Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas miracles

December 1996.

“If you get all that knitting done, it will be a miracle.” My daughter Amber said to me.
“I know, I know. I always have too many ideas and not enough time. But I only have this last pair of socks to finish. Just the foot part. If I knit the whole way down to the cities, I ought to be almost done. Why don’t you go help your dad pack the car.”

“If we get all this stuff in the car it will be a miracle.” Dave said. “How could we have so much to pack? Presents for all the aunts and uncles and cousins. Wish we had a bigger car.”

“If Claire remembers to feed the sheep during her hectic Christmas morning, it will be a miracle.” Laurel said. “Don’t worry about Claire; did you feed and water the cats?” “Yes.” “Christmas tree watered?” “Yes.” “Outside birds fed?” “Yes. Can we go now?”
“All that’s left is to check the sheep.”

Lists cycled through my head as I walked to the barn. Would the fruit for the salad freeze on the trip? Maybe I should unpack it and wrap it in blankets. The family would kill me if I started unpacking. Did I have a good enough present for everyone? Would Tyler like his truck or was he out of his truck phase? Bob was always so hard to make things for. What would he think of the vest. Wonder if the kids gave the cats enough water. Really hope Claire remembers to feed the sheep tomorrow. Hope the sunnies will last the chickadees until we get back.

I turned the lights on in the barn and the ewes surged to their feet; all but Clooney who was lying in a corner. Something was wrong! Clooney wasn’t a solitary sheep; she should be dashing about the barn with the rest of the flock. I pulled the string on the light above Clooney’s head, throwing her corner of the barn into bright relief.

Clooney lay on her side, head stretched out, lips curled back, teeth bared. Her mound of a belly was hard in contraction. As the rest of the ewes quieted, I heard her panting.

Lambs weren’t due until the end of January. Either this would be a premature birth with lots of problems, or Clooney had spent some time with the ram before I formally introduced them. Clooney relaxed and maaaed.

Baaa, a soft voice echoed her. From the shadow behind Clooney’s massive body, rose a small black lamb, long legs shaking as it stood. I dashed to the supply cabinet, grabbed towel, knife and iodine, and rushed back to Clooney’s corner. She was concentrating on another contraction. And then another. I dried her lamb, cut the umbilical cord, poured iodine on the cord, and moved the lamb to her mother’s udder. Clooney labored. I waited. The lamb nursed. Clooney labored. Kneeling behind Clooney, I lubricated my hand and slid it into the birth canal. The tips of my fingers felt the ridges and hollows of the lambs skull. It was a huge head, filling the opening between Clooney’s pelvic bones. My fingers circled the head. No front hooves.
No wonder Clooney was laboring so hard. Carefully, slowly, I pushed the lambs head back deeper into Clooney’s body. Then I eased my hand in and felt for two front hooves. There! Against the pressure of Clooney’s contractions, I teased the hooves out into the coldness of the night barn. Slowly, the head followed. When the head was free, I tugged on one leg. The lamb’s big white body twisted, hesitated and then oozed out onto the golden straw covered barn floor. Clooney turned around and sniffed her new lamb. Her tongue began licking the membrane away from the lamb as it struggled toward her mothering gurgles. When the new lamb was licked clean, I carried both lambs to a clean pen and turned on the heat lamp. I toweled the second lamb dry and trimmed his umbilical cord. Soon, both lambs had nursed well and were sleeping curled at Clooney’s side.

I stepped out of the barn. The air was cold and crisp. Stars glowed in the night black sky. I could hear the sheep muttering in the barn; they had already resettled for the night. I took a deep breathe and realized that my worries were gone. The lists had evaporated.

The socks would be finished (or they wouldn’t. I could finish them tomorrow after we opened presents.) Everything would fit in the car (or it wouldn’t. My suitcase was still in the bedroom. If it didn’t fit, I could borrow clothes from my Mom.) Claire would check the lambs and feed the sheep (she’d probably come out to see the new lambs as soon as I called her, and we’d be home tomorrow night.) The real miracle had just happened in our barn. A baby had been born. A new chance. A new beginning. A real Christmas miracle.

Since this was first published in December 1997, we’ve had countless miracles large and small. The most recent and one of the biggest was the birth of our second grandson, Jasper.

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