When I was 4 years old, I had this lamp on the nightstand next to my bed. The lamp had a ceramic base that was a statue of the Borden Milk Company’s Elsie the Cow with her young son, Elmer. I had the lamp because my father worked at the Borden Company. They sold milk at the Borden Company.
Elsie sat on a chair. She wore a frilly pink sundress and an apron. One of her hooves held a large spoon with chocolate cake frosting that was just ready to lick. The other hoof rested gently round Elmer, who was sitting on her lap. Elmer had chubby knees and wore a blue sailor suit.
The lamp came out of the top of Elsie’s head. Where the milk came from, I really couldn’t have said.
One day, my mother announced that we were going to the Borden Company picnic and would get to see Elsie and Elmer. I knew just what I’d see: A real mother-sized, well dressed cow with her son, who must be like my own little brother. Perhaps if Elmer were not sitting on her lap at that moment, I would get to. Maybe I would even get to share some of that chocolate frosting. It would taste just like my real mother’s frosting she always made for my birthday cakes.
I could hardly wait for the day of the picnic, when I would get to see Elsie and Elmer.
At the picnic, I kept looking every which way but could not get even a glimpse of Elsie and Elmer. Dutifully, I helped my mother lay out the tablecloth and unpack the lunch. But I could not eat. Not until I had seen Elsie and Elmer. I insisted. So my mother took me by hand and led me over to one side of the park where there were …
“That’s not Elsie and Elmer!” I shrieked.
Elsie and Elmer, all pink and blue and frosting, had somehow in real life become these two huge brown smelly animals eating … not cake, but … grass! And with no clothes on!
After that ensued what must have been to my father’s business associates a fairly entertaining conversation about cows and lamps and milk. I was pretty disappointed.
But I now knew where the milk came from.