When I was little, around 6-7 I guess. I lived in Oregon. Somewhere around Portland and Mount St. Helens. I should have been in 1st grade, but I didn’t go to school much as a child. Instead we moved from place to place, town to town, nothing stayed still. Even the mountains moved.
St. Helens erupted, everything was covered in dust. Animals got sick. And we moved again.
But before that, my Gram and I had a little farm. It was old and smelled like mold. But was good enough to grow a little garden, raise some rabbits and chickens, milk a goat, and for her, to do her best to raise a little girl who was just as wild as the animals she kept.
I was quiet. I didn’t speak, didn’t have friends, and didn’t like most human beings. But I understood animals.
Gram gave me a chicken, brownish red and too gentle to eat. She said it would be my friend if I took care of her, talked to her in a gentle voice and kept her safe from the dog.
I named her Henry. She was fat, probably because I was constantly sharing my food with her and carried her wherever I went, inside and out. She was kind and sang silly chicken songs. And I learned her songs and sang them back.
My Gram insisted that Henry lived outside in a wooden box filled with straw. I insisted that it be as close to me as possible. So, she nested in that box right under the covering where my rain boots sat on the back porch.
One morning when I lifted her from her bed, I found that she had begun to lay eggs. But unlike other eggs, her eggs were blue like spring mornings. Small blue eggs with tiny speckles.
Henry gave me her special gifts each morning. For three moves I was allowed to keep her. Three houses, three new schools. I cried and begged for more time when it was time for us to pack our box and move to the next place because I didn’t want to leave my magic chicken and her special blue eggs.
After that I have always had a special place in my heart for red hens and blue eggs.
Today my daughter texted me from college excited that she’d seen a chicken who laid blue eggs and for a few minutes I drifted back in time to that little red hen and her magic eggs.
I don’t know really what happened to Henry. When we moved we often moved over night, one box of personal things and a suitcase of clothes that fit. We started over, didn’t make connections, didn’t tell people where we came from.
I’d already left behind dogs, cats, and people… but that lil red hen hurt. I suppose the next people moving in were next to receive her blue eggs. Somewhere in the house were drawings I’d done of happy hens and a little girl who didn’t speak. I hope they took good care of her and called her Henry.