Edible Berkshires

The Last Tale: Mother Hen from Birth

Memories of Getting Away With Fowl Play


When I was 6 years old, my mother washed my mouth out with a bar of Dove soap and sat me on the bathroom sink, soap mustache and all, to think about what I’d done.

For the third time that week I had smuggled one of our baby chicks, bullied by the others, into my bedroom for extra attention. An hour later, the poop stains on the rug sold me out, and there I was looking up at my mother and willing myself to be sorry.

“Have you learned your lesson?” she asked sternly, hands on hips. I sighed and looked at the ground. “I will never ever do it again,” I said, cracking a smile. Then I blew a Dove soap bubble into the air and, before the both of us, it popped.

Twelve years later, freshman year of college, I sat in my Honda Civic directly outside my dorm and called my floor mate inside. “Pat, I need to sneak in something onto the seventh floor and could use your smuggling experience.”

Pat, being something of a party animal, was very good at sneaking prohibited items right past the nose of the front desk staff and up into the dorms.

Because these things were usually contained in a bottle, you can imagine the look on his face when he opened my car door and saw a chicken in a cast, sleeping in my lap. He smiled. “I should have known.”

With that, we wrapped the chicken in my coat, and he played the harmonica the entire way up to the dorm room so that not a single cluck could be heard.

Fast forward three years to my first writing gig on the college newspaper. By this time, I had grown a bit “cocky” with my ability to smoothly transport poultry to different locations without the birds making a sound. So confident, in fact, I didn’t think twice about meeting with my advisor in the newspaper office to go over an article, all while harboring a sick rooster in my backpack. I walked into the newspaper office, set the bag down on the floor and pulled my chair up to her desk.

“First things first,” she said. “Great lead, I think you have a lot to offer the Arts & Entertainment section.”

I glanced over her shoulder and saw my backpack do a little hop. My face grew hot.

“Really?” I said, clearing my throat. “That’s nice to hear.”

Suddenly, the backpack did another little shuffle and clucked. She turned.

“Be right back,” I said. Then I stood up, grabbed my backpack, and fled.

We as adults are not the same people we were 20 years ago, five years ago or even a week ago. Almost every aspect of our little kid selves has long disappeared in the disorganized pantry of our memory. The key to not completely losing ourselves is to find that one strand from our childhood—whether it be playing ball, dancing or whatever else—then hold onto it and smuggle it with us wherever we go.