I herded the last of the chickens into the pen and stepped into the comfort of the pallet-built chicken coop that kept out most of the wind. I grinned at the chickens who were already roosting as the eyed me with equal parts suspicion for what I was doing and hope that I’d brought them more treats. As I bent down to get eggs out of the first nesting box I heard my daughter cry, “MAMA! They killed Constance!” Her voice broke on a sob.
I set the basket down and squelched through the mud as quickly as I could to her bantam pen where she keeps her pet miniature chickens. She was standing in front of their coop, bent down, looking with horror at the small body that used to be covered with frizzled white feathers and would perch on her shoulder. I moved her gently aside and bent down to pick up the small body. I cradled it against my coat, holding her head and shushing gently as if she was in pain and could still hear me. I carried her down the hill to the woods. My girl came up behind me as I covered the body of her sweet little hen, Constance.
“Mama, why did they kill her?” She asked, the pain in her voice making my heart hurt worse.
“Because she was small and different. She must have fallen or jumped out of the house and couldn’t get back up, so the older ones pecked at her until she died. That’s what they do with small, different ones. You know that.”
“Why do they always die?” She asked.
“No, my favorite ones,” she cried as she wrapped her arms around me and cried into my shoulder.
“Because you always love the smaller and different ones best. And you want to save them all,” I said gently against her hair as I held her close and wished I could take her pain away. She’d lost pets and pet chickens before. Raccoons and possums decimated her beloved bantams over the summer when we were gone on vacation. She’d kept the one that was injured in a basket that was always with her so she could tend to it until it died in her arms. Every time the grief was the same. It didn’t get any easier. She always swears she won’t get more. Won’t get attached. And she always does.
She inherited my empath tendencies. Which has its pluses and minuses. You feel too much when you’re an empath. In every Jung or Myers-Brigg type personality test I’ve ever done I’m a healer, a mediator, a protector, a nurturer. She cried the other day after we took dinner to the family of a classmate of hers who had an unexpected death in the family. She cried because it hurt her to see them hurting. She asked me why it hurt when she didn’t even really know the person who had died. I told her it hurts because she has a big heart and she cares for others and hates to see them in pain. She wants to help make it all better, whatever it is.
So we stood there in the cold, windy woods. I held her while she cried. I didn’t tell her to get over it. Or to stop crying because it’s just a chicken. There are some in this world who would do that I’m sure. I held her tight and let her cry, shushing gently like I did when she was a baby who needed soothing. I listened to her declare, again, that she wouldn’t ever get any more bantys. I know as soon as we go to Rural King or TSC this spring she’ll see them in their brooder and ask if we can get some with those big, hopeful eyes of hers. I let her cry and be angry, because we need to be allowed to get our feelings out instead of squashing them down and pretending to be fine when we’re not. That’s what I’ve done all my life. “I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong. Everything is ok.” I can tell you, that’s not healthy. I’m working on it.
My sweet “Peg” - I’ve taken to calling her Peg sometimes because of the line in “Here’s to the crazy ones...” that talks about round pegs in square holes. It’s fitting that she went as Peggy Carter for Heros vs. Villians day at school. Both beautiful ladies who don’t fit in with the status quo who are brave and caring (and have awesome fashion sense!) She’s different, an old soul who takes everything to heart - her peers don’t understand her, much as mine didn’t understand me. She’ll find her tribe one day and they will love her as fiercely as I do. Hopefully she won’t have to wait so long as I did. In the meantime, I will be her tribe. We’ll get more chickens again this spring I’m sure, because chicken math is real and who can resist the adorable fuzz balls? I will continue to encourage her to talk to me. Saturday she said, “Can I tell you something?” I replied that she can always tell me anything and everything. And I meant it.
If you haven’t found your tribe, you are welcome to come hang out at The OpalTurtle and join mine. There’s a fire in the fireplace. The bookshelves are packed. Yarn, hooks, and needles are by the rocking chair for those who want to crochet or knit. The soda fountain is operational, snacks are on the tables. We’re partial to funny animal videos and bad puns. Hope to see you there!