Colored-Chicks!…Ducks!…at Easter!…OH MY!

Today is Easter. ((Sigh)) I’m bummed out because I miss my kids, and have no one to celebrate the holiday with. There was a time not so long ago that Easter meant baskets overflowing with candy, colored eggs, coloring books, and toys. It meant sitting around eating and gabbing at the dinner table with the smells of candied yams and ham in the air. It meant love, laughter, and family. It meant, and was all about, my children. Where did the good times go?

My daughter called me this morning to wish me a ‘Happy Easter’. I had to laugh as she told me about all the little extra things they bought the kids: Kites, etc. (Easter was never just about baskets of candy in our house), and how her youngest, my two year old grandson, could careless about any of them except a pair of socks with his favorite animated character on them. I told her the same thing happened to her dad and me when her older brother was just two. We spent a small fortune on him that Christmas—he being our only child at the time—and the only thing he wanted to play with was a small bag of plain, green, hard-plastic, army men my sister had picked up at the dollar store for a buck (I learned then that something as simple as the empty box stuff came in is what fascinates them.) We talked about how holidays are really for children, and she confessed she misses holidays at home with me, and had even been telling a girl at work that I still made baskets for her up until she was 17 and moved out of the house. I could hear my grandchildren in the background as they were first playing then fighting, and the frustration in her voice as she explained now they were breaking each other’s chocolate. All I could say was “You’re not a real mother if you only have one. You have to go through sharing, fighting, and cries of “It’s not fair and you love her/him more than you do me!” in my book before you qualify as a real mom.” I miss that now.

I wonder how my children now view their childhood and I as a mother. I wonder if my mother too ever wondered about me. Did she question whether she did a good job? Did she question whether she made my childhood memorable enough? I wish she were still here now so I could tell her that she did. She was a nut-job at times, but she put the ‘magic’ into all my holidays. My mother WAS ‘holidays’. Since I’m not making any fond memories today, I’d like to share with you a couple I already have.

When I was a child Easter was a ‘huge’ deal in our house because of my mother. She loved to decorate every holiday, so it was common to walk in and find seasonal flowers or plants around, felt magnets depicting that specific holiday all over the fridge, tablecloths with prints, decals on the windows, knick-knacks placed here and there, etc. Easter meant baskets overflowing with candy, stuffed rabbits, and real, colored chicks. Yes, you read it right. Real chickens!

I don’t know where all you readers grew up, or what your family traditions might’ve been, but where I come from back forty years-plus, Easter meant colored, baby chicks. There was a hatchery in town that sold these fuzzy, little sweethearts in bright, pastel shades of pink, blue, yellow and green. I remember how special the moment felt when I walked in there with my dad, heard the bell catch on the door, smelled the stench of baby, chicken poo, and got to pick out my own, little darling. They would put it in it’s own little, individual box, hand you a small packet of chick food, and you’d be on your way. Know why parents purchased these? Why, to give to their children as special gifts, of course. Know what all these kids did with them? They killed them! I look back now and think, “My God, what were these people thinking? More important, “Wasn’t PETA around yet?”

Before animal lovers that are reading this begin throwing spastic-tantrums, let me just explain that these ‘deaths’ were not intentional. They were just so sweet, soft, and little, that children simply couldn’t keep from touching them over and over and over and over again…and literally ended up ‘handling’ them to death. I have to be honest though, I suspect these parents must’ve known what was going to happen—well…especially since none of us lived on farms but in carbon-copy houses with small backyards in a residential neighborhood—cause, what…they were all planning on raising chickens? Looking back I see the whole thing as nothing short of barbaric, really.

This started in our household and stopped nearly as quick from what I remember. Why? Well, my chick didn’t die. I guess I hadn’t gotten the memo saying what my job and the expected outcome was to be. No, it survived, started growing, it’s down was replaced by feathers, and it literally became a pet. So much so that when our family had to travel clear down to Florida to see relatives it went with us. Hmm…no one wanted to baby-sit our chicken? I can’t friggen imagine why not! I can’t remember the details of our visit, but have conjured up a scenario in my head of what it must’ve been like….. My uncle sitting at the table and my aunt staring out the kitchen window when we pull up the drive in our station wagon. “Honey, Gladys and Al are here. What the…? I think they have a chicken in the car with them!”

Yep, we lovingly raised that chicken to adulthood and managed to entertain it with a Florida vacation, before it’s time was up and something got it while we were there. I guess their yard wasn’t chicken-friendly. After that my father firmly stated, “Never again.” Yeah, right! My dad liked to act gruff, but he was a complete pushover when it came to animals. He’d always proclaim, “You’re not keeping it!” whenever I’d bring home something someone gave me or a stray I’d found, but I don’t recall him once having the heart to follow through. I acquired pet mice that way (sadly Pierre and Charlie got snared into traps that a spooked, family member set for them after they got loose) dogs, cats, a big turtle, rabbits…Wow, did we have rabbits! We started with a couple and wound up with a backyard covered in hutches, more rabbits than we could shake a stick at, and my poor, exhausted father finally had to give them to a farmer. Yep, I learned quick about rabbits! And then there were the ducks.

The duck story is now painful for me to think about, because I’m older, have children of my own, and can’t help but look at it from what would’ve been my mother’s perspective. Geeze-louise, my mother had to have spent my whole childhood gritting her teeth! My girlfriend and I at the time were in our teens and dating brothers. Easter rolled around and we wanted to do something special for them. Of course, I had the bright idea of buying them ducks—cause you know…that wasn’t such a stretch in my weird world!—and she was stupid and went along with every dumb-ass idea I had (and I was full of them). So we went and picked up two ducks from this hatchery, named them Denny and Davy after the brothers, and proudly presented them to the guys Easter afternoon. Umm…these ducks returned home with me early Easter evening. I guess his parents weren’t as lax as mine, and apparently my girlfriends folks weren’t either. Yep, I inherited the ducks!

Okay, so I should probably explain that we had a really long winter that year, so that meant the ducks couldn’t be put outside. My mother wouldn’t let me keep them in the basement, because they would stink up the laundry, so that meant there was really only one solution, they stayed with me in my bedroom. Do you know that ducks projectile-poop when they go? I didn’t. Not until they lived with me in my room, anyway. I had them pushed up against my closet doors in my small room and changed the box they were in many times, but it didn’t matter how tall the damn thing was, duck poo still got on my closet doors. They’d quack all night and day, rustle papers when I was trying to sleep, and basically just became annoying, poop-machines that wouldn’t stop growing. My mother began to have a real shrill to her voice when she spoke, and repeated herself over and over again. “Shut your door! Them damn things stink! OH-MY-GOD…HOW-CAN-YOU-LIVE-IN-THERE-WITH-THEM?!” Yes, it was a long, couple of months in that house. They did eventually make it outside though, my dad made them a little coop and bought them a baby pool to swim in. Davy got maimed by my ill-mannered, nephew and could no longer walk, so I spent most of my afternoons carting his feathered ass in and out of his pool. Oh, a girl and her ducks ((Sigh)) Finally near the end of summer my father found them a permanent residence at the home of a farmer he knew (I guess he foreseen what another winter might be like if they stayed), our family bid them farewell, and last I heard Denny was a she, not a he, and was laying double yolks. Go figure! I always did have a problem telling them boys and girls apart. Look at my long-haired, old man!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my memories of Easter’s past. I recommend if your mother’s still around you call her today, wish her a ‘Happy Easter’, and tell her thanks for putting up with your shit for so many years. I suspect I’m not the only one with tales to tell. I believe every adult has a reason to apologize to their parent for being their child. I was one, and I’ve raised three!