The score reads that the mother of the farm feeds the cattle. No matter how tightly shut they were in their barn, or how far away the house is from the barn, no one sleeps when cattle are hungry. She never slept, anyway. The mother of the farm brings them food at an ungodly morning hour. The cattle were relentlessly loud. As she shuffles back and forth she keeps time by counting: ten fifty-pound bales of hay put out to subdue the cacophony. The cattle now at a snuffling pianissimo, the hunger of the hogs rises to a contrasting mezzo forte. In addition to the hogs, she feeds the other creatures that needed feeding: turkeys, chickens, dogs, ponies. By this time, the clock hands, timely conductors, read 5:30 a.m.
The score reads that she walks into the entryway where she cleans farm shit off of her boots. She starts breakfast. Her hair is a mess and sweat gleams on her temples, unnoticed as she bustles. In the next measure, wake up the children, feed them-always someone to feed-and cart them off to the babysitter. Fix hair for six hours in the beauty shop, then pick up her children.
The score reads that when the first daffodils arrive, they are to take their airy pews and wait for the rest of the congregation to arrive. And the congregation does arrive, singing bright yellow tones, soprano voices bobbing in time to a swelling aria, swayed by the spirited wind. They gather near the fence row, obediently standing in choral form. It is all her daughter can do to restrain herself from hugging them all, from wanting to roll and sleep among them, as if she, too, could utter such yellow songs. She plucks them out of their sunlit reverence and brings them by the armloads to her mother, who later places them in a jar, pianissimo.
The score reads that there are open fields near a beautiful rolling hill with plenty of space to roam. A creek runs through the farm, a haven for children to roam. While her kids play, she sets back to work to bake and decorate cakes for clients. She has a freezer full of cakes and frosting roses. These cakes are elaborate and require a special tools and clean shoes instead of mucked-up boots. Silver pointed flutes with white bags magically pipe all manner of decorative ropes onto plain, frosted cakes. She makes Disney character cakes sometimes, with tiny staccato frosting blossoms. Sharing the freezer with the cakes are nearly twenty-five chickens that she’s “raised from biddies”-her words- and put away for her family to eat. She huddles over her cakes and thinking about dinner, she doesn’t notice the daffodils on the table.
The score reads that her small children enjoy a farm life with much more freedom than the farm mother’s. Nevertheless, they love to help their mother throw corn to the chickens, or hand-feed the unmothered calves. There are unmothered calves among cattle, for a cow will think nothing of giving birth and walking away from her offspring as if it never happened, a forgotten instrument, a skipped beat.
The score reads that her husband, the children’s father, works long hours at an outside job, too, and plays basketball. Sometimes he helps on the farm, but for the most part he is free to come and go as he pleases, unfettered by the needs of children or cattle, and to come home and watch his show, have his favorite dinner, and start his projects. His absence is at an irritating sforzando most days. He is, in affect, an itinerant farmer but is not really tied to the farm, or his wife, or the children. A disappointing decrescendo.
The score reads that when she finally goes to bed at close to eleven p.m., she thinks about how free she is. The farm is her song, a rattling industrial percussion, a compulsory exhaustive dance, and it drives her more than marriage to any man. Her needs: sotto voce; the farm’s, her husband’s, her children’s needs: a clanging fortissimo. She says hard work is what develops character, that it is necessary, but she never got to hear the daffodils sing.