Tag Archiv: chicken
The Chef, by unknown Spanish master. 17th century.
Occasionally it comes upon me with a great panic: the children are growing up. Sooner than I think they’ll be flying the coop, circling the barn, and cresting the clouds somewhere over the pond. With these thoughts the tears rise hard and fast.
Boy one’s shoes look like we could use them as canoes this summer. I feel already his eventual loss. In his most irritating moments, nostalgia morphs into longing for the clock to tick double time, but lately he isn’t irritating me enough. This put me in need of a list. A list of things I still need to teach him in the two and a half, tiny, little, puny, minuscule years before he graduates from high school.
It turned out tobe a long list, which was good. It gave me something else to worry about. I decided there was no time like the present to start working with the others on departure preparedness. Which is why I instituted weekly cooking nights for the months of January and February. Each child has a night to cook with me. Making it to the end of February earns me a gold star. Further commitment, for now, is not required.
As expected, cooking so regularly with sous-chefs has taken the smooth out of dinner preparations, but otherwise I like it. Boy one started with a chicken chili. He learned about peeling garlic cloves, while I assured him he was still in the game on that one since I didn’t know you could get garlic, without ordering it in butter on bread at a restaurant, until after I left home.
“I want to know how to make soup,” announced Boy two. “Can you make sure I learn how to make soup?” We boiled our bones the night before and went to work when he got home from school. Even the leftovers thrilled him. Girl one began with curried chicken (see a meat theme anyone?) and Girl two’s first go was a stir fry (pork!).
The kids have been in the kitchen a million times but their cooking nights feel different. Smelling spices together, cutting up vegetables, and discussing substitutions, I walk them through the secret passages of my castle. Girl two made buttermilk with the usual mix of vinegar and milk. Nothing special, but to her, the knowledge was an invitation to magic. Boy two cried the usual tears as he chopped an onion. It felt like super powers to hand him a piece of bread, tell him to hold it in his mouth, then watch his amazement as his eyes returned to normal.
Wrapped up in these simple things lies the heart and soul of our loving and being. Without food, we die. To prepare a meal well is to reverence life: not wasting what we have, blessing those who partake. To give someone food says I wish you to live. And with good food, I wish you to live well and long and happy.
Growing up we never lived close to my grandparents, but I felt their love all the same. Especially from my grandmother. As a small child, I sometimes wondered if my grandfather even knew my name, but somewhere in there, he started talking. He’s never really stopped since. I know entire extended families rather well through the stories of my grandmother. My grandfather and I share a love of silly rhymes.
I wasn’t sure how things would work after my mother died. Usually it had been my mother that kept us together.
My grandma called me on the phone. “I call my kids in order. All their numbers are on the wall. I’m too old to change from four to three. I’m putting you in at your mother’s spot,” she said.
She travelled up to meet my first baby. I travelled down with the other three when they arrived. She bought me diapers and tucked twenty dollar bills in my coat for gas. I sent pictures and letters I had never taken the time to write before. We weren’t forgetting my mother. We were loving somebody else who loved her. Along the way, we found a lot of love and joy between us. My mother would like that.
My grandfather doesn’t remember things now. He has cancer that he isn’t treating. Many conversations, he can’t follow. He joins in by telling jokes he thinks of.
This year we had an early Thanksgiving dinner together. My grandparents, my girls, and me. I brought one of our chickens. The girls drew turkey pictures and made place cards. We ate brownies for dessert and saved the pumpkin pie for the next day so we could properly enjoy it.
I went to bed afterwards thinking about books. How every chapter should be the best you can make it. Every sentence matters. But as good as it all is, if it’s done right, the last chapter is the best. Everything comes together. The beautiful intensifies to a level you had no idea was even possible back when you were reading in the middle and enjoying every page.
I am struck with my grandfather’s gentleness amidst confusion. His quiet trust in my grandmother is not a tenderness I could have imagined in him twenty years ago. He needs a lot of help navigating daily life. My grandmother learns what she needs to do, and does it. She does not spend her days grieving who my grandfather is not. She looks at the man who is present, figures out how to give him what he needs, and loves him as he is.
I have been reading the book of their lives for a long time now. So many different chapters. So much for me to learn. But this last chapter. It takes my words away and sits me down quiet with wonder. About love. And it never, ever being too late to become like the Velveteen rabbit. More real. More beautiful.
B2 brought home a list from school yesterday. He was supposed to write down ways that he was unique. The capitalized darkened sentence midway down the page caught my eye. “I am short and proud of it,” it read. The sentence before said, “I have a chicken named Tailless.” I remembered that I was remiss in writing about County Road 21, if I failed to write about Tailless.
In my perfect world, I would always be able to look out the window and see a chicken. Due to the effect on the driveway, my husband does not agree. I go in spurts leaving the coop door open anyway until the foxes catch on. The summer they got 14, we kept the chickens in for more than a year. Then this summer I started letting them out again. At first, strictly as a Sabbath observance. But the need for Sabbath grew until the chickens were out whenever the wind blew.
Foxes, observing the extended Sabbath struck again. They got three and a third chickens in one afternoon – which is when Tailless got her name. She took over sitting on the eggs all day for so long we thought she would never leave. B2 started disappearing into the chicken coop at odd times and taking five times as long to collect the eggs. Turns out he had fallen in love with Tailless and was hand feeding her grain, and stealing her scraps from the house.
“I need money,” he announced one day. “Do you have any work I can do?”
“I want to buy a chicken. It can live with the rest of them, but it has to be mine. Would you sell me one?”
“Ok,” I said.
“How much would a chicken cost me anyway? Tailless. How much would you charge me for Tailless?”
“Two dollars,” I said and his eyes lit up.
“I have that much on my dresser right now!” He tore up the stairs to his room and returned with a toonie. He handed it to me and we shook hands. Then he was gone.
Twenty minutes later, while I was making dinner, he returned from the chicken coop to talk shop.
“It feels so good to own something,” he said, hands shoved in his pockets, standing by the kitchen counter. “I went and told Tailless she was mine. It just feels so good, Mom.” And he was gone again.
Image one is a sleepy Tailless wondering why I am in the coop at night. I cropped it in usual techno challenged fashion to give a better view of her altered shape. Her tail has actually grown back quite a bit. Image two is her in action this morning whereby I learned again that photographing chickens (tailless or otherwise) is quite difficult, as they are always in motion.