Last Saturday, my children ran around with some neighborhood children they know from the bus stop. While exploring their backyard, my kids were delighted to see they had a chicken coop.
After meeting the chickens, one of the boys gave my daughter a brown egg to take home. She beamed and held out her hand carefully to accept the fragile gift.
“That was so nice!” I commented as we walked up the hill to our house. “We can make eggs for lunch.”
Horrified, my daughter turned to me. “We can’t EAT it!” she exclaimed, moving the egg to her other hand in a protective gesture.
“Why not? It’s just an egg …” I began to explain.
However, once I realized my limited knowledge of how an egg actually becomes a chicken, I finished lamely, “It’s not the kind that will turn into a chicken. It won’t hatch. It’s just the kind you eat.”
She glared. “It’s my little eggy,” she stated simply and marched ahead of me.
And so “little eggy” sat on our outside table while she ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead. After lunch, she built the egg a nest of moss and scraps of wood, and throughout the day, she stopped by to check on her egg and add to its nest – a tiny seashell, some blades of grass, a few sticks.
Late in the afternoon, I heard my husband trying to talk her into putting it in the kitchen, so we could save it to eat later, but she continued to protest. Having grown up in the country, my husband gave me a look as if to say, Why are you letting our daughter treat an egg like a pet? I simply shrugged my shoulders in response: I’m picking my battles today.
But, perhaps, I should have heeded his wordless message. It may have saved some tears.
By the time we all sat down to watch some television before bed, I thought she had forgotten about the egg. However, during a commercial she suddenly popped up and asked for a flashlight, so she could go outside and check on “little eggy.”
I agreed, and she and her brother headed outside to look at the egg. Later, as I was shooing the kids up to their rooms to put on pajamas, my daughter grabbed her little purse and patted it gently.
Immediately, I knew. “What’s in your purse?”
“My egg!” she countered somewhat defiantly, already suspecting my response to this revelation.
I promptly pointed to the door. “You can’t keep that egg in your purse.” I reminded her of the time we dropped an egg on the floor while making cupcakes and what a mess it made.
She sighed heavily but headed outside to tuck in her egg for the night.
Seconds later my dear daughter appeared in the doorway with tears streaming down her face. Cupped in her hand, the brown egg now oozed yolk down her arm. She placed the cracked egg in my hand and threw her sobbing, five-year-old body into my arms. She was inconsolable.
For fifteen minutes, I unsuccessfully tried to comfort her with practical statements like, “We ate eggs this morning. It’s just food!” and “Remember how we had to add two eggs to the batter for your birthday cupcakes last week? Eggs are meant to be cracked!”
She continued to cry because sometimes logic is not part of the equation.
I had failed to consider the power of imagination. She had been handed an egg – something no one had given her before – and told to be careful with it. So, as we walked up the hill to our house, it became more than just an egg to her. It was a precious gift that she must handle carefully. And, so she did. She cared for that egg like she was its momma all day long.
And, then it cracked.
Once I realized this, I knew that nothing I said was going to change her distraught state of mind. She wasn’t upset that the egg would not hatch a chicken; she was just heartbroken that her egg cracked.
“Well, we don’t have any brown eggs,” I finally declared, “but we have plenty of white ones. Do you want one?”
She nodded, wiped some tears away, and followed me into the kitchen. I handed her an egg out of the carton, and she cradled it in her hands and slowly walked out to the dark deck. Gently, she placed the egg in the bed of moss.
“Look, Mom!” she said cheerfully as she pointed to the tiny seashell on the side of its “nest.” “That’s Eggy’s remote control!”
I smiled and led her back inside. She turned back once more to call over her shoulder, “Good-night Eggy. I hope nobody steals you tonight.”
And, that was that. All was right in her world again because she once again had an egg to care for; she once again could retreat back into her imagination where things like cracks don’t happen.
Now, I am just left to wonder … how long will I have an egg on my deck?