A friend met me at the Ghost House Farm and I discovered I have a grandma-belly. She brought her charming 4-year-old granddaughter — let’s call her Cherries because she’s sweet.

Cherries climbed out of the car, ran to me, and pressed her face into my big soft belly. Until this moment, I had thought of my abdomen as a mama-belly, the place where I stored great treasures including womb-raised babies and decades of cake.

Now, I understand my belly’s capacity to comfort a shy grandchild. Cherries snuggled until she was ready to greet the farm.

Then Snake decided to slither in greeting. Cherries face-planted once again. I explained that garter snakes live in the meadowy spaces on the farm and have a job, eating insects. We had walked to the chickens when Snake greeted us and I assured Cherries that Snake didn’t like to tickle his belly on the gravel path. Snake proved me wrong.

Eventually, the sweet red tree “berries” caught her attention. The cool summer provided optimum growth for our fruit trees in the Keweenaw. Cherries abound (the edible sort). Cherries, the child, recognized a sweet treat. She wasn’t wrong and we followed Snake (I didn’t point out that we were following Snake).

After our snack, we visited the “goatses.” Don’t ask me why me and my 32-year-old daughter call the goat herd something that sounds suspiciously like baby-talk. We never baby-talked our kids, but we did delight in their mispronunciations (they inherited that quirk from me). Cherries approved the word and I smiled broadly as she called, “Here goatses.”

We fed them kale left over from the last farmers market, each goat nibbling the hand-held leaves. Cherries noticed they didn’t eat the dropped ones. Feeding is an act of engagement with the goats. It is a bonding experience. Big Chip pushed his way through the middle of the herd and I had to refrain from loving on him without my Chip-lovin’-gloves.

Then Cherries said, “I want him on my lap.”

Yes, Sweet One, I hear you. Big Chip puts out strong snuggle vibes. I want to sit in the shade and let Chip curl up in my lap, too. Oh, boy — we’d stink forever if we gave in to that notion!

We searched for the pigs but they must have bedded down beneath cedar trees out of sight. No amount of calling roused them for their kale treats and Cherries’ grandma did not want us clambering over hot electrical fencing. Good call, Grandma.

The hotwire fence is brilliant. Wheels of rope-like wire make easy perimeters to keep farm animals contained and coyotes, bears, and wolves out. Even the mobile chicken coop resides behind hotwire. The farmers can reroute farm workers (aka pigs and goats) to de-brush or root a section of land for farm reclamation.

In the process, the archaeology pigs dig up all kinds of human debris from scads of broken glass to buried Model-Ts. Cherries shared my interest in the glass. I showed her broken bottle necks, the slender side of a dainty bottle, the lip of a mason jar, crockery, dinner plates, and a chunk of what was once a stemmed candy dish.

We met the farmer and his human crew of one — my SIL and a 12-year-old neighbor boy — planting beets in the pumpkin and corn patch. We showed them our shattered glass gems. Cherries decided she needed more time with the goatses, which led to a hunger for more cherries.

We sat beneath the shade of the 100-year-old tree and I taught Cherries how to spit pits. In the effort, I splattered spit on her cheek, and yes, a child not fond of snakes was also not fond of wiping away my spittle. I’m working on my bedside grandma-belly manners. She caught on to the trick only swallowing a pit once.

Cherries left with her grandma and a hoard of glass. I can tell I might not be popular among parentses. But isn’t that the fun of being an elder? The call of becoming a Hagitude.

Now that last word, I did not invent. The fabulous mythologist, Sharon Blackie coined the word, melding “hag” and “attitude.” In her book (and year-long course) Hagitude, she informs women in the second half of life to live unexpectedly out loud.

‘There can be a perverse pleasure, as well as a sense of rightness and beauty, in insisting on flowering just when the world expects you to become quiet and diminish.’

~ Sharon Blackie

It’s not coincidental that these past difficult years have also ushered in a decade of peri and full-on menopause. My mama-belly has clearly morphed, signaling my shape-shifting years yet to come. These past five years have crushed me but not broken me. As I’ve crumbled, questioning everything about my identity, purpose, and relationships, I feel the Hagitude rising.

I am not afraid of snakes or the second half of life emerging. Bring on something sweet as cherries!

July 25, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story sweet as cherries. It can be about the fruit or something cherries represent. Why is it sweet? Can you use contrast to draw out the beauty? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by July 30, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

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