I was complaining recently about how I can't get into books like I used to. Ben would marvel at how I could sit down with a book, not look up or move for an hour, then stand up and be done with it. Cover to cover. Maybe he didn't marvel at it so much, I think maybe it aggravated him. But reading was my escape. I grew up in a big loud family and spent a lot of time not fitting in outside the house, so I just turned to books. And I can tune out damn near anything when I get into one.
But since I got pregnant, part of my brain seems to have just fizzled out. I first noticed it when I was trying to describe Ben's remodeling job on our bathroom to some friends. I was about five months pregnant. I said "And he replaced those....those...." and couldn't come up with the word. I looked at Ben, made a turning motion with both hands, and said "you know, these things."
He looked at me like I had lost my mind, and said "Do you mean faucets?"
And I said "Yeah, that's it!"
Since Henry was born, I've been trying to pick up books again, but I tend to get distracted or fall asleep. It seems minor but reading is such a major part of my life, it was really bothering me. Other moms basically told me to suck it up and start reading short stories, and one suggested Bailey White, who writes some great short stories about growing up in the South. Some of them are really striking a chord, particularly the one about swans, in which she describes swans so mean that the alligators in the ponds refuse to fuck with them.
I believe it.
When I was in first grade, we moved from Boston to Augusta, Georgia. Who the hell knows why. But here my mom and my older sister's soft spot for abandoned animals of all kinds took a sinister turn. I think it started when my sister found a baby chicken stuck in a manure pile at the feed store. (Yes, there was a feed store.) She pulled it out, yelled at the store owner, informed him that she was TAKING THIS CHICKEN, and then did just that. That started our poultry collection.
From then on, she and mom would go to the feed store, head to that little bin with the light bulb overhead that was filled with baby chicks, and find the most beat-up looking ones and bring them home. Once, they even found a turkey. It's kind of odd how they both gravitate towards abandoned animals, given that neither of them seem to like people all that much.
I think my mom was also partially driven by the fact that our neighbor was consumed with having the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, and was constantly complaining about the state of our house and yard. Rather than achieving her expected outcome, which was shaming my mother into becoming a proper repressed Georgia housewife with a manicured lawn, this woman pissed my mom off to no end. To get back at her, Mom planted pink plastic flamingos in the front lawn, built a chicken coop in the back, and started hanging Christmas lights so gaudy you could see them from space.
They never really became friends.
But here's the thing about having a flock of motley poultry in your backyard. If you don't know livestock, you don't know how many roosters or hens, geese or ganders....whatever the hell you call male and female ducks you have. As it turned out, we ended up with a lot of males. Which turned into a renegade poultry gang that terrorized the neighborhood. Even after we moved to Virginia, they kept this up. The only nice one was the turkey. The others would attack anyone and anything that came into the yard, and EVERYONE, including teenage boys, were afraid to go back there. The geese eventually took over the front yard and once chased away an insurance agent (his secretary grabbed one by the neck and shook it, he left her alone. We were impressed.)
So when I read this story about the alligators leaving the swans alone....yeah, I can buy that. And I will never feel bad eating a chicken, I can tell you that. I couldn't go into my backyard for ten years without a steel pipe to ward off attacks. Thank God my mom gave up on feathered creatures and now just rescues really, really ugly dogs.
Although most of them bite, too.