May 8, 2013

About a Chicken and 9 Absent Warnings

The rush of cold air and sticky summer heat created a thick fog as I opened the freezer door. It was someplace in the back. Forgotten and alone, but still usable: the whole chicken I planned on making for supper.

At a few months shy of turning twenty, this would be my first attempt making a “mom dinner” for the family since my mom’s death a few months back. She’d buy whole chickens – fryers – because they were cheap. This last lone fryer, a rock hard frozen bird, was one of her last purchases and my inheritance. I threw it in the sink and covered it in tepid water to defrost.

Some hours later, as I cut away the now defrosted chicken’s shrink-wrapped plastic shroud and gave it an icy cold kitchen faucet shower, I could feel something shaking around inside the cavity. Instantly, my mind’s eye pictured mom’s hands going inside the thing and pulling out tiny, mushy flesh-colored baggies before cutting up the bird for frying. With chin lifted skyward and mouth corners turned down, I gulped hard, stuck my hand in and felt around. I was Jack Horner without the plum. Inside were all kinds of chicken innards in those mushy little bags: giblets, liver, heart, maybe even a neck. It was like a biology experiment gone dreadfully wrong.

Then the cutting began.

The Kmart serrated freezer knife, a gift from Mother’s Day Past when we thought kitchen appliances made excellent Mother’s Day gifts, would serve the purpose. Where to start and how? The back? The thighs? Crosswise? Up & Down? I chose all of the above. The friction from every stroke was bone-chilling in its texture and sound effect.

How in heaven’s name did mom perform this butchery all those years? How did she do this hack job -- while simultaneously smiling, singing, and having conversations with everyone in the house, including the dog -- like it was a walk in the park? My fingers were numb from the cold, and chicken was flying every which way.

The kitchen was a salmonella farm.

Then I got ticked. Not In-Need-of-Bereavement-Therapy-Ticked, but ticked about the chicken, the innards, the butchery and the nerve of her leaving this chicken for me to deal with, without any kind of warning. A simple note like “Hey, I made this chicken dinner thing look a lot easier than it is” would’ve been nice.

Now, I know she didn’t specifically leave the chicken for me, but it did make me wonder – just for a fleeting moment – what else didn’t she warn me about? Like all fleeting thoughts, it went away and I baked the chicken.

Twenty-five years later, that fleeting thought comes back on an almost daily basis. But I don’t wonder about what her absent warnings would’ve been because they slap me upside the head all the time. Things like:
Warning #1: One day your booty will no longer be the “bubble butt” you were ashamed of in high school, but flat. As a pancake. You will want that bubble butt back, but it’ll be gone forever.
Warning #2: Current, popular music will confuse you. You’ll think that everything is garbage compared to the music of your youth. It will make you feel very old-fashioned.
Warning #3: Hearing the mere phrase “Night on the Town” will wear you out and you will opt for a Night on the Sofa instead. Related: If you do go out, you will steer clear of any bar, club or restaurant that is teeming with people.
Warning #4: The very things you love about your husband, Prince Charming, will also drive you nuts. Oh, they’re cute idiosyncrasies right now, but mark my words. But if you two make the vows, he’s yours for life and you are his. No givesy-backsies.
Warning #5: Your child will think you are totally and completely clueless about boys, dating, sex and will actually turn red if you and your husband so much as kiss in her presence.
Warning #6: Bathroom privacy will be a thing of the past. Whatever you’re doing, the husband, child and the dog will find an excuse to “keep you company” while you’re in there.
Warning #7: Your husband, child and dog will only respond to what you say the third time you say it. Get used to feeling like there’s an echo in your home.
Warning #8: Your tear ducts will operate independently of your free will. Tears will flow involuntarily at the thought of: happy news; tragic news; good weather; bad weather; babies of any kind (think puppies, kittens); other people’s kids’ accomplishments; your kid’s accomplishments…well, you get it. Just count on being a blubbery mess every now and then.
Warning #9
You can’t warn your child about everything you’ve learned in this lifetime about disappointment, misplaced priorities, knowing when to speak or be silent and the difference between lifelong friends and passing acquaintances. Sometimes, you’ll have to let her bump her head a time or two to learn her own lessons. Those bumps will hurt you more than they will hurt her, but she’ll be stronger and wiser because of them.
I guess mothers can’t post all the warnings kids will need or want. So in the meantime, I’ll stop wasting time lamenting my mom’s absent warnings...

…and make a chicken dinner for my family instead.


  1. Hi Rochelle! I found your link on the LTYM site. Our show is tonight & I'm praying for a calm spirit and voice (& hope I can still breathe wearing a body shaper). I can count on 1 finger the times I cut up a chicken to fry. That is hard work! For years every Sunday my grandmother and her sister fried up a couple of chickens (they raised- eek), in case somebody showed up for dinner, and if not, they ate chicken for the next few days. Loved your post. Your mom sounds like an amazing lady. So sorry you lost her so early. It's wonderful that you remember her words of wisdom; we can all relate!

    1. Ooooh! I'm so excited for you Donna! Trust me: You. Will. Be. Fine. -- better than Fine, you'll be AWESOME. Normally I get so nervous, my hands, head and hips start trembling (entertaining to see, not so much to go through it)...but something happens when you step up to that mic and start talking from your heart. You'll see what I mean. Trust me.

      Now about the fryer...I made a vow right then and there to NEVER buy another whole chicken. And I haven't -- unless its the rotissere kind that's already been coooked. :)

      And yeah, my mom was an amazing woman. Her time here was short, but I'm so, so incredibly blessed that she was chosen to be my mom in that short time. So, it's a little bittersweet -- but more sweet than bitter.

      Good luck to you and your castmates...can't wait to hear how it goes! <3

  2. We survived the LTYM Show, and it was amazing! The cast had met two times before so everyone could read through their essays, but it was even better with an audience. They responded so well-- laughed, cried, and everything in-between. I'm so grateful to have gone through this experience now, although it was definitely getting me out of my comfort cave leading up to it. I just returned from visiting my son in DC, so I was a little late posting about the event, but here it is, along with the essay I read:

    The phrase Don't Blink is so cliche now, but I wrote it back in 1999. Okay, it was probably already cliche by then, too. ha. But it fit.

    1. I was wondering how it went, Donna! And I don't doubt you were blessed with the calm and peace you were praying for. :) Looking forward to reading your essay...