I promised then that I would tell my story, here, today, and so here it is.
I am the Goat Girl.
In this photo, I am 11 years old. It’s summer, school is out, and I am in the midst of a petting zoo full of kids and lambs, and perhaps a fawn or two, at the Catskilll Game Farm, once an institution, and now gone.
Although I loved all animals fiercely, I didn’t get much exposure to farm animals, so this was a rare treat, and I was both excited and a little intimidated by the way they jumped at the feeding bottle my parents bought for me. You can see my left arm upraised, because I am afraid they might knock me down, and it took some adjusting to figure out how to feed them.
I like the tenderness in the way I am holding those possibly menacing sharp little hooves, and how, although my face is shadowed, I can see my smile and the way I am meeting the goats, fully present in the moment, to the point where now, at 43, I still have this experience, vivid and sensory-rich, in memory.
It was hot, and we had walked a long way, and I was tired – but this moment was my own.
My hair – very long and very blonde, still, then, and more so for the summer sun, is drawn back in the severe braid that made my head hurt, as it was nearly every day of my childhood. Each morning, I would stand near my mother’s dresser, my back to her, while she used a brush with real boar’s hair (I was fascinated and vaguely disgusted by that), and a yellow plastic“rat-tail comb” to force my wild mane into submission. It was unsettling, at best, having my back to her; I hovered always at the edge of fight-or-flight response, knowing always that there would be harsh punishment for either.
Sometimes we talked, others she teased or yelled – always, the comb would be tugged and dragged impatiently through my snarls.
I wore my hair long because my father liked girls with long hair. I wore it long although neither it nor I was suited to it, at a parental whim. I wore it like that even though there was always pain in it, and in getting it into those tight, heavy braids – because I was made to.
So much of my life, when I was eleven, was arranged around what others thought I should be – at home, at school, at the store, even at Catskill Game Farm on that sunny summer weekend, I lived a life ruled and shaped by adults. Adults who were sometimes (well, often) unkind, who expressed the unkindnesses and harshnesses of their childhoods, through the way they dealt with me.
But there was always something more. There was me.
I learned young to protect myself – my self. I narrated stories in my head. I drew pictures. I imagined, and played with words, and, when I was 7, I wrote my first book about the murder of a classmate, as a wayto work through this unfathomable act. I showed it to no one.
Unable to stretch and reach and be as I wanted, on the surface of things, I learned to go deep, to hide the treasure of belonging to myself away, so no one would know, and try to take it from me.
But, always, with animals, I could reveal myself. With them, there were only the natural dangers. Instinct led those baby goats to jump, to stand with their feet against my chest. Hunger and interest, and not cruelty or domination, directed their actions.
I didn’t know, in that moment, that my picture was being taken. I wasn’t thinking of my parents, or my siblings, just then. I was with the goats, in a moment that was only ours, stolen from the rest of my life.
I’m glad whichever parent snapped the picture did, because, when I look at this picture, I see myself.
Not posing for a picture, doing what was expected of me. Not filled with watchful vigilance for the direction of the next attack..
Years stretched into decades, and now, I am the mother of an eleven year old. His hair is as blonde as mine was, in a riot of curls. It’s his to do as he wants with. He’s mentioned trying for a crew cut. After several years of shaggy locks, I would miss them…but then, I would get to see new angles in his face.
As I listen to him playing Minecraft with his sister, or sharing his deepest thoughts, or recounting something he’s researched or watched, sometimes I marvel on just how much his life is his own, and how much my life was not. Goats have had a little part in that, too…
And, in my joy for him, there is healing and acceptance for the Goat Girl, too.
And that makes me happy.
How about you? Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself as a child, and felt the moment, as though you were within it again? What emotions, thoughts, or epiphanies did that bring up in you? Have your say in the comment receptacle below!
- Braids for long hair (amriaa.wordpress.com)
- Lone goat still on the lam despite rescue bid (abc.net.au)
- WATCH: This Adorable Goat Clucks Like A Chicken (huffingtonpost.com)
- Dairy Goat U (caketalkblog.com)
- First Post! (nowherebuteverywherekeeprolling.wordpress.com)
- Goat Farm (Visite d’une chèvrerie) (michaelaandemma.wordpress.com)