Mom slipped a sun bonnet on my head and reached down to tie its ribbon under my chin. She said, “It’s windy today. This’ll keep you warm.” My eldest sister helped me put on a red sweater. First, she put one of my arms in a sleeve and then helped me put the other arm into the second sleeve. She knelt in front of me to button it shut. My white, ankle-high leather shoes needed to be tied and then I was ready to venture outdoors.
Going outside to explore the backyard was a big deal for the first few years of my life. On this early spring day, my sister was taking me to the barn to see a litter of kittens. When we stepped out the back door of the farmhouse, two barn cats were stretched out on the sun-warmed cement sidewalk. They jumped to their feet when they saw us and began to rub against our legs. Their fur felt silky and softer than any of my special blankets.
It was so warm and still next to the house that I wanted my sweater and hat off, but by the time we crossed the driveway and started up the barn hill, a surprisingly strong, chill wind buffeted me, making it hard to walk.
The large haymow barn doors were standing open. Sunshine slanted in, lighting half of the threshing floor. My sister led me to a pile of hay alongside the stairway that led down to the lower part of the barn. The sweet scent of dried summer grasses filled the air. Downstairs, a calf bellowed and its mother lowed in return. In the stillness of the haymow I heard tiny mews. Then I saw the source. Burrowed in the hay was a nest with five nursing kittens and a gray tabby cat. Continue reading