Monday, October 17, 2011

Hen Pecking.


I don't think parents can always blame children. We talk in this symbolic language where we are saying what we actually don't mean and it is really confusing to children who are just trying to make sense out of this big messy world they inherited. How can you find the meaning of life when people keep talking in metaphors? Especially if you are a boy. Even more especially if you are a dumb brother type of boy.


My brother and I had been pecked by the hens ... sometimes they drew blood but you know in the scheme of things .... even as kids we knew ... one swift kick and that was the end of the pecking. We were about 5 - 6.

Our grandparents were always talking about old friend Mr. Claney and saying he was as henpecked as they come. Biff kept trying to imagine a man standing around all those years and letting the hens peck him instead of kicking. He was obsessed with it.

It was like a themed summer ... Biff wrote stories about killer chickens and he drew pictures of men, unable to fend them off, bloodied and pecked ... to death. That is probably why when he finally met Mr. Claney he was really confused. He even sat next to Mr. Claney while everyone drank coffee and visited and tried to lean in to see his face closer, and dropped his cookie on the floor so he could check out his ankles. He could not see a single peck mark.

I tried to tell him that our grandparents were meaning that Mrs. Claney was bossy and people called women "hens" and "chicks" and I even tried to explain metaphors but without visuals, remedial classes and extra homework .. he was lost. He said I was being ridiculous and went back to colouring his killer chickens. How could a woman boss a man around?

And then the next time he came to visit, Mrs. Claney came with him. She was GINORMOUS and had this BOOMING voice and the earth shook when she said, "Did you remember to wash behind your ears!!" She was speaking to her own kids but let me tell you - the rest of us, my grandfather included immediately RAN to the bathroom to wash behind our ears. We wrestled for the wash cloth and jockeyed for mirror position. THAT woman was the scariest person I ever met and when she asked for someone to pass her the peas, the hired man wept and his hand shook as he handed them to her.


Yes, the world changed that summer for Biff. He tore up his chicken tales of horror and mayhem and went back to drawing smiling suns in the sky and him and I holding hands.

Obviously he still had an active imagination.

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