It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, the air is cool, the breeze is slight, and the sun is dazzling here in my neck of the woods. I’ve been mulling over my post for today, but with what was a nearly-unconscious move of my hand, my direction changed. It’s funny how that works.
I was in the backyard, taking care of our small flock of seven chickens (delicious eggs, and nearly constant entertainment). With the ladies fussing and flapping their wings as they followed me through the yard, I cleaned and refilled their waterer, and topped of their feeder. We walked back to the coop in Pied Piper fashion, and after dropping the containers off I turned to head back to the house. It was then that I realized I hadn’t collected eggs in a couple of days.
Okay, here’s the conundrum. Just two days in the spring means I’ve got nearly a dozen eggs to carry back to the house. Mind you, the house is only 40 feet away, but I’m a guy…no, I don’t want to walk up, get the basket, and walk back to the coop, thank you very much.
I have on a fleece pullover, though. A pullover with big pockets. I pulled 4 eggs out of the first nesting box, slid them into a pocket, and reached back to the next box and pulled out three more. Those went into the other pocket.
You’re thinking I’m about to make a mess, aren’t you? No, I didn’t. This isn’t my first chicken rodeo.
As I pulled the last few eggs out of the third box and transferred them into the first pocket, I was careful. Really careful.
My hand went into the pocket, and as I heard the eggs make that indescribable sound (clink? thunk? click? chink?) as they settled in together, I was instantly carried back to the hallway outside of my classroom during my first year of teaching.
I had just left my room, heading toward the front of the school on some errand that I’ve long since forgotten. What I’ll never forget, though, is that one of my students, a tiny, quiet, impossibly-shy wisp of a girl, was walking toward me with tears streaming down her face. Her little body shook with each sob, and as I approached her I scanned to see what had to be some sort of grievous injury.
I didn’t see anything obviously wrong, so I knelt down beside her (I was nearly four feet taller than she was–she really was a small third-grader) and asked her what was wrong. It took a few minutes, but finally she calmed down enough to tell me that her egg broke.
Full stop. What?
“My egg broke.” As she spoke, she moved her hand toward the hem of her simple, white cotton pullover shirt. A shirt made in a fashion quite similar to the one I’m wearing this morning. A different material, definitely a different size, but the same general idea. A shirt just right for carrying an egg in the pocket.
Carrying an egg, not to save a few dozen steps, but to be just like one’s older sister. The older sister in high school. The older sister doing that activity where she cares for a raw egg in order to get a glimpse of the responsibilities of protecting a baby.
As I followed her hand down the front of her body, my eyes settled on what was a growing patch of yellow, damp cloth, moving up and down with each gasping sob.
You learn how to be a teacher in college, right? Suuure you do.