People think I’m my mother. They call me Wendy and ask me how John and the girls are. I take it as a compliment although I wonder how my mom would like being mistaken for my grandmother. Not much I think. My own father even mistook me at my son’s Christmas concert, seeing me across the auditorium, knowing he’d left mom at home, yet there she/I was, prompting a relieved and nervous laugh at his own gaffe once he realized he wasn’t demented. That must have been strange for him.
I wonder sometimes where my mother ends and I begin. It’s like we share a brain and actually can speak telepathically, no need to finish a sentence. Along with my sister, we have a language invented over time. It’s private though not a secret, but I doubt any one else could decipher our abbreviated version of the English language, so many inside jokes that I sometimes can’t recall which is the normal way to say an everyday phrase. Everything has been tweaked in a tiny and hilarious way. Is it a “red setter” or “red letter” day? I’m not always sure. “Chachages” (sausages) anyone? This variation of English is chiseled into my general makeup to the point that I’m certain my great great grandchildren will speak it fluently. Will they know where it came from or will they take it for granted, thinking it was born in them like the blood running in their veins? Either way, they’ll be right.
I’ve watched my mom struggling with the loss of my grandmother these past couple of years. I am brought to my knees by her grief, so connected with her that her feelings may as well be my own. Her sorrow scares me. I have been strong enough to overcome insurmountable loss, damage, and fuckedupedness that not even my mom could comprehend. I am still standing. I will ALWAYS prevail. But watching her lose her mom staggers me like nothing in my life ever has. Her despair is a preview of my own and I’m not positive I’ll survive it. After all, how can I go on without my soul? I am everything because of her. My thoughts, my ideas, my heart…. they are only because she made them this way. Shaped them into what they’ve become. The most beautiful and important gift was herself and I am indebted, although I hope that being her mirror is a testament to what she’s given to me. She is me and I am her. And we are glorious.
Our difference amongst our friends marks us. We are strange, struggling for a place in this life that we can deal with, that is bearable for us and it isn’t easy to find. Thank God I was born to this amazing creature. Unlike her, I’ve never been alone here, she’s always reminding me there’s at least one other that’s of my species.
My tissue and sinew and DNA are hers. I lived and grew inside of her, just as she lives, grows, becomes…inside of me. She is my mother. She is myself.
I think what I like best about farming is the running analogy to life that comes with it. So many comparisons can be made, deep or otherwise and I’m often left pondering the many parallels at the end of the day. Take chickens for instance. Call me crazy, but man and rooster may be more alike than either would care to admit…..
A few years back we were thrilled to announce the hatching of our first chic. He turned out to be the only chic to hatch at the farm that year. Nevertheless, we couldn’t have been more excited. We bestowed him with a dignified and regal name as befits such an epic creature…. “Hatchi Hatch.” As spring turned to summer we had the pleasure of watching him bee bop about the barnyard and it was soon evident that our Hatchi was to be a rooster. I was secretly regretful of this fact as I already had a beloved rooster (Hatchi’s dad) named Rudy. Rudy was special. He and I had an understanding and I was often flanked by Cujo the pit bull and Rudy the rooster as I did daily farm chores. I just didn’t have room in my life for another rooster. Was I capable of loving two roosters? I just didn’t think so, I’m a one rooster kind of girl. However, at this point “getting rid of” Hatchi was out of the question. He was our first hatchling, and he was here to stay.
The chilly breath of Old Man Winter finally suggested that the chickens were in need of their warm coop for the rest of the year and it was with great anticipatory concern that father and son finally met. We held our breath as Rudy and Hatchi circled each other, scratching the earth with their spurs and making strange gurgling sounds in their gullets. In my imagination a microphone was lowered out of thin air to a waiting Michael Buffer who got the attention of the hens with a hearty ” Let’s get ready to ruuuuumble.” The crowd went wild. Clucks and cockles the likes of which have never before been heard permeated the hen house. It was a colossal display of roosterhood. Tail feathers were flying, hens were screaming and children were crying. The headline in the morning read “A Cacciatore Catastrophe.” In the end Hatchi got his ass handed to him.
I watched as he weaved on unsteady legs back to his corner, a rooster defeated. My heart stuck in my throat for the little guy as I watched his destiny as a loser sealed forevermore. The worst of it was that all the hens had seen the sad display and so from that day forward Hatchi had to literally take whoever didn’t see him coming first, which was a confusing and disturbing sight for unsuspecting visitors to the farm.
We all thought that was that and daily life resumed. Rudy was rooster numero uno and Hatchi was the big white thing all the hens ran from. Nothing changed much over the next year but for a few subtle exchanges only I seemed to notice. I’ve never said what I’m about to say to anyone, but I swear I would catch the figures of Rudy and Hatchi around the barnyard. If you looked directly at them they’d act like nothing out of the ordinary was going on but if you pretended not to notice them it was obvious that father was teaching son the ancient magic of the Rooster. The torch was preparing to be passed on from old to young and although they were public rivals, deep down inside their chicken soul’s was an impenetrable and lifelong bond.
We laid good old Rootin’ Tootin’ Rudy to rest this year. I loved that rooster and it was with a heavy heart I said my final good bye. I imagine he’s gone where all the good chickens go and I hope to see him again some day. Since his death there’s been big changes in the hen house. We’ve brought some new chickens to the farm and with their arrival another rooster. It turns out I’m a two rooster kinda girl after all. I spent this evening with the chickens as I generally enjoy their company and guess who was on the highest roost in the house? Hatchi Hatch! He’s finally king of the coop and I’m very happy for him. I’ve come to learn that our time in the sun finds us all eventually, and it will surely find my new rooster, Ernie, one day too. The torch must be passed or snuffed out forever, and so the old must take the young under their wing, even if it means the occasional can of whoop ass being opened, so they too can someday shine. Yes, we have much to learn from our feathered friends if we’re willing to look for the lessons.
I walked away from the chickens tonight and finally felt a bit lighter about things that bother me from time to time. The sliver moon made a beautiful centerpiece for the spread of stars above and I took a deep breath in and a step towards the house before I was stopped short by a haunting sound.
Each rooster has a unique and special cocka-doodle-doo that no other could ever replicate. It’s their trademark, their fingerprint, their name. And I had just heard Rudy’s.
Funny how no matter what, a rooster will find a way to check up on his family. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll hear him again sometime…..