Baby Chicken is a writer. Not a quip hack like me; a real writer whose magic with imagery flows from her mind and onto paper as if words were flowers floating on water. She rarely shared her writing before The Norwegian died and it made him sad. He told her those with gifts have a responsibility to share. She would shrug and walk away the way only youngest children do, remorseless with their rebuffs.
On Friday, I received this missive via cell phone–yes my foldy phone, the butt of many of her mother jokes. It read: “Just wanted to say thanks for letting me be at this school…I love it so much!! It’s perfect! You’re the best ever! Love you!” Notice her punctuation–the heart swells. If you recall, Baby Chicken is at the University of Alabama–Roll Tide. In the land of boys with manners and combed hair–how could she be anything less than happy? When we visited last year a boy stopped her from stepping into the street saying, “Darlin’ don’t walk against the light. We wouldn’t want to lose you.” Me–I was hooked. We crossed with the light and Baby Chicken said, “I am so going here!” And that was that.
I hear not only about boys with manners but receive photos of stunning sorority houses. I hear southern songs that must be memorized for home games, paint party updates, about a particular boy who asked if it was possible to get her number and an RA who is to die for. He is, saw him myself–stunning. So am I happy that littlest chicken is happy? You can’t imagine.
This little one spent her senior year of high school deprived of her adoring father. He did not see her final Homecoming Dance or her stunning prom dress. He did not see her cheer at her last football game. He did not present her to the mayor at the Cotillion Ball. He did not take her on college visits. He did not help pick her graduation computer. He did not see her speak at graduation where she pronounced her generation the leaders to change the world through social connection as the first generation to have never lived unplugged. Did my heart break a little bit more with each event? Did I hold her up when we walked across the football field on parents night? Did I read her writing and feel a pang in my heart so deep I thought blood might actually seep through my blouse?
The nature of mothering is far less about potty training and theses in manners, although if you leave your parents home without manners, find someone to teach you, fast. You will surely suffer without that little secret. Pick your teeth–you’ll never get laid. Male or female. Promise. Mothering is the most exhausting job on earth. The never ending on-call situation interrupts your work life, your personal life, your sexual life, your eating, your sleeping and your showering. It is the only thing I’ve been willing to give up shoes to accomplish at a higher level. And that higher level was to give them shoes! And clothes from limited too. And hockey sticks. And toe shoes. And pom uniforms. And prom dresses. And prom tuxes. And haircuts and glasses and contacts and college and law school and then I get do it all over again with a grandchild. Only that one I won’t have to keep my more outrageous opinions to myself or hold back buying glittery shoes and lip gloss necklaces ‘cuz it won’t be my problem to tell her she can’t wear those to church!
Mothering became a village affair when The Norwegian died. Not just friends and loved ones but Oldest and Middle Chicken stepped up. They carried not only their baby sister, but each other through every next step. When one faltered, another was strong. When the other fell, there was an outstretched arm. For me, the moment my husband died was not the piercing stake through my heart. I knew, in all likelihood, I would outlive The Norwegian. For us, it was just too soon. For a child, there is no too soon. The dagger in a mother’s heart is to tell her children their father is gone. Gravity pulled little chicken’s legs from under her; straight to the ground. Those tears and screams and agony will live always just below the surface of my smile. I can hear her racked sobbing at night and her wishes for her life to just be normal. She wished for everyone to not stare at her, waiting for her to break. She wished for no constant scrutiny of our family; a scrutiny only those with a dead loved one know. She wept at birthdays and Thanksgiving and Christmas for the man that was her rock, her biggest cheerleader, her protector and her first crush.
So when I get a text from Littlest Chicken outlining fun and parties and boys and giggly girls and sorority sisters and football games and grades and studying Italian and running into the football team on the quad and she tweets to the whole world:
“You know you’re in Alabama when there’s country music playing in a Japanese restaurant #bento #somethinboutatruck” And…
“Walking through the most beautiful campus listening to country #blessed #nevergetsold” And her roommate tweets…
“Sitting in my room and all I hear is @babychicken (protecting my little one’s identity) in her room yelling at her computer while watching last night’s debate.” And, indulge me,
“Choosing going to the gym and studying over a pledge party… what have my priorities come to #nerdy.” Oh wait, and this one…
“Hmmm 43 days until home and family and friends and birthdays and turkey and focaccias and flos and KITTENS #homesweetscottsdale”
Yes, her pain is palpable but so is her healing. Little one may no longer think only of a life without her father but of a life. Blessings abound. Go hug your Baby Chickens. Right now. Because I said so.