Not all days are bad around here. We have good days. Like yesterday.
Milly was following me around all morning begging to go swimming, but it’s been a bit chilly here. Any outdoor venue would have cold water. She might not care, but I won’t be swimming in cold water. I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t do cold water, and the girls would inevitably drag me into whatever swimming fun they were enjoying. Grace has managed to achieve the nagging skills of my Norwegian grandmother. She is tenacious. It’s like being pecked to death by a duck.
I couldn’t take them out swimming yesterday so I suggested an outing to a neighborhood just a few miles from our house. It has a sort of Main Street lined with shops, a gourmet ice cream shop, an independent children’s bookstore, and even a children’s toy store! For the adults, there are boutiques, restaurants, and a few cafés. This wonderful spot is nestled in a gorgeous neighborhood lined with beautifully maintained American Foursquares, Victorians, and mature trees. It reminds me just a bit of the Southern neighborhoods I knew as a child with their mossy Live Oaks and sprawling porches. Milly and Grace reluctantly agreed that my suggestion was a suitable consolation.
First order of business? The toy store, of course! There was a sidewalk sale, too! The weather was finally warm and sunny, and it was such a pleasure to be outside. Next up: ICE CREAM! This particular ice cream shop is local and makes their own flavors. One also doesn’t know what flavors will be offered on a day-to-day basis. I am absolutely enamored of a certain chocolate ice cream flavor with all sorts of chocolate pieces and salted caramel thrown in, but, alas, it was not on the menu yesterday. We all had to be flexible and try something new. I know, life is hard…sigh…
Grace and Milly compromised and actually let me go into a boutique!! GASP! They fussed quietly until they looked around a bit. Their X chromosomes were activated by the scented candles, scarves, and Anne Taintor memo pads. Suddenly, they were oohing and aahing over the adorable earrings and retro toys: “Mom, look at this! Isn’t this cute?” It warmed my heart. Of course, I had to buy something! This is now in my possession:
I needed another tea infuser, and this fit the bill.
Finally, we made our way to the celebrated children’s bookstore. This bookstore is unusual in that it is the home to many animals including one very bold hen. Historically, many chickens have called this bookstore “home”. I’m not sure why the proprietor of this store has chosen to keep chickens here specifically since they also keep ferrets (an animal that would surely eat the chickens)…and chinchillas…and doves…and a very large tarantula…and four Manx cats…and I’m leaving other members of the menagerie out, but you get the picture. The chickens have always roamed freely throughout the store like they owned the joint as have the cats. I’ve always wondered how the two species have managed to live together harmoniously. We’ve been visiting this store since Doireann was a toddler, and Eadaoin has always loved this place except for one thing–the fancy chickens. That’s what she used to call the chickens when she was about 2 years-old. I would lead her into the store through the little purple door designed especially for children. Her eyes would light up and off she would run until she saw “the fancy chicken”. She would then shriek and run around the store screaming, “The fancy chicken! The fancy chicken!” The staff would have to find the fluffy, white chicken named Elvis and put HER in her cage. Yes, Elvis was a girl, and she was indeed fancy. She was also a sweet hen. She never pecked or chased anyone. I grew to like her very much.
I cannot say the same for Bollina, the new hen stomping around the premises. Bollina knows no fear. She stares young children in the face. When they attempt to chase her, she stands her ground and lets out a squawk. This bird means business. She’s intimidating for such a small creature. Admittedly, I’m a little scared of chickens after a run-in with a rebellious rooster on my grandfather’s family farm as a child so I tend to steer clear of them desiring to give them a wide berth. Yesterday, however, Bollina set her sights on my toes…
We were standing in the fantasy section next to a group of adults when I heard a guttural chicken squawk. I looked around and saw the hen strutting about ten feet away from me. Milly grabbed my arm to pull me away. “She’s fine. She’s just walking around,” I said attempting to reassure her. The hen promptly noticed the twinkle of my toe ring and made a beeline for my feet, her head lowering, preparing to peck. I actually panicked. I stumbled backward and made some weird noise as I attempted to escape the hen who was now almost running toward me. The other adults had begun to laugh because, I’ll admit it, the situation was funny. As I turned to quickly walk away, I hit my wrist on a shelf, cried out, stumbled again, stepped on my own foot, and gave the adults another reason to laugh at me. The chicken was still in hot pursuit, and I had begun to run. Milly was way ahead of me. “Mama! She’s after you! You have to get away from that mean chicken!”
In a few seconds, I came to my senses. What was I doing running in a children’s bookstore? Running away from a chicken? Alright, so she reminded me of a tiny Velociraptor capable of eviscerating me on the spot, or, at least, eating my toe; but, I’m an adult. I needed to get a grip. I picked a spot near the toddler books and sat down. Strangely enough, Bollina the Bold Hen strutted right up to me and looked at me. Milly was scared and suspicious. “Mama, this is a bad idea. Get away from her!” I used my gentlest voice and asked Bollina why she insisted on pecking at my toes. That chicken listened intently, cocking her head just like my Australian Shepherd used to do when I said a word she recognized. She made little cooing noises as I spoke to her. She approached me, pecked me gently on the knees, checked out my purse, and, finally, curled up next my knees, fluffed herself, and closed her eyes. She let me pet her fluffy rump, and we communed awhile, just the two of us. Milly observed my Chicken Whispering and decided to sit down next to me. “Maybe she’s not so bad. Maybe she’ll sit next to me if I talk softly to her.” Grace was dubious. “I don’t trust that chicken,” she said from a distance.
Sadly, Grace’s instincts were right. As soon as I made an attempt to stand, Bollina began pecking wildly at my knees. Grace and Milly decided that it was time to leave all this wild rumpus behind. Bollina stalked all three of us to the exit, but we made it out the purple door toes intact although Grace and Milly argued about who would go out the little purple door first: “No, I was gonna go out the door! I wanna open the door myself!”
Around here, we really do have to take it one day at a time. One hour even. When we have a time of stability, it feels miraculous. Yesterday was relatively normal for our family even counting Bollina the Bold Chicken. It seems that someone is usually chasing someone, distracted by something shiny, or squawking. No wonder the chicken fell asleep sitting next to Milly and me. She was right at home. You know what? I don’t mind that at all.