A chicken made me want to have another baby. It sounds like the opening to a joke. A large portion of my life does.
You see, I tutor to help pay the bills and also because I will never quite leave my teacher self behind. I love to geek out to Ken Kesey and thesis statements. I love all my pens in various colors for various purposes. I love the knowledge I get to pass on, Mr. Miyagi style, to my tutorees (not a word, but I’m a teacher so I get to make the rules).
On this day, when I pulled up the gravel drive to my student’s house, I caught sight of what looked like an elevated playhouse. The twins would have loved it…a mini treehouse. This is how I met my first chicken–my first up close and personal chicken to look me in the eye. I’ve been around the block with General Tso’s, but this one was up for an actual conversation.
Here’s how it played out. I made a joke, as I tend to do, to my student’s mother. My quip is my downfall. But in this case, it made me a new friend. I said, after oohing and ahhing, “Look at that one. It’s like it wants to sit on your shoulder and whisper secrets in your ear like a pirate’s parrot.” Well, it turns out Queen Bee (the chicken) loves to sit on shoulders. She’ll perch there all day, which is how I found myself with a chicken on my shoulder starting me square in the eye.
After the initial panicky “be still, be still,” we settled in. She stopped flapping and curled into a neat ball. I un-kinked my shoulder. She fit right in the crook of my neck. And then she turned to me and warbled. That’s the best word for it. It wasn’t a cluck. It was a chicken hum. Something in the pit of my stomach melted. Absolutely unexpectedly and unprovoked, I felt the mommy tug. My arms wanted to wrap this chicken in a gauze blanket and bounce around singing “Old MacDonald.” I wanted to be able to turn my head and sniff baby smells. All my kids have lost their baby smells. Kid smells are good too: dirt and grass and sweet sweat. But they’ve left behind that aroma of warm heads after nap and tiny milky burps. My kids are kids. No more babies or bibs or teething toys. I’ve got eighteen pairs of shoes in the hallway and none of them are baby booties.
I did not wrap the chicken in my coat and take it home. The warm fuzzies didn’t last. It’s hard to think of a chicken as a child when it cocks its head, looks at you, and blinks with it’s lower eyelid like a raptor. But after I left that day my body drifted back to that feeling. The warm spot lingered. It hovered right over my c-section scar and reminded me of what had been. I tried to be diplomatic about it, to remember the sleepless nights that turned me meaner and crazier, the lack of any and all personal space (both mind and body), the cycle of toys that would litter that house again. But I couldn’t shake it, the ghost of infancy past. I wanted it again. It’s a conversation we continue to have after the kids go to bed…if, when, if, when. As I pulled into my driveway all I could think was, “That crazy pirate chicken sucked me in and now I’m left to sort out the pieces.”
Have you ever found yourself wanting to return to a particular phase of life? Have you ever looked a chicken in the eye?