How could a mother do that to her child? Why would a mother do that to her baby? How could it possibly be okay?
We delighted in watching Fried Chicken, one of our hens, care for baby Kitty May. The tiny chick that surprised us all with her arrival as a miniature fluff of downy gray in the nest box was guided through every “first” by her proud mother hen. For this new life, one I knew nothing about, I worried constantly and consulted my mom many times with each potential new obstacle.
Where will she sleep? How will she get down from the coop? What if the laying hens eat her food? Will she range around the property with the rest of the hens? And, of course, what will Wendell the rooster think of her?We looked hard to find the good. Even as each day seemed an impossible chore, the years picked up speed and pretty soon we could see lights. Not the bold, confident type of lights that blare overhead in the supermarket. I am not sure I would have been able to tolerate those anyway. We saw little sparks, glimmers, and an occasional burned out bulb, not with the predictability of the rise and fall of the sun, but the brightest bright when it was good.
“You think you’re such a good mom.”
“You don’t even take care of the kids.”
“You don’t do anything for me.”
I watched as Fried Chicken lowered her beak into a saucer of water, lifted her head skyward to drink, and then urged Kitty May to do the same. When I set a plate of cottage cheese out for the flock, she used her foot to scrape some over the edge just for her baby chick.
During the first nights, Fried stayed with Kitty May in their makeshift nest on the floor of the coop. When the time came, the mother hen helped her little one up to the perches where she kept Kitty May warm alongside the rest of the flock. Fried kept Kitty May close as they explored the farm each day, and she led her to the safety of the coop at sundown. I remember hearing loud squawks one afternoon as Fried called Wendell to defend Kitty May from the curiosity of one of the barn cats.
She was her baby, and she took care of her.
There were times when she wanted so badly not to need me that she made me believe that she didn’t.
When she moves out on her own, is she going to be okay? Will there be someone by her side, someone to watch over her, to laugh with her, to understand her? Will she notice if there is? Will she know if there isn’t?
I could hear the loud peeps as Kitty May seemed desperate in her search for her mother, who appeared deliberate in her attempt to keep a distance. Though the little one continued to seek out Fried Chicken, it was clear that something had changed.
When I check the chickens every night, the laying hens and Wendell are in their familiar spots at the top perch. The four teenagers have claimed one side of the lower perch. Then there’s little Kitty May, in her own spot, on the rafters above the window. She’s all alone.
There are times, too, when my grown child spends idle hours as her own best company. Perhaps she likes it that way, as she has passed on many invitations to play “Go Fish”, to pick cherry tomatoes, and even to go for frozen custard.
Will she feel alone? Will she close the door to the farm for the last time, never once looking back to wonder what a Saturday morning might bring? Does she know I love her?
As I stand, bewildered by ambivalence while somehow struck by something deep within my soul, I knew there would be no breakthrough, no moment when all of a sudden everything thing is right.
I didn’t think Kitty May was ready to forage on her own. I wonder if my daughter is ready to find her own way to adulthood. It’s hard not to let the tears rush like the wild rivers; the reality of today contrasts sharply with my starry-eyed vision from days past. I hope she is ready. I hope I am. I hope I did the best I could.
I hope that one day, she will think so, too.