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Standing By

Somehow, I felt better sending the little chicken with Sam. He’s gone for three months, half a day away by airplane. He must be having the time of his life, and I will be here, home, where he no longer even lives, waiting for him.

When Elliott was small, he spent a magical year at a Waldorf kindergarten. I, at least, found the rhythms and traditions of Waldorf education to be magical. He, perhaps, would have been just as happy to swing from the monkey bars and practice developmental spelling at the community school, but that wasn’t to be; not that year. Instead, he kneaded bread, learned to finger knit, sang pentatonic chants by candlelight, and built homes for woolen gnomes with tree bark. Alongside other parents who joined the handwork group, I spent the school mornings knitting little wool farm animals and angora bunnies, and sewing a sizable collection of Waldorf-inspired baby dolls, fairies, and elves. All the while, two-year-old Sam was by my side. The knitted chicken, the one now traveling to Europe some twenty years later with Sam, was one of these handwork creations. I guess it makes me feel better to know that my boy isn’t all alone. Lately, when Aaron gets sad, he tells me that he misses Happy, our baby chick that never made it out of the brooder. I think what he misses is beyond the lost two-day-old chicken. Aaron was two days old when he came to us, the truest of blessings in the midst of unthinkable grief and suffering. I know there are more questions than answers. There always will be.

Earlier this week, I was sorting through papers from the last school year. To me, this is a daunting task, but a necessary one as the buses have come to collect and as I can no longer fit any more papers into the wire files which contain evidence of a year of childhood spent.

The little figure in Aaron’s drawing was smiling, standing under a rainbow. This was his answer to the question posed to his kindergarten class: “Have you ever been sad when someone left?” He must know, as only a child on earth might, that there is something higher in the desperate sadness, and that he can, if he looks hard enough, see what he needs to see inside the rainbow.

Our hens are giving us about half a dozen eggs every day now. They have learned to lay in the nest boxes, and we are delighted with our daily harvest. Though I knew they could begin to lay eggs at about sixteen weeks, those first two eggs caught us by sudden surprise. During those early days, an occasional egg would be discovered under the roost, likely laid by an unsuspecting young hen who was, too, surprised.

One morning, I opened the door to the coop for my cleanup chores to find one of the hens in a nest box. She looked quite uncomfortable and restless as the entire flock looked on, mouths gaping in anticipation of what was to come (or perhaps because they were hot, but I don’t like to think so). They were either staring at her in her state, or they were cheering her on, offering comfort in the form of their company.

Maybe there’s no difference.

We have just returned from a camp where each family has a child with autism. For those four days, for that brief window in time, I know the looks were those of understanding.

There’s definitely a difference.

So when you are far away, and when I cannot be at your side, I will stand by, knowing that as I am missing you, you are carving your own path, knitting your own chickens, and seeing inside the rainbows.

Aaron often draws me in his pictures, and I am usually standing alongside him. Of course, we look quite similar with our big circle eyes, our cheek-to-cheek smiles, and our line-drawn legs. We appear many different colors: sometimes purple, green, or pink. Carefully formed letters, textured with generous strokes of crayon, proclaim, “I like me mom.” I like you, too, son…more than you can imagine.

I’ll be here, if you need me. That’s where I will find my sense of purpose: where you are, or at least where you once were. And may your days be filled with music, rainbows, great surprises…and, of course, chickens.

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