Dunga Brook Diary: Mother’s Day, 2011

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March 1, 2018 · Posted in Commentary 


The barn

I arrived in Los Angeles in 1986, a small-town, young woman with nothing but the desire to see what I could do in the big, bad city.  And I did plenty. Dead-end temp jobs to a career in fashion. Five-figure income to six. Fly-by-night boyfriends to single mother of a son who is now on his way to graduating high school and, very soon, off to college.

Los Angeles. Land of fruits and nuts. Eternal sunshine. Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Riots. Romantic failures. The best friends I have ever had. Great restaurants. Terrible dive bars. Endless shopping. Copious spending. Gorgeous mansions. Seedy shacks. Dirty “river”. Big dark ocean. Expensive shoreline. Grimy beaches. Smog over mountains. Moonscape of desiccated dreams. Traffic snarls. Failures on every corner. The homeless with their cardboard signs…“Please Help.”

My life in 2011 is at a dead-end. I’m no further ahead than when I arrived in LA. In fact, I’m inching backward on a roller coaster that won’t make the next hump…the brakes are squealing and I’m about to let go.

The only thing that I have is a small inheritance from my long-gone parents and it is burning a hole in my pocket. It’s enough to buy and fix up a $10,000 farmhouse in central New York. But not enough to make any big mistakes.

And, this morning, I’m torn between the ecstasy of doing something really awesomely crazy and agonizing about missing, well, Mother’s Day with my kid for fuck’s sake.

But, I had to come this weekend because I’m going to quit my job when I get back to LA. I have June to get my shit together. I’ll rent a place while I renovate in July, August and September…and, I’ll move in by October. My new life will begin.

Sorry, Mother’s Day. I feel bad about missing it because it means I suck as a mom. It means that I am one step closer to being the bad parent my ex wants me to be. But this time is different. Really.

Years ago, my son was failing middle school, smoking pot, running with the graffiti kids— and I had this sexy, young boyfriend who was a music producer who’d fly me to all kinds of ridiculous places to do music things. Vancouver, to hang with REM while he recorded them. NYC, to hang with Ryan Adams. Mother’s Day 2002, I’m forty-two and I’m on Ryan’s tour bus, from Boston to Philadelphia, because my boyfriend is the keyboard player and producer for the band. I feel stupid and goofy on the bus but, thankfully, that was Ryan’s stupid-goofy phase, so no one cared— all eyes on him. Anyway, I was paying so much attention to my boyfriend that year that my ex decides that he is going to take my troubled son off my hands. My rock-n-roll boyfriend was like, “Sure, why not? It might be good for the kid.” And, that is when I woke the fuck up. Hell fucking NO. The boyfriend didn’t last…I just couldn’t follow him around, anymore. I had better things to do. Like, be a mom.

Gravel crunches under my feet as I approach Jim’s barn…

The mom goat and her baby are in a jacked-up-looking stall. The kind of jacked-up you might find in the farm version of Deliverance— broken boards hastily tacked together with rusty nails and crazy wire. I’m not expecting Pennsylvania horse-country-proper but this is beyond down-home, it’s backwoods ghetto.

The baby goat, oblivious to the sartorial flare of the place, is shivering in the corner, the mom is carrying on the way big goats do…batting her big, snake-eyes, her pink tongue vibrating with bleats.

There is, indeed, a dead baby goat under the hay, the little hooves poking out, so delicate it hurts. The milky smell of dead baby is overpowering.

Ok, I get some of Jim’s panicking.

Jim’s truck roars up the drive with another dented truck close behind it.

A bent, old farmer and a younger farmer emerge from the second truck. They greet me with nods.

The three men stare into the stall.

The three men look at each other.

Three minutes tick by.

The old farmer says, “Yep. One’s dead.”

“Yep,” says the younger.

The older farmer nods at Jim, “You best get some milk into that little one.”

Jim ties the mom goat to a post and pulls an ancient milking stool to her flank.  He tugs her teats. Pull, squeeze, pull, squeeze, pull, Ping! Ping! Ping!


The farmers lean on their truck and wait.

Jim carries the bucket into the house. I follow. He fishes hay and fur out of the bucket and pours milk into a baby bottle.

Now, he sits in the sun with the struggling baby in his lap. It cries until he shoves the bottle into its open mouth. Once it latches onto the nipple it closes its eyes to suckle.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” the old farmer chuckles.

We have a baby! And I’m two thousand miles away from my own, living out some hillbilly fantasy while he is in Pacific Palisades with his dad. Who knows where he’ll be or what our lives will look like, this time, next year. A swoon of misery washes over me. And a butterfly flies by and a bird trills and a sweet breeze blows and the old farmer and the younger farmer watched the faux farmer bottle feed the baby goat.

“Looks like he’s gonna make it, “ says the older one.

“You want some milk?” Jim asks.

“Never touch the stuff, son,” older farmer says.

I’m guessing he hasn’t even tasted cow’s milk straight from the teat.

“You’ve got to try it!”

Jim hands me the baby and jogs inside to get four glasses.

“This is crazy,” the old farmer hesitates, then sips.

I sip. We all sip.

Warm, musky, green, milk.

The younger farmer’s face screws up.

We hand our glasses back to Jim…one can only drink so much warm milk while looking at the mud-caked mom who produced it.

The baby goat totters, his spindly legs barely working, he’s crying for his mom, one minute, then jerking back for a butterfly to pass, the next…watching it fly, his eyes sparkling with wonder.

The farmers leave.

“I’m going to name him Ichabod.” Jim says.

Ichabod’s tail wiggles.

“Let’s check out my house, I can’t wait to see it,” I say, feeling an urge to get on with the point of my trip. My new/old house, across the green field, I can see her dark roof and dirty white siding.

“Hold on, I gotta bury the dead one.”

Jim drags a white mesh bag into the field, drops it and starts digging.

I take a deep breath of farm fresh air. This life can be so beautiful and sad. I know this. I’m not a stranger to barns or fields or farms. I grew up in an 1890s’ farmhouse in the middle of cornfields. Miles of rolling hills. I had horses as a kid. We had a barn, barn kittens. I mucked stalls, took care of beasts in all four seasons. I’m up to this, this middle of nowhere-ness. I am so ready.

What could go wrong?


(To be continued)


Mother’s Day


Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram. com/vicki_whicker/


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