Allie has fallen in love. And in that unique way that the universe works, (or maybe it’s just the way it works for me), the recipient of this intense, heartfelt, (mostly unrequited), devotion is, of all things……………..a chicken. A downy, yellow, slightly runty, baby chicken. Some of you may recall that in my earlier posts I’ve expressed my feelings about the chickens that
torture visit us frequently. How much I appreciate being woken up throughout the night or having my phone conversations interrupted by an important message that must be conveyed to the rooster down the block at just that moment. Experiences such as these, continue to endear me to these feathered knuckleheads.
It all began rather secretly. A few days after our arrival, Allie and Fletcher discovered one of our neighbor’s hens sitting on several eggs. They began a vigilant watch over the hen’s progress and several days later noticed the last of the eggs had hatched. In their exuberance, (at least, this is what I’ve gathered from conflicting accounts), they startled the hen and one of the newly hatched chicks fell, dramatically out of the nest, (about six inches), to the ground. Now faced with, what they perceived as, the tiny chick’s life hanging in the balance, they jumped into action and scooped it up. But, what then? Allie, being the more experienced chicken wrangler (based on her telling this to her little brother), she suggested they keep it and raise it as their own. And Fletcher, having no say in the matter and not wanting to be left out, went along with the plan. For almost two days Marc and I spent much of our time enjoying the quiet and peace in the house. We marveled at what a brilliant decision we had made in bringing our family to Bali. Clearly, the kids were so enamored with the beauty here, they were inventing new, thought-provoking games to play with each other, stopping, only to exchange monologues professing their deep love and affection for their parents. Or, they were trying to get a newly hatched chick to eat leftover lasagna.
Allie found a basket in the house and filled it with an old sock. This was to be the chick’s new home. While they were at school, the chick would hide in Allie’s closet but, at all other times, it would be in Allie’s bathroom where they would feed it leftovers from the kitchen and tend to all it’s little chicken needs –which they had determined to be lots of “training” and expressions of affection (evoking Lennie and the rabbits – Of Mice and Men, anyone?). It was an extremely well thought out plan. Except for one small wrinkle. Remember how I mentioned that we have an abundance of help here at our house in Bali? Well, those people take their jobs seriously and part of their job is to make sure Allie’s room is clean (I know, I know — we’ll be dealing with the implications of this when we return but, I’ll cross that bridge at a later date). About 36 hours into the chick’s
incarceration rescue, Marc and I actually started to get suspicious about how often the kids were going back and forth from the kitchen to Allie’s room. In addition, Dek, our exceedingly responsible house manager flashed a large and knowing smile when I made a comment about how “hungry the kids seem to be.”
You’ve probably gathered it was taking a whole house of bricks to fall on their parents, before we began to think something was up. Finally, we went to check on our suspiciously quiet kids. I opened Allie’s door and there was Fletcher holding the hostage in his hands. They both recounted the story of how the chick had fallen out of the nest and was unlikely to survive if not for their valiant rescue (including a dramatic reenactment). “What will happen to Papaya if we give her back? She’ll die! Her mother will reject her and she’ll starve!” I think Allie and Fletcher had watched too many wildlife documentaries about the complex relationship between babies and mothers in the wild. Lucky for us, we were dealing with a very uncomplicated chicken mom who, in all likelihood, barely noticed one of her chicks had gone missing for the last day and a half.
I tried to reassure Allie that her mother would definitely take Papaya back and the only chance the chick had was to be reunited with her family. “As much as you love her, you don’t know much about how to be a chicken.” But whatever cogent, rational argument I tried with Allie, it wasn’t penetrating –“but, I love her, mom, I love her so much, I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” The intensity of her emotions almost brought us both to tears. “She’s so little and helpless, I can’t let her go.” I sat there thinking to myself – “Why are these damned chickens trying to ruin my life?!” And then, it dawned on me –I couldn’t blame Allie for acting on an impulse that I, as a mother, struggle with everyday. How many times have I fantasized about doing just that — locking her away from the mean girls, college rejection letters and boys that will break her heart. Keeping her away from the world seems, at times, the only reasonable option. To her ten year old brain, keeping Papaya locked in a basket, away from things that could hurt her, was the best defense she could offer. What she hadn’t considered was how she might be depriving Papaya. I shared how I would like nothing more than to keep her in a basket locked away, safe from the world, never to be hurt and always close to me but, then, she would miss out on fun things like birthday parties or sleepovers with friends. After she contemplated the horror of spending her life alone with only her parents and brother for entertainment, she quickly pulled herself together. Then she stood up, looked at me and smiled. “Do you think Papaya will remember me?”
She better…….I may not be able to protect her from much but, I think I can handle one puny little chick.