glass of stupid almond milk.

There’s coconut milk, but isn’t that high in fat? Or is coconut fat considered good now? I keep losing track. I’m fairly certain that coconut fat is considered healthy fat … or was that avocados? Maybe avocado fat is good to consume – and not coconuts – but I can’t find avocado milk. Maybe they’re making that next month.

On the shelf under the coconut milk is … hemp milk. Hemp milk? Hemp milk? Is that even legal? What would hemp milk even taste like? Sucking on a wet, burlap bag?

Not to mention, all of these non-milk products come in a variety of options. Organic, non-organic. No-sugar added. Sweetened and non-sweetened. Vanilla. It feels eerily similar to when I’m in the milk aisle.

I storm out of the milk substitute aisle and pass the frozen food section where gallons of milk sit innocently lined up for those who don’t know the dangers of drinking milk from another mammal (and yet another issue). I grab a bottle of soda – suddenly the safest choice – and head towards the cashier.

 

 

 

 

 

Inappropriate Family Photos

Several times a year my grandparents would pack up their RV (including their toy poodle with rust colored fur and chronic bad breath) and travel across the country. We’d learn of their whereabouts from postcards that would arrive periodically in our mailbox. Their destinations were an odd assortment of common tourist attractions and strange places off the beaten path: the Ozarks, Grand Canyon, Virginia Beach (we received a postcard declaring that Virginia is for lovers with my grandmother’s frilly handwriting, “That’s Us!” inside the heart).

Their travels were documented in a photo album that was displayed on the coffee table in their living room. My mother and I would languidly flip through the album when we visited. The photographs were fairly repetitive: my grandmother standing in front of some touristy sign or statute, clutching her purse and smiling as my grandfather snapped her picture. Or the two of them together, their smiles frozen as they waited for a kind stranger to figure out how to work their camera and take the picture.

My mother and I swallowed yawns as we leafed through the pages of this album. My grandparents seemed less interested in taking snapshots of their surroundings and more interested in pictures of themselves.

Especially when they visited the Poconos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Poconos, it is an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that is known for its mountains and romantic getaways. During the 1970s – 1990s, resorts popped up like gophers catering to couples who were just dying to relax in heart shaped jacuzzis, circular beds and gigantic, seven foot champagne bubble baths. Competition between resorts was fierce. They battled to outdo one another for the most “alluring” room names: Paradise Stream, Cove Haven, Fantasy and Garden of Eden are just a few of the names given to some of these horrendously gaudy rooms.

While we never received a postcard from the Poconos, evidently my grandparents sojourned in one of these atrocious hotels, because they documented it in the photo album they left on the coffee table in their living room.

Nestled between the pictures of my grandmother wearing her floppy sunhat and standing outside of the Alamo, was a photograph of her wearing a blue negligee and kneeling on a white furry rug. Next to this photograph was my grandfather, donned in blue Speedo underwear, sprawled on the same furry rug and smiling mischievously at the camera.

Thankfully, the pictures stopped there. (And thankfully, they didn’t ask some stranger to pop into their hotel room – which was probably named The Love Nest – to take pictures of them together on the furry rug.)

My mother and I saw these Pocono pictures at the same time. My mother recoiled, as though she had seen something strange and hideous.

“Good heavens!” she said.

I let out a whooping holler of laughter as my mother snapped the photo album shut.

“I think we’ve seen everything we need to see.”

But there are certain things you can’t … un-see. My grandparents racy Pocono photographs are forever burned in my brain. Why they would choose to place those salacious photographs in the album is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they viewed them no differently than the other innocuous shots: saying cheese in front of the Liberty Bell, posing next to a palm tree in South Carolina, scantily clad and smiling seductively from a shag rug in a Pocono hotel room.

Or perhaps they snickered conspiratorially as they slipped the risque photographs in the plastic sleeves.

“Just wait until the kids and grandkids see these! And they think we’re just visiting places like Strubridge Village.”