"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Monday, March 22, 2010

counting your chicks after they hatch

It's a day of mixed emotions.

Spring chicks. We've done it a few years so you'd think we'd be pros by now. Yet, today has been a real roller coaster ride.

It began with a 7am phone call from Frank at the Franktown Post Office. That's what I said -- Frank of Franktown, but he could have been Santa Claus for as fast as these folks scrambled out of bed and into their clothes on the first day of spring break to get down there at break neck speed.

Carton opened and huddled crush of chicks dispersed, we discovered that one little guy hadn't survived the trip. And it broke my hardened eleven year old boy into pieces. It was hard to watch and the trip home was much more solemn than the jovial journey to collect our new arrivals had been. Once home, Christian disappeared to the woods and shortly returned ashen faced and my heart just ached but at the same time loved that he was touched so deeply by the circle of life.

Excitement once again mounted as we unloaded our new babies into their warm bed of pine shavings, taught them how to eat and drink and bantered over names to give each. And then again, one tiny one started to fail. Bebe, Annie had dubbed her. Try as I might, I could not revive the little thing and as evening came, she took her last breaths. I'd shooed the kids out to play as I did my best to make her comfortable but had to admit when they quietly re-entered, that Bebe's little body hadn't been able to sustain the strain of a mail order migration.

I turned off the heat lamp and gingerly closed the box. Annie's tear stained face turned to mine and asked to take it. I allowed her and once outside, I observed through the window as she turn to her siblings to speak words I could not decipher. I watched as older brother grabbed a shovel and older sister took hands of younger siblings and all followed my blond girl to the woods edge as the sun set over the trees.

And I broke. What lessons to learn today. That I never want to see my children full of pain. That they can bear one another's burdens. That life is packed with disappointment. That with good things come hard challenges. That if, today they can handle such an unseemingly small hurt, perhaps tomorrow they can pick themselves up after an even bigger one.

Not too long ago, I learned something about chicks as they hatch. It's a time consuming process in which the little bird struggles to emerge and then rests for a time over and over again until it is ready to meet the waiting world. The process is strengthening to it's little body and enables it to stand on legs that have worked to gain their own stability. Assistance from an external source results in weakness and an inability to fight for life which inevitably leads to death.

My children must face their challenges in order to be the people I want and need them to be. I can hug, advise, guide and love, but I can't fix or make the load any easier or they might not be strong enough. We all must struggle bit by bit. We all must find our own inner strength. Only when we are forced to stretch do we become the beings we were sent here to be.

Who knew all of that would come from a crate of chicks in the post today. Your short life did not go unnoticed, Bebe. Thank you for sharing your struggles.


  1. Oh, I'm so sorry! Did you order from Ideal or McMurray? How awful. How sweet, though, that the children will have those memories to think about all their adult lives. Like the funeral of Yellow Cat. Or Rambo the fish. And on, and on....