“Why do you always draw me small? Like I’m still a just-hatched chick?” asked Emily as she peered over my sketch pad.
I thought about this for a moment because I wasn’t completely sure how to answer.
“I draw everyone as a just-hatched chick sometimes, even Gracie.”
“Yes, I know, but you’ve never drawn me as a grown-up hen with my comb and wattles and everything.”
Emily is seldom persistent like this. She only gets this way when it’s something really important like when everyone else isn’t giving her space to eat breakfast salad or mealworms. It is not always easy for her because she is the smallest.
“Maybe part of the reason is I never really saw you growing up every day like the others. I used to visit you and Amelia when you were little. You probably don’t remember because the world was so new to you then, but I did.
“There were twenty-four of you in that huge brooder box and playpen. There was so much going on all of the time. It was tough to keep track of who was who, except for Amelia. She liked to fly up to the top of the play pen and walk around.”
“Yes, I remember. There were a lot of us. But I didn’t stand out from the others did I? Not the way Amelia did?”
Her heart would have loved for me to say I had picked her out right from the beginning as a very special baby chick, but I had to be truthful.
“What matters is how you stand out now. Even with people, it’s not easy to see who is special in a crowd. It takes time and time together.”
“So it’s not because I’m smaller than all of the others?”
“No, not at all.”
“Is there anything else?”
“Well, when I draw you so young, it helps me imagine you as if you had always lived here with me from your very first day. Sometimes I wish you and Amelia had been here with me from the beginning.
“But if you had been here with me from the beginning, I would not have been able to choose you. I like how I was able to choose you because of who you are rather than who you might become after you got here.”
She seemed pleased with all of this and turned to look for sunflower kernels.
“And Emily, to be totally honest, I’m not sure I can draw your grown-up hen feathers as beautifully as they truly need to be drawn. I don’t know how to draw iridescence, and everything about you is iridescent.”
She stood a little taller and poked out her breast a little farther. “You always know exactly what to say.”
“I just speak from my heart, Emily, and my heart adores everything about you.”
My Life With Gracie (and especially Emily) taught me the biggest hearts are often covered with iridescent feathers.