Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicken House

When we bought our house in San Anselmo five years ago, we, as a family, referred to it as "The Wild Turkey House". Virtually every time we visited during escrow, there was a flock of turkeys wandering about, pecking the dirt and gobbling. Mae and Lana, who were almost three and almost one at the time, were impressed.

In the years since, we've grown used to the turkeys and they fail to elicit much of a reaction. They are funny creatures, certainly. They can't fly very well so this particular flock climbs the hill behind our house at dusk and glides down to the rather spindly pine tree they call their bedroom. They take off one by one and soar uncertainly past our deck before smashing into the poor little pine. With every flight, I doubt the landing but I have yet to see a turkey plop onto the ground.

During mating season, the males battle outside our living-room windows. They wrap their long necks around each other and peck furiously at their opponents' eyes. The other turkeys stand around and watch, nervously moving in and backing up as the war wages. I half expect them to yell, "Fight, fight" like we used to in middle school.

The turkeys also have a predilection for shiny cars. When our friend and neighbor, Lee, bought a new Passat, he walked down his steps to go to work one morning and found a turkey eyeing his reflection in the sheen of the car door. Before Lee knew it, that big dumb bird had decided that this mirror turkey was bad news. He reared back and came at it with his beak. He seemed confused by the feel of this new turkey, very hard and cold, but shook it off and launched another assault. It took a lot of screaming on Lee's part before the turkey finally ceded the battle. After that the Passat had a cozy cover at night. We never had an issue with the turkeys attacking our cars because our cars were never shiny.

In the spring, when we see the fawn and the baby quail, we also spot fuzzy, awkward, baby turkeys, following their mama along the driveway in a wobbly line. Why is it that anything and everything is cute when it's a baby? These babies are cute-ugly, kind of like sexy-ugly, that pull that some manage to have despite, or maybe in part because, of their off-beat looks. I'm thinking Lyle Lovett, Alan Rickman, Mick Jagger.

This year, as we prepare to move back to that house, it has a new identity. Mihiretu has named it "The Chicken House" because, well, we have chickens there. He only lived in the house for two months between coming home from Ethiopia and moving to San Jose but, probably because we've visited since, he remembers those chickens. And he was quite the chicken farmer last summer, helping me feed them and clean the coop, even collecting (and dropping) eggs.

Because he's titled the house, it makes it easier to explain to him that we're moving. We're going to the chicken house, not now, in a few weeks and we're going to sleep there. We're not going to sleep in this house anymore. He's very excited. Every time we get in the car he says, "Hare go, Mama? Shicken how?" And I say, no, not today, but soon. And he says, "Shicken how. No dis how", and shakes his hand in front of him, his head shaking with it, a gesture he's had as long as we've known him, an expression that I think of, maybe wrongly, as Ethiopian.

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