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Whatever Challenges I Face As A Mother, At Least There is No Angry Bull Attempting to Gore My Children

alec vanderboom

“There’s this passage about Dolly that reminds me of you, let me read it out loud to you,” Jon called out to me on Sunday afternoon. Anna Karenin is not usually a novel a wife wants her husband to she her in, but this passage about Dolly (Kitty’s sister & the mother of six children) made me laugh so hard my tummy ripples woke our baby. The season is summer rather than winter, but Dolly's experiences are similar to mine this Advent. If, like me, you are finding Christmas a shock now that you are responsible for creating the warm religious memories for your family that you were simply handed as a girl, this passage is for you!

“The first days Dolly found life in the country very difficult. She used to stay in the country as a child and the impression she had retained was of the country as a place of refuge from all the trials of town; that life there, if not luxurious (and Dolly was easily reconciled to that), was cheap and comfortable; that there was plenty of everything, everything was cheap and easy to get, and children were happy. But now, coming to the country as mistress of the house, she was that it was all utterly unlike what she had fancied.

The day after their arrival it poured in torrents, and in the night the rain came through in the corridor and the nursery, so that the children’s beds had to be carried into the drawing room. There was no kitchen-maid to be found. Of the nine cows, according to the dairymaid, some were about to calve, others had just calved for the first time, some were old, and the rest hard-uddered, so there was scarcely enough butter or milk even for the children. There were no eggs. It was impossible to get any fowls and they were obliged to boil and roast tough, old, purplish roosters. No women to scrub the floors- they were all out in the potato-fields. Driving was out of the question because one of the horses was restive and bolted in the shafts. There was no place where they could bathe; the whole of the river-bank was trampled by the cattle and open to the road; even walks were impossible, for the cattle strayed into the garden through a gap in the hedge, and there was one terrible bull who bellowed and might therefore be expected to gore somebody. There were no proper cupboards for their clothes; such as there were would not shut at all, or else burst open when anyone passed. There were no pots or pans, no copper in wash-house, and not even an ironing board in the maids’ room.

At first, instead of finding peace and rest, Dolly was driven to despair by what, from here point of view, were dreadful calamities. She bustled about and did her utmost, but, feeling the hopelessness of the situation, had every minute to struggle with the tears that kept starting to her eyes.. .

The position seemed hopeless. But in the Oblonskys’ household, just as in all families, there was one inconspicuous yet most important and useful person- Matriona Filimonvovna. She soothed her mistress, assured her that it would “right itself” and set to work herself without hurry or fuss.

She had immediately made friends with the bailiff’s wife, and one the very first day she drank tea with her and the bailiff under the acacias, and talked things over. Soon a sort of club was established under the acacias, consisting of the bailiff’s wife, the village elder, and a clerk from the office; and there it was that the difficulties of existence were gradually smoothed away, so that within a week everything had in fact righted itself. The roof was mended, a kitchen-maid-a crony of the village elder’s- was found, the cows began to give milk, the garden hedge was stopped up with stakes, the carpenter made a mangle, hooks were put into the cupboards, and they ceased to burst open when not meant to, and an ironing-board covered with army cloth lay across the arm of a chair and the chest of drawers, and a smell of flat-irons soon pervaded the maids’ room.

“There, you see! And you were quite in despair”, said Matriona Filimonovna, pointing to the ironing-board.” (pg 281-282).

May whatever minor domestic crisis your family is currently experiencing this Advent "right itself" and leave you free to experience the full Peace of Christ during Christ's Mass.