“Bzz bzz bzz”
She'd spotted two tiny little flies flitting above the ground as we walked the trail up to the Nature Fair. On the ride over she'd proudly displayed her new found knowledge of the sounds that all the animals make, and now she was demonstrating to me first hand. She'd even learned my name in the week since I'd last seen her. It came out sounding like “Eesa”, but this did nothing to detract from the beauty of my little girl sharing with me the word she's chosen to know me by.
The Nature Fair was set in a clearing of the wooded garden. The event organizers exhibited their knowledge of the unpredictable Oregon spring weather and had set up plenty of tents, handy in the event of either rain or heat. Neither of these were present today, and we were blessed with a cool but dry morning. Each tent housed a variety of activities for the kids to enjoy while learning about local flora and fauna. There were craft stations, slug races, and a salmon spawning obstacle course set up. But we had come here for one primary purpose; to watch our little one pet the animals.
There were fewer animals for the kids to interact with than we'd hoped...a few birds of prey perched on their handlers' arms, a snake that none of us moms wanted to get too close to, a baby goat that patiently stood there as the kids petted her and was frequently rewarded with a handful of grain from one of the eager youngsters. And chickens.
As I watched our daughter gingerly approach the man holding the chicken, a look of both apprehension and excitement mixed upon her face, I couldn't help but remember her first experience with a chicken. It was J's chicken, Ginny. I would wake up on those drizzly spring mornings, nauseous and bloatedly pregnant and walk out onto the back patio with my warm cup of coffee to sit and watch the rain. Ginny would wander across the yard and jump up on my ever-expanding belly. Ladybug would twist and squirm under her, but Ginny would stand there, seeming not to notice, and gently nip at my hand to let me know J had forgotten to feed her before he rushed off to work. He never once forgot to sneak back into the bedroom to kiss my forehead before he left, but he often forgot to feed the chicken.
Watching Ladybug ooh and aah over this chicken at the fair today brought so much joy to me. But, of course, it also reminded me of a sadder, more difficult memory tied to Ginny.
Only a few weeks after I'd given birth to my daughter, heartbroken from having to walk out of the hospital empty handed, J had killed and eaten Ginny. She was never meant to be a meal, but was originally acquired to provide eggs and be a pet. She'd been named, trained to sit on laps, and even allowed to wander through the house from time to time. She was loved, until one day he just decided she'd be better off as a pot pie. He didn't even tell me about it until after he'd already snapped her neck. I was powerless to stop it. It was already done.
I mourned for the loss of this bird who had once perched upon my stomach. The pain of it mingled with the agony of losing the very child my stomach had held. J texted me later that night to tell me that Ginny had tasted awful, like sadness. I offered to gladly rip her out of his stomach, smashed my phone against the wall, and collapsed on my bed in tears. He'd killed my chicken, our chicken, our daughter's chicken. I'd lost another piece that tied Ladybug to me in the digestive track of one of the most horrible people I'd ever known.
I want to tell Ladybug about the chicken who use to sit on my belly with her wriggling inside, but how can I tell her the good parts without including the hard ones regarding Ginny's ultimate fate? The struggle of how to incorporate J into her story in a way that is unbiased, yet honest, without portraying him as the terrible person is one that has plagued me from the beginning. He helped me create her, passed on his dimpled chin and his charming smile to her. Without him, I would have never come to know the truest depths of my love, something that I've been learning with every passing day that our daughter exists. But, he's also selfish and manipulative, treated me with a complete lack of compassion, and abandoned his child. There are two sides to his story which can't be separated.
This issue has been fresh in my mind lately, since I got the news that J was leaving the country, the continent in fact, to marry a woman who's name is one mere letter away from being the same name as his daughter's. I have no idea how he can say his fiance's name without it stirring even the slightest thought of the child he walked away from, but then I gave up on trying to understand him long ago.
I never held much hope that he'd ever actually change his mind and want to be a part of Ladybug's life, but it seems completely futile with him living all the way across the Atlantic. How do I explain to her that her “father” would uproot his entire life and leave everything he knows behind for one human being, but couldn't be bothered to drive a few blocks once or twice a year for his own offspring? Sadly, I know the answer to this; its because he feels no love for Ladybug. But that's not an answer I could ever, ever give her, so I continue to search for the truth that won't hurt her while still remaining the truth.
There is so much beauty in our lives and in my relationship with Ladybug. There are parts of our story that I can't tell without a little smile sneaking up on my face, stories that I look forward to sharing with her as she grows up to help her understand where she came from. I want to tell her about the chicken named Ginny that kept her company before she was born. But as much love and beauty as there may be, there will always be the hard stuff mingled in. Hard stuff from the past, and hard stuff in the future. I wish I could shelter her from any of it and to never allow anything to hurt her. But a world absent of the hard stuff would only ever be a lie, and as much as I want to protect her, I want even more to be honest with her. I don't want to deny her of anything that is rightfully hers, even the ugly, messy parts. They don't just belong to me, they belong to her as well.