Ella and the chicks

15 Years of Wedded Bliss and a Dead Chick

The cool morning turned hot and the kids ran in what seemed like circles  pummeling questions at me not allowing time for my answers before they fired off the next one.  We were trying to get out of the house for 24 hours to celebrate 15 years of marriage with a little quiet and togetherness.  Grammy and Grandpa were in town and Carla our awesome babysitter was also on duty.  I am always anxious before leaving the house.  Even if we are just going to dinner, it is always so hard for me to leave.  Darren always reassures me that they will survive without us and that our caretakers are completely competent.  I know all these things, but leaving on any level gives me anxiety.  I don’t even like leaving the animals so the three kids are tough for me. 

Ella and the chicks

This particular morning was a little harder because we were staying away over night something I wish we did more of, but at this point in our parenting career I can count on my two hands how many nights we have spent away from the children in 11 years. 

“How close are you?” Darren says as he hovers in and out of the door.  The usual question thrown at me in between the pummeling from the kids.  My usual answer, “close.”  After 15 years he leaves me alone to do my thing without a whole lot of nagging.  I am grateful.  There is always one last thing to do.

That is when I hear the shriek from Juliet.  “Mommmmmm, Liam hurt Kally.”  Kally, the new baby Black Sex Linked chick we had just acquired from the feed store.  She had been a member of the family for 2 weeks along with Tiny and Speedy.  One for each child so we could add to our little backyard flock.  Kally was Ella’s chick and Ella was nowhere in sight.  I knew it was bad when Jules ran in the house and Liam trailed in tears.  Darren had gotten to her first.  “She’s dead.”  The only thing I could think of was, “Thank God.” The last thing I wanted was a mortally injured chick who was suffering in front of me.  The kids had let the chicks out to play and Liam was chasing his chick when he accidentally stepped on Kally and crushed her. 

How do I take care of this mess?  Darren was on removal and burial and I had the hard job of breaking the news to Kally’s mama bird, Ella who was plugged into her Kindle ear phones and all.  Though she was totally breaking house rules, I was grateful for her defiance this morning so that I could prepare to break the news gently. 

Not only was I personally sad about Kally, but I also knew the heartbreak it was going to cause my 11-year-old who has not really experienced any sort of loss in her young life.  I also got transported back to almost 30 years ago when I hatched chicks from an incubator and our neighborhood lab ate them for lunch.  I can still feel my heartache from that day.  

I mentally prepared for supporting my daughter through her grief and entered her room.  I was not so graceful in my delivery and just blurted out, “Kally is dead.”  UUghhhh….I am such an idiot.  Should I have led  with an elaborate prelude about love and loss and chicken heaven?  Complete and utter devastation ensued as expected and I held my first baby and cried with her as she learned a very hard lesson in life for the first time – it is all temporary.   The worst part about this whole chick tragedy is that her 4-year-old baby brother was accidentally responsible.  I gradually broke the news trying to explain that she did not suffer.  It was quick and done.  “I hate him!!  I hate him!!  I am never speaking to him again!!” she screamed and cried.  Not only was she grieving, but she wanted to take a hit out on the killer, which just happened to be her brother, who happens to be my other baby.  

My parenting expertise was being completely tapped.  Done.  I was totally washed up.  How do I help her feel better again, forgive her brother and move on in the world to become a content person?

I realize that this will be between them forever.  They are home from college sitting around the island enjoying a beer with friends and she brings up how he stepped on her chick.  He speaks at her wedding and begs for her forgiveness.  It is forever imprinted on their relationship and will stick with them throughout their life even though the hard feelings will slip away into the ether.  He will remember only because he was made to remember by the retelling. 

Liam and Jules begged us to go get a new chick to surprise Ella and make feel better.  I tried to explain that she did not want a new chick she wanted her chick, Kally.  “Pleeeaassee, Mom.  Can we go get her a new chick? I just want Ella to feel better.”

When Ella calmed down a little, I gave her some alone time.  I am the person that facilitated the relationship between chickens and children and I started to wonder why I would do such a thing with very fragile birds who we are forever protecting from the foxes and raccoons.  There is also a rule not to run when the chicks are out, but when you are four sometimes you forget. 

Though  our chick loss was very sad, I felt fortunate that it was the first encounter with  loss that my kids were experiencing.  It was chalk full of hard lessons in life on a thankfully smaller scale.  The grief and forgiveness and a realization that running out and getting a brand new chick was not going to fix the situation.  Ella decided that she did not want to replace Kally and I am glad that she came to that decision on her own.  I think it was her way of honoring the short life of her little pet. 

As for our date, we only postponed it for one night.  At dinner we talked about our crazy parenting adventure flanked by the birth of our beautiful blonde haired, chubby baby and holding our beautiful spinally 11-year old person while she grieved for her little pet.  It is funny when hold your babies in your arms for the first time and all you can do it wonder about the future.  We had no idea about anything really.  All we knew was that it was love at first sight and our human instinct keeps us hanging on for dear life, trying our best, which sometimes sucks and being grateful for every minute we get to love them. 




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