Today. I was motivated and hopeful. I supremely needed to get some work done. The morning was off to a smooth start of maple oats and sunrise cuddles. But then Margot and I got into an argument about what she was to wear to school. Margot called me bossy and unkind.
I found myself lecturing about the hem length and logistics of carrying anything when also needing to carry her two-feet-too-long dress. She was tearful when she demonstrated how princesses carry their skirts; explained how Lucy, Grace, Beata and Lauris would love her new gown. I realized my stubborn mistake. I truly was bossy and unkind. I apologized, we hugged, she wore the dress.
Margot happily waltzed into her preschool, carrying that iridescent blue fabric, Ruby and I returned home. Ten minutes later, the phone rang. It was Margot’s school. Her eye is kind of red…four confirmed cases of pink eye…can you come get her?
For me, it’s an agitated adjustment on these days. The days when my plan to work is taken like a tidal wave extinguishing a tea light. On the one hand, there’s no negotiating: the tidal waves wins. On the other hand, whah! Something like that.
We do get there, where we need to be, rather quickly. I spent a few minutes recalibrating my brain, phoning and emailing to cancel obligations. I softened into my new ‘plan’ as I drove back to Margot’s school, Ruby bleating Humpty Dumpty from the back seat.
Margot was hardly ill, all sing songy polyester. But I get the school’s hyper-vigilance. I waffled and eventually headed to Cost Care where the diagnosis was wholly inconclusive. I got the prescription anyway, just in case we need it. We wandered around Ace Hardware, bought New Kitty a name tag. His name is George, by the way. Finally decided by the kids based on his curiosity, his inclination to reach into any vessel lying about and fling it, and liquid contents, across the room. Curious George. Margot and Ruby chose a pink bejeweled heart for his tag.
Next to Ace, next to Cost Care, is Crazy Mike’s Movie Rental. Andy and I were frequent patrons in college. My kids have never been what with Netflix and all. We passed through the big teal door into a mania I hadn’t anticipated. Do we get to just pick a movie and watch it right here?! Margot asked, jumping, eyes wide, as some feature animation blasted overhead. I quickly chose two of my childhood favorites and we were out.
Ruby fell asleep on the way home and Margot parked in front of our computer for The Parent Trap declaring this day one of the best ever. I slipped into my studio to stitch up some hats and shirts. The sun came out. I hummed.
I got a solid hour in when I heard Ruby’s drumming feet in the upstairs hall. Sewing machine off. I headed upstairs to snuggle and prepare more food. Seems I am always making (or cleaning up from) a snack these days.
Leftover beet-fennel soup, hard boiled eggs, spinach salad, peanut butter pretzels. I suggested we attempt an errand, an obligation I really wanted to honor. We barely made it to the car, both girls now wearing muddy-hemmed, oversized gowns. They protested, I urged and simultaneously regretted my urging. But we got on just fine. We completed our task and, on the way back home, I gasped, “Holy smokes, Mount Jumbo is amazing right now.”
“I feel pretty sure I could just live up there,” Margot beamed.
“Yeah, ‘cept you miss mama and dada, right?” Ruby replied.
Once home, we walked past our hens clucking about the yard when I noticed Peanut all sullen in the corner of the coop. She’s the least likely hen to want a cuddle so when she let me scoop her right up I knew something was amiss. Her raw, hot, featherless belly felt like a water balloon. And so, I followed my two princesses upstairs, Peanut under my arm.
I don’t know much about bird illness but I thought a bath might feel nice. I asked Peanut and she leaned into me. I filled the tub with warm water, she diarrheaed all over me, all over the bathroom wall. My kids were at my heels wanting to inspect the excrement. Alice whined for dinner. My seamstress knocked on the door to deliver clothes. The phone rang, I tripped on yesterday’s bag of wet swimsuits, yet to be unpacked. HOLY HELL.
Hen in the tub, dog fed, liquid poop inspected and cleaned, soggy bag kicked aside. I made myself a drink. And I sat at the tub’s edge squinting the fake tile into a foggy blur. My kids spoke ‘french’ by my side, which is really a slurry of th and sh and mua sounds.
Andy arrived home to leaping, screaming daughters. Peanut is in the bathtub! Margot has pink eye! Andy pulled a turkey pot pie from the freezer. I kissed him for all the freezer food he stashes away and for caring about these chickens that (weren’t at all his idea but totally all his labor) have cost us way more than the eggs they give and for his cinnamon beard that I just learned will be shaved into a mustache for his upcoming boys ski weekend.
I cradled Peanut by the fire in a towel while my family made salad and did dishes. She purred. I’ve never heard a chicken purr but she settled in just like my cats. Ever since our first flock disaster years ago, I’ve distanced myself from my hens as pets. I care for them but not the same way I did. They are so fragile and helpless. We’ve lost five since our move. With the recent deaths, I have felt irresponsible and sad but not like I did that first time when I wept while shoveling filleted bodies off my lawn. I have a different, more cordial relationship with my hens now.
But. There was something emotionally elemental and right about snuggling Peanut in the towel. This life, we are IN IT together. All species. Bare skinned, furry, feathered. She purred. An old soul dinosaur.
We’ll take our swollen bellied girl to the vet tomorrow where we will narrow down the three diagnoses the doc gave over the phone. And tomorrow will be different from today but, big picture, mostly the same: a little bit of chaos, a lot of unpredictability, a whole lot of rolling with it.
To love, mess and humor,