My Life With Gracie…Sunday Surprises!

Thank you everyone for your comments on yesterday’s post of a chapter titled “The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show.”  You gave me a great deal to think about, and I seriously appreciate that so much. 

This morning, when I went out to let my chickens come down from their coop for breakfast, I saw the first morning glory blossom of the season. They have always sprouted in my garden, and are a signal that the summer season is coming to an end and autumn is just around the corner. They are such a cheerful shade of blue and seem to want to take over the tomato patch as soon as the last tomatoes are picked.

The chive blossoms are still looking fine and will soon be making seeds for expanding their space in the garden. They make perfect little stars, don’t they? While we examined them, Gracie reminded me about how in the Paris Opera Ballet, the highest honor is to be une danseuse étoile, a star dancer. While Pearl is more suited for dancing the exuberant can-can at The Moulin Rouge in Paris, they are both my stars, mes étoiles, in their own different way.

A Birthday Is Like A Hatchday, Well, Sort Of, Almost…

Everyone wanted to know what a birthday is since today is my birthday. “A birthday is like a hatchday, well, sort of, almost…” I said.

“So people do hatch from eggs!” they all said together, partly with amazement at what a big egg I must have come from and partly with satisfaction from finally figuring out the big secret of where people come from.

“Not exactly,” I said, “But that’s kind of close enough. We can discuss it all later, okay? Right now, I have birthday gifts for you.”

“Like what we chickens give to everyone on our hatchday celebrations?”

“Now that is exactly right!”

I was glad to have been able to navigate around the discussion about where people come from. It was tough enough to explain where chickens come from, but I had done the best I could since they never had a Chicken Momma to explain these things to them.

I spread out half of a straw bale into their run for them to enjoy. You may not think of that as much of a gift, but to a chicken, it is a goldmine and treasure hunt all rolled into one wonderful gift. You see, the straw bales from the previous winter have just been sitting in the yard and slowly decomposing. They have also been holding onto moisture. And if there are two things that the tastiest worms and bugs love, it’s decomposing stuff and moisture!

After they had thoroughly examined every bit of straw for delicious treats, Bessie came to me and asked, “So on a birthday, does anyone give you a gift?”

“Usually a birthday cake. It’s like a cupcake only bigger. When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother would always bake my favorite cake for my birthday. It was a strawberry cake with real strawberries in the cake and real strawberries in the icing.”

“I could bake you dozens of strawberry cupcakes or just one really big strawberry cupcake,” she offered. (Bessie loves to bake, and we have shared some of her own recipes here in the past.)

“That would be nice. But it is summer and the kitchen does get really hot when you’re baking in the summertime. Maybe you’d like to learn how to make something else my mother and grandmother made for me called banana pudding.”

The word “banana” caught Gracie’s attention because Gracie does love bananas. They are not an everyday treat because she needs to stay at a good weight for dancing ballet.

The two of them went off into a corner and put their heads together. They were obviously planning something. Whatever they come up with, it will be wonderful. It may be The Biggest Strawberry Cupcake Ever or a Real Meringue-Topped Banana Pudding or something in between. And if what they make doesn’t work out particularly well, there is always ice cream. It is amazing how many baking goofs can be turned into an ice cream topping! And, of course, Pearl may even put on her Let’s Go Bananas Hat and entertain everyone this evening.

All in all, I’m expecting today to be a perfect birthday as I already have five of the most wonderful gifts ever right here with me in my own backyard!

 

 

How Gracie Got Her Name

It was late winter, not quite spring yet. Not wintery cold, but not springy warm. Just in-between. Gracie had hurt her foot, she had spent most of the day before sitting at the food bowl. I had only realized she was not well when I got home and saw her in almost the same place she had been when I had left for the day. I thought she was just being cute by sitting down in such easy reach of breakfast since they always stand to eat. I regretted being in too much of a hurry to really check on her.

But that in-between day, and for as many days as needed, I was going to stay home with her. She spent hours in my lap, snuggled up inside my soft warm cottony jacket. We would talk and look out over the garden. We would be silent together. Those are not easy days to write about because I was afraid I might lose her as we had lost Blanche.

I did not ask how her foot injury had happened. She may have landed poorly when practicing some new ballet choreography. (She would not have wanted me to think she was less than perfect as a dancer.) She may have jumped down from the roosting perch while it was still too dark for her to see clearly because she was eager to meet the new day. (She would not have wanted me to blame myself for being slow in getting up and going any earlier than I had.)

Sometimes it takes a mishap, an unexpected change in the routine, or an almost tragic event to cause us to appreciate what we have. In that uncertain time, Gracie and I stopped everything and focused on what really mattered.

“Do you know when I first had an idea you wanted to be a ballerina?”

“Was it when I stood on your shoes en pointe for the first time?”

“I remember that day so well. That was when you let everyone, not just me, know your dream was to be a ballerina. You must have been practicing that for days and days, and I imagine it took a great deal of courage to let everyone know your greatest heart’s desire.

“But I knew you loved to dance before then. Maybe before you even knew it yourself or knew the words ‘ballet’ and ‘ballerina.’ It was the day when I named you ‘Gracie,’ another day I will always remember.”

“Will you tell me about it?”

“It was one morning when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder when you were still so young with hardly any comb or wattles. You pointed your toes so perfectly as you moved down the ladder. You spread out all of your fluff feathers like they were the finest tutu ever. You stretched out your neck and head, ready for whatever joys and triumphs…or sorrows…the day held for you. And if there were sorrows, you knew you could dance through them as effortlessly as you had glided down the chicken ladder.”

Gracie turned her head to look at their first original coop in the side yard. “I miss those days so much,” she said. “Things were different then.”

“But we are still the same, you and I. And you still come down the chicken ladder that way after you’ve laid an egg.”

“I do my best,” she said, looking up into my eyes.

“That was before I ever brought out my old record player so you girls would have music to use for practicing ballet. I went to every thrift store in this neighborhood and the next looking for old classical record albums. But you danced even before we had those records, and then afterwards, you and Bessie worked out a remarkable Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite.”

“We made you play that song so many times, we thought it was going to wear out.”

“And if it had I would have found another and another still. But that moment when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder was special. It was when I knew you could hear The Music Of The Morning. It was music I could not hear with my ears. But you, Gracie, you could hear it with your heart, and your heart let out that music through the way you moved. And as I watched you moving so gracefully, I could hear the music with my heart too. And that is why I named you Gracie.”

“Will you still call me ‘Gracie’ even if I am not able to dance gracefully again, even if I am not able to dance at all ever again?”

“Gracie, don’t even think such a thing.”

“But it could happen that way. I may not heal properly.”

“You will always be ‘Gracie’ to me. That is your name. I will always be able to hear the music of your dance in my heart, even if you are never able to dance again.”

“I know. I just needed to hear you say it.” She paused as if relieved of a burden. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course, Gracie.”

“All I have ever wanted was to matter to someone. You gave me a name, a beautiful name, and every day you have let me know I matter. That is all I have ever wanted. What more could anyone ever want?”

I readjusted my jacket over her body and snuggled her closer to my chest. She looked out into the garden nodding her head gently from side to side, side to side, up, down, up, up, down. As I watched her, I could hear The Music Of The Garden, music only the two of us could hear. And so we sat together, mattering to each other, even if to no one else.

All I ever wanted was to matter to someone. What more could anyone ever want? – Gracie