As I write this one of our new chicks has gone missing. About 1/2 way to being a pullet, she and the others were just starting to mix with main flock today, picking their way cautiously through unprotected terrain. She was the only odd breed, an ink black Sex-Link we got along with two Rhode Island Reds and two Barred Plymouths. It seems like every hen we get thats a one-of-a-kind is not long for this world.
This is also the fifth day we’ve been fostering a toddler at our home. When we said yes to taking her in we didn’t know if it would be for two days, six months or the rest of our lives. Of course they prepare you for this when you train to become a certified foster home, and of course nothing prepares you for a traumatized child crashlanding in your nest.
An ominous feeling of fear lodged in my heart as we tried to settle her in. I couldn’t stand the thought of anything changing who ‘we’ were. Our little nest was being pushed at from the inside. I think she screamed more than slept that first night.
There’s really nothing that can prepare you for the agony a toddler experiences when she’s ripped away from her parents, especially her Momma. She communicates anguish completely, without restraint. Only the life in her body limits its volume and only the remaining heartbeats in her life limit its duration. Nothing can speak to her agony, nothing will pacify it. There is no art to describe its edges or depth.
Eventually the screams subside and sleep takes over, for a while. Or perhaps play takes over, or time in the garden, time with the dog or chickens. Happiness is still a possibility. As the days passed, happy became a place to visit more often. Except at night, when the screams start up again, fading only for a few hours, ebbing and returning until dawn.
Days pass, the nest settles, we adjust. The big surprise was our four year old who stepped up like he was born to be a big brother. His big growth moment happened unexpectedly of course.
“Papa, whats that,” he asked pointing to the strange contraption I’d dug out of the back of the closet?
“Its an Ergo baby carrier. We got it when we first had you. She’s going to ride on my back while we’re gardening.”
“I want to go in there too!”
“You’re not a baby any more. You’re my big boy. You just won’t fit.”
Thats when the tears started, I picked him up and held him while our new nestling reached for me excitedly. It was a good deep cry. I really felt him letting go of something. Still cherished, not leaving the nest, but no longer the little-one of the family. In just a few days her presence helped him cross over into a new phase of childhood. Thank you for that gift. There have been many others.
It turns out our nest is not as small or delicate as I think it is (REALLY big surprise there eh?) Life, death, love, fear suffering – its all percolating here and will be for some time to come. The nest settles, then our population will change again. Better let go now.
UPDATE – NEXT MORNING:
Our little black-sheep 1/2 pullet was discovered next door, perhaps she’s more of a wanderer than a doomed soul. Tadg corralled her and brought her in. She suddenly seemed bigger than all the other little-ones. More grown up than chick. Our last leader of the flock was a one-of-a-kind as well. Lets hope this one has a fuller life.
Our house guest will be moving on to a new home in a few days, then perhaps back to her Momma. She looks healthier every day, more precocious, inserting herself deeper into our hearts before she leaves. I know every bit of our home here feeds her. Every child needs time with dirt and gardens and dogs and chickens and home-cooked food and love.
Tadg and I had our Yoga time together this morning (first my healing Yoga – then his Bo On The Go exercise video). Terry let us crash in his room while she tends to our guest through the night (talk about hero). Judging from the space between fits they both had a better night last night.
My latest nickname for her is Button.