Once upon a time, there was a little boy and a stray parakeet.
The little boy was running and playing in his yard after dinner when a stray parakeet swooped through his yard, landing on the fence.
The parakeet chirped and chatted.
The little boy was enchanted.
The boy quickly realized the parakeet was lost, for parakeets are not native birds in his area. He called his parents outside to help.
They tried and tried to catch the clever parakeet, but with each effort, the parakeet grew less trusting and finally flew away.
The boy was sad.
He tried everything to lure the parakeet back.
He sprinkled seed all around the fence and upon all the tables and chairs throughout the yard.
He fashioned gentle traps out of nets, shoe boxes, popsicle sticks, and string and waited hours for the parakeet to return.
But the parakeet was not to be found that night.
The next morning, the boy arose enthusiastic with more ideas to find and save his new friend.
He watched and waited all day.
He searched every tree and fence in the neighborhood.
The next day, the boy continued, determined to find and capture the lost parakeet.
The boy grew distraught.
He lost sleep.
Despite his parents' assurances that the parakeet must have found his way back home, the boy would not give up.
There had been no sight of the parakeet since that first night.
The boy's parents watched the boy, so sad, yet so determined.
After the boy went to bed on the third night, the parents, certain that the parakeet would never return, bought a parakeet just like the one who had visited and put it in the cage the little boy had prepared for his phantom friend.
When the little boy awoke the next morning and found the parakeet in the cage, he assumed it was the little lost parakeet. His parents did not correct him. It would be better that way, they reasoned.
The little boy spent much time with his new parakeet, making him toys and trying to train him.
The new parakeet wanted nothing to do with the boy. The bird bit and fought and refused to play with the boy.
After months of trying to be friends with the bird, the little boy gave up, lost interest, and left him alone.
The parakeet grew bored and lonely.
Realizing that the parakeet still needed a friend, the parents then bought another parakeet.
The lonely parakeet was so happy to meet his new parakeet friend.
They chirped and played and were as happy as could be. They shared toys and swings and flew and played all winter long.
One spring afternoon, the telephone rang. It was a worried neighbor. She had spotted a parakeet in her yard and needed help catching him.
The mother hurried over wondering whether it could possibly be the visitor from last summer.
It was the same turquoise parakeet that had visted all those months before. All those feet of snow before. All those freezing nights before. Miraculously, the parakeet had survived the bitter winter.
The bird, being nearly exhausted and starved after the long winter, was easy to catch this time.
The mother brought the parakeet home and watched with delight as the bird ate and drank and ate some more.
Then the bird fell into to deep sleep.
The bird slept and slept, waking only to eat and drink for a few moments at a time.
But what would the little boy think? He had thought the lost parakeet had been with him all this time. How would this be explained? How much would the boy realize?
When the boy came home from school, he noticed the sleeping bird in the small cage.
He smiled and looked on wonderously, thoughts visibly swirling about his head.
She was a delightful lady who had ways all her own and opinions to match and yet never hurt anyone.
She was a true lady. She always wore perfume and dressed in mostly pastels, declaring black "much too sad." She matched her purse, her shoes, and often even her lipstick to her sweater which matched her slacks and somehow she always looked elegant. She was not seen without her hair done and her makeup on. When I spent a weekend with her, she would paint my nails to match hers . . . "our little secret," because I wasn't really allowed. She always remembered to take it back off before I went back home. Except that once.
She matched her bed clothes to her bedroom decor. This was a revelation to me when I was a child. My bedroom was pink, but I slept in all colors and patterns, until the day my grandma and I were out shopping. I picked out a powder blue nightgown. "But your bedroom is pink, Honey . . . this pink one will look much nicer." "But Grandma, who sees me when I'm sleeping?" "You do, Dear." My first lesson in taking pride in myself for myself's sake.
My grandma hosted all the major holidays. She cooked enough for an army, but did it with lavish style and love. And she often put Santa Claus to shame with her personalized gifts amassed throughout the year.
She wore red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July and took us to every neighborhood parade in town. Quite a feat when they all ran at practically the same time.
She listened to opera music and easy listening and held her head up high when her teenage-grandchildren-detractors teased and jeered. She eventually won me over to opera music, but never knew.
My grandma loved licorice and Johnny Carson and a good sleepover. She would enthusiastically participate in my ongoing experiment to try to stay up all night. She taught me to play double solitaire and would find ways to lose often enough to fund my personal shopping wallet for the next day.
She loved strawberries and had a big strawberry patch in her backyard. She ordered only strawberry pie and strawberry ice cream.
She was the one to tip me off, "Appear aloof to the boys who show interest in you," and to pinch my cheeks before answering the door.
She also told me I was beautiful, and, God love her, I think she really meant it . . . even though I really wasn't beautiful.
Have you met my grandma? No, I know you haven't. And now you won't. Because she died. She died on this day sixteen years ago. And I miss her freshly every. single. day.
As you know, my family has been in the middle of a neighborhood controversy over keeping our chickens. (If you need background, please see Chicken Fight and Chicken Fights On.) As our neighbor lobbies the City to disallow chickens in the city, we have been conducting our own charm offensive on behalf of chickens everywhere.
This past Friday, we ran a little lemonade stand in our front yard and, along with the free lemonade, we also gave away some eggs from our lovely hens. We wanted to share with our neighbors the benefits of having such efficient and generous little beings amidst them.
We never realized the learning curve we would face.
We had several -- several! -- neighbors look quizzically at the eggs and ask us how to make them. When we dismissed their silly question with a flippant answer, "like any eggs," the situation grew more alarming. "But how? I only know how to make the ones from the store."
"So I should boil them?" one said while holding the eggs with a fully-extended arm.
I fought back my incredulity and explained that these are exactly like the eggs they buy at the store, except that they come from healthier, happier chickens. I reminded them that they could bake with them or scramble them, poach them, whatever. Still, at least 3 neighbors left holding the eggs at a distance from their bodies, not sure what they would do with them.
Others asked what flavor the green ones were.
It was then that we realized we had a long way to go on behalf of city chickens.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always loved panorama eggs.
Each Easter I would hope and pray for one. I loved the way they glistened and sparkled. All the pastel colors of spring replicated in sugar. Bliss.
And a look inside was like peering through a looking glass and into a magical little world.
For some reason, my Easter Bunny never saw fit to bring me one of these eggs, and when I would share my disappointment with my mother, she would explain that those eggs weren't really for eating. Somehow, she thought this fact would assure me I was better off with the standard Easter candy, but I really, really always wanted one of those eggs. I never planned to eat it. I would have kept it forever.
Apparently, I wasn't alone. Each Easter, I love to look at the vintage panorama eggs on eBay and Etsy. Some of the eggs are 60 years old. I was not the only one with plans to keep their egg forever! Now I do have a couple of these lovely eggs, and I treasure them. They are vintage, and they are as wonderful as I always thought they would be. Just looking at them makes me feel like a little girl in a magical land . . . where everything might be possible.
Last Monday, when we returned home after the city council meeting, there was a message on our answering machine from a reporter for the local paper. He had been watching the proceedings on television and now felt compelled to write a feature on it. He wanted to come out the next morning -- at dawn -- to get some pictures of the chickens, their coop, and our family.
Now. You chicken owners who are experiencing the end of winter know, things are not in tip-top shape out there right now. They are, of course, good enough to keep the chickens happy and healthy, but to someone with a critical eye, it might not be idyllic. So I, my husband, and my son were up and out there before dawn cleaning and sprucing up. The hens slept right through it. (Try that with a dog!)
The sun came up, the reporter came, and took many pictures and asked many questions. By the time he'd left, he'd been charmed, a bit, by the lovely little girls eating out of my kids' hands and seemingly posing for pictures. As he left, we teased and chided that he should write an opinion piece (in favor of city chickens). He explained that he just may do that, if and when the city would find against keeping chickens.
The paper arrived last evening. The front page sports a huge picture of my son feeding the chickens:
Now, who can resent this?
As thrilling as it was to see our story on the front page, I can't believe how things are so quickly getting big and loud and out of control.
Anyway, my next step is to research the impact of chicken keeping on property values of neighboring properties. We have 10 days to submit additional items to be considered in this matter. I intend to do just that.
But the thing that keeps ringing in my head is the right of the individual. I am not breaking any laws, rules, or regulations. There are no neighborhood rules against this. I happen to have on obsessive neighbor who has been mad at me for years. And so I am put in the position of having to beg and plead for the ability to do what I want on my property.
Each year on this day, I make Irish Soda Bread and wonder why I only make it but once a year.
Here is my recipe:
Irish Soda Bread
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbs. caraway seeds
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups raisins
1 1/3 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder. Add caraway seeds. Cut in butter and add raisins. Stir together buttermilk, egg and baking soda. Pour liquid into dry mixture. Stir together with fork, then knead with hands until dough is smooth. Shape into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet. Press down, slightly flattening the dough. Cut a 4-inch length and 1/4 inch deep cross on top. Brush top with milk or cream. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!
Do you realize I am intolerable? Yes, yes. And I am single-handedly wrecking home values and bringing disease to millions. And I'm just generally icky. Yes, you wouldn't believe the things I do.
I . . . I . . . keep chickens.
Last night, we attended a city council hearing on the keeping of chickens in my city. Currently, up to six hens are allowed, no roosters. Apparently, all it takes is one ridiculous citizen. (No, not me.)
My ridiculous, complaining neighbor found a couple of realtors to come to the hearing with her. They stood up and spoke about how backyard chickens will diminish home values and, therefore, should be banned. My neighbor, herself, waxed hysterical about salmonella run-off from our property, rabid animals being attracted, and just general "ickiness."
My husband and I sat there waiting to speak, feeling defeated and mischaracterized. Then, one by one, people began to file into the hearing room. First, a woman carrying an egg carton. Then someone with a basket full of eggs. Then a mother and son, both wearing bright yellow shirts saying: Poultry Club. Slowly, these people filled up the room. When it came time to speak, they formed a line behind the podium and took turns speaking for the next 90 minutes. We spoke as well. It was heartening to see so many people there to support us and the concept of pet chickens. The council will make their decision next month.
Either way, we will be able to keep our chickens due to a grandfathering clause. But that's not the point.
Whatever happened to "live and let live?" Whatever happened to neighborliness? How about kindness? What about tolerance? Or is that reserved only for the most violent among us?
One woman displayed a painting by her teenage son and read his accompanying poem. And then she expressed my sentiments perfectly. "We're all different. Of course we're going to step on each other's toes sometimes. Of course there is going to be something about me that may make your eyes roll. But we're all people. We live together and we live life together. Our differences are what make life interesting. Let's stop trying to make everyone the same."
I don't know what is becoming of the traditional individual. It seems to me we are all for diversity when it involves something very new, something never before tolerated, and that's great. But where is the tolerance for the more traditional among us? It seems those people are being asked to give over the things we most enjoy and hold dear and that ask far less of society in general.
Chickens? Chickens as pets? That's where we draw the line, I guess.
I would be discouraged, but for the amazing support of our local poultry club. They were prepared, eloquent, and impressive. Chicken keepers . . . articulate. Who'da thunk it?
She also regularly complains about laundry being hung out on the line.
1. Are you the type of person who jumps into new ventures or do you prefer baby steps? The older I get, the smaller the steps. I have so much more to lose now. Sophia Loren once said, "When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child." So true. So, so true.
2. Who do you feel believes in you the most? Without question, my husband. Even more than myself.
3. When was the last time you were on a stage? 1998, law school graduation.
4. Tell us about the worst boss you ever had. The worst boss I ever had was an attorney who was having an affair with his partner in the firm AND he was cheating on that woman with another woman. A three-time cheater. You never wanted to walk in his office without knocking first, trust me.
5. If the NCAA Men's or Women's Final Four basketball tournament was played in your hometown arena or within easy driving distance from where you live, would you try to attend one of the three games? I try to not even watch them on television, so NO.
6. Of all the clothes you own, what do you feel most comfortable wearing, and why? My Grinch-green sweats with matching sweatshirt. Sometimes I spruce it up with a contrasting colored t-shirt underneath for extra pizazz. Grinch-green suits me -- instant mood alert.
7. On what television show—either past or present—would you like to make to make a guest appearance, and what role would you play? I would like to be a guest patron at Hell's Kitchen. I think I could bring out the soft side of Gordon Ramsay. (swoon)
8. St. Patrick's Day is on Wednesday March 17th. Do you celebrate and wear green? Drink Green Beer? Ignore it? I usually wear green and make my own Irish Soda Bread. I have red hair . . . it is only right.
9. If a leprechaun told you that you could have any amount of money from his pot of gold but it had to be a specified amount for a specified item, how much would you ask for and what would it be for? This is too hard to answer. The "correct" answer would be to ask for all the money in the world to fix everyone's problems. The realistic/revealing answer would be a few million dollars to buy a wonderful piece of ocean front property and create a family retreat for all the generations of my family, past, present, and future.
As always, thanks to Crazy Sam for her weekly Saturday 9.
“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be...’ - she always called me Elwood - ‘...in this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”~Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey
I am a stay-at-home mom who is coming to grips with the fact that my children are growing up, and that is bitter sweet. I have several pets who understand me including a couple dogs, some beautiful pigeons (yes, pigeons), some chickens who boss me around, and a mourning dove who I believe is God's little whisper to me from heaven. I was a lawyer before I got really serious and became a mom. I love to knit, write, cook, and to take good care of my family. We struggle with my daughter's Reactive Attachment Disorder, and hold hands very tightly sometimes while we withstand the high tide of her challenges. Through it all, I am blessed to have a husband who is the corner piece to my puzzle.