"Stephan, get up we have to milk the cows and pick up the eggs before church."
I looked outside and it was still dark. I wanted to sleep more but I couldn't, I had to help Aunty. I got out of bed, made a bathroom stop and headed to the kitchen.
"Do you drink coffee or tea?”
"I'll drink what ever you're having."
So with a cup of coffee, we headed to the barn. “Do you think the cows are lined up ready to be milked this early?”
We got the wash and rinse buckets ready, I helped to put straw in the feed bins, took my stool and milk bucket, I was ready. Sure enough, as soon as the barn door was opened, two cows walked in and got into their stalls. I adjusted one of the holders, and began to wash the teats of the cow I’d be milking. For some reason, the milking came easier this morning. Aunty still finished before me. My goal was to finish before her but not to the detriment of the cow.
"Aunty, do these cows have a name?” She looked at me as if I was a little crazy. I started to laugh, "Haven't you ever heard of farmers naming their cows?”
"No, they are just cows.”
"I bet if we gave them names and called them that, they would come and use the same stall every time.”
"I don't think that’s true.”
"OK, I'm going to call this one Betsy. From the markings you can see she is different from the one you milked."
And that is how Betsy became my cow to milk. I added a little sweetener to her hay so she would know which stall to use. Over the next few days, Betsy always came to my stall. I’d talk to her as I milked her, I was getting pretty good at that. Aunty just shook her head when I talked to Betsy.
While I picked up the eggs, Aunty went to fix breakfast. I was surprised how many eggs we had, I put them in the same cold box as the milk. Walking into the kitchen, “Aunty, do I have time to shower before we eat?”
"Yes, just hurry up, while you eat I’ll shower."
Knowing we were going to church, I dressed in the only suit I had brought with me. I hung my jacket over the back of my chair as I ate my breakfast. Finishing, I noticed Aunty was ready to go, putting on my jacket, I didn't know if we walked or drove. As Aunty walked out of the house, I realized we’d be walking. Passing a flower bush, Aunty snipped offa flower and stuck in the lapel of my jacket. I also got a kiss on my cheek with the flower.
The walk to church was nice, we met neighbors along the way, soon everyone was chatting. I saw a few kids from the tavern, I was looking for Nohr. Upon entering the church, I noticed the similarities with the church at home which my mother and I attended. As I looked around, I saw Nohr sitting with an older couple, which I assumed were his parents.
"Aunty, this church looks a lot like my church back home. Are you also Lutheran?”
"Yes, Stephan, the national church of Denmark is Lutheran. You'll be able to follow the service as it is the same in all Lutheran churches."
Aunty was right, I was able to follow. When I didn't know the Danish words I repeated the responses in English. I had a lot to learn. During the homily, the pastor welcomed me in English and then repeated it in Danish. I saw Nohr turn and look at me. I smiled at him which got me a smile back.
After the service, the pastor spoke to me in English. He welcomed me to Denmark and said he expected to see me in church. He asked if I was confirmed, I told him I was. He then asked if I would like to participate in the service as an altar boy, I said I would. We agreed upon a time when we could meet, I thanked him and moved away as other people wanted to speak to him. I waved to Nohr, who came with his parents. Turned out they were his grandparents. Aunty told me later that his dad was in the service and his mother traveled with him. They wanted Nohr to have a non-military life and so he stayed with his grandparents.
While Aunty talked to his grandparents, Nohr and I talked. I found it hard to look away from him. His eyes were hypnotic. They seemed to draw me in and hold me, not letting me go. I was a little embarrassed, he would ask a question, I had acted like I didn’t hear it. After two or three times it finally sunk through my head that he asked a question. He just laughed and when he did his eyes seem to twinkle. I had it bad. Then I realized maybe he isn't gay and if he isn't gay, I had no chance with him except as a friend. With that knowledge, I broke my staring and started to act as I normally would with a friend.
Walking away from the church with Aunty, I caught a glimpse of Michael. But whenever I concentrated or focused on the image, it wasn't there. If we never had our talk when I was in the hospital, I would’ve thought I was going crazy.
Sunday evening milking out of the way, Aunty and I talked about school. We agreed that I should enroll as soon as possible and probably need a tutor for language and reading skills.
Monday morning, after milking and picking up the eggs, we made plans on driving to school. I could have walked, but Aunty wanted to do some shopping, so we took the car. School was something else that was different from the States.
Since I was fifteen, I was put in the Upper Secondary school. To say I was confused was a mild statement. On the way home, Aunty explained that the school system in Denmark was very different from the system in the States. The Primary and Lower Secondary involved the first ten years of education. Then if you were between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, you were eligible for the Upper Secondary. That’s where I was enrolled. After two years in the Upper Secondary, you could go to a prep school. If you stayed for the three years, you could move to a technical or a Gymnasium school. I wasn't sure what that all meant, but for now, I would need to focus on my current curriculum. One good thing came out of all of this confusion on my part. I would need a tutor and guess who my tutor was going to be, Nohr who was in his last year. I think I smiled all the way home.
After school, we went shopping for groceries as well as some additional clothes for me. I was concerned about the money since it appeared that Aunty wasn't working. It was some time later that I discovered that my dad was forced to pay an allowance for my support. Aunty's only income was from the milk and eggs she sold.