This year, I’ve actually made a New Year’s resolution, which I rarely do. Not because I never keep them, but because I’m spectacularly successful at keeping them.
Which isn’t hard when you resolve to gorge on dark chocolate with sea salt, single malt, and binge watch Peaky Blinders.
Yes, I have a whim of iron and wield it ruthlessly. And so, after being assailed by pop-up ads and commercials toting the success of the app, Babbel, which claims to teach foreign languages in a relatively short time for the ridiculous sum of $8.95 per month, I jumped. Why? Because if I must spend two hours in the barn feeding and mucking out stalls every morning, I might as well use that time constructively instead of developing an involuntary twitch from hearing Maroon 5 yet again on the only station I can tune in clearly.
All this while I could have instead become somebody who speaks three languages (known as trilingual), or simply two languages (bilingual), instead of having no ability to speak any other language whatsoever (an American).
Such a waste of time! But no more—I’ve downloaded the app and chose Italian because, (A.) I took Spanish in college and the vowel sounds are the same; (B.) It’s been a long-held dream of mine to buy a cheap, little bolthole in a medieval hill town in Tuscany; and (C.) As with French, it makes anything sound romantic and sophisticated.
As I tossed hay to my charges, I thought back to the height of Italian sophistication in the 1960s, with sleek sports cars and jet setters like Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot sunning themselves on a rocky beach along the Amalfi coast. Fast forward to the marvelous fabrics and fashions draped across the impossibly glamorous residents of Milan and Roma. Vineyards and the lavish villas in the Lake District. What a way to live! But...
“Questo letame e’ pesante,” I grunted, pushing the first of five wheelbarrows through the mud to Mount Poo, behind the barn. (It actually has a much ruder name, but this is a family website.) Se piovera’ di nuova, mi uccidero.
But it did rain again, great long knitting needles of rain, sucking at my muck boots like quicksand, trickling down the back of my neck. I thought of my friends and their social media posts of exciting New Year’s parties and impulsive trips abroad. Toasting champagne selfies on cruise ships ...
“Non scendo mai da questa fattoria,” I grumbled, “Non scendo mai da questa fattoria!"
On the other hand, this honest, if drearily repetitive, farm work is cheaper and more effective than going to any gym. I can eat my head off, or anything as big as my head and not gain a pound. Speaking of which ...
“Mi chiedo se Paul sta facendo un brindisi francese con quel panettone?” my thoughts wandered hungrily towards the house, as my other half has found ingenious recipes for unloading the countless ones we seem to receive each Christmas. “Si’! Scommetto che ha, con such d’arancia e caffe’!”
I hurried to finish the last stall, the rain now tipping down in earnest and battering the tin roof of the barn, left all the horses with fresh deep shavings and mounds of orchard-grass hay and clean buckets of water, then went to hose off my boots so I could dash to the house. My mouth was watering over the prospect of one of Paul's breakfasts. As I put the hose back, I heard the unmistakable plop from three horses, their systems working in tandem like assembly lines to pass their own breakfasts from one end to the other.
Sighing with irritation, I grabbed the pitchfork and wheeled the emptied barrow back to the lip of the first stall. And all my dreams of a charming little Italian flat faded away as the scent of reality wafted near my feet.
“Tutto quello che faccio e’ pala di merda!” I said to Forrest, wringing every possible bit of drama from each syllable and gesturing lavishly toward my horse. “Solo una volta, non poi tenerlo?”
He wasn’t impressed.