A Croissant That Tastes Like Courage
On Harmonyville Road, we had countless chickens. SO many chickens! We also had swans, peacocks, quail, a horse, two sheep for a time, bunnies, kittens, and most certainly some other variety of aesthetically pleasing bird that my dad with an eye for aesthetics would have procured. We also had an incubator so that we could watch the early life-cycle of these birds with awe and wonder. Dad would hold an egg to a warming lamp and we could see what once was yolk, become life; life that would soon move and grow until eventually its tiny little beak would crack through the surface, and we would be the fortunate witnesses of its first breath of air.
That’s the other thing you learn about on a farm, not just death, but life; miraculous life that springs forth from seemingly nothing. A plain, unimpressive seed placed in the ground with water, nutrient dense soil, sunlight, and time can become a feast for the senses within a couple of months. Brilliant colors of peonies lined the border of our house and the tenants’ and then made a beeline for the creek. Sunflowers standing taller than our miniature selves. Tulips lined the driveway entrance, beckoning visitors, had we not such a dark secret to hide of abuse.
We had batches of baby chicks and my dad wanted us all to have our own. My little brother couldn’t have been older than three years of age and while he held his baby, it was up to my big brother and I to monitor him, unbeknownst to us. In his toddler mind, he must have thought he ought to hold the baby firmly so he didn’t drop her. He didn’t drop her. But when dad returned from his task, he found that the baby chick had died in the stronghold grip of a well intending toddler. He was furious.
I had a tendency to shut down during his rages, only one do I recall being mentally alert yet paralyzed to muteness. Perhaps I didn’t shut down, but blocked it from my memory altogether. That is why I write. Painful demons torment my heart decades later and I wish to name them and defeat their grip on me.
My chicken laid an egg that I discovered one morning. One egg that I proudly handed to my mom and she sent me off to play. Dad wanted perfect children, so he monitored our diet closely. Fatty and sugary foods were not allowed. We had soup often, not the nutrient dense hearty soups that I make for my children today. Canned tomato soup thinned down with water rather than milk or cream. But mom disagreed and thought that children should be her version of children, carefree and spoiled with yummy treats and love. He worked the night shifts at the hospital and slept the morning and early afternoon. That’s when she would grocery shop and sneak sugary cereals in, and hide them in a dresser drawer. It seemed normal then; today to write those words, I ache for that woman who felt such fear that she had to hide “fun” cereal, but her dedication to her children gave her the boldness to do so, and risk being caught.
While I played with my siblings in our distorted utopia, she retreated to the kitchen, where if we are alike in this (and I suspect that we are), she turned to baking and cooking to escape her own thoughts and reality.
It was my first croissant ever. A forbidden treat of buttery layers of dough that melted on my tongue; a brilliant color due to my free-range chicken eating what God intended her to eat. It was still warm, a mark of perfection for consuming such a treat.
It was not just a croissant. No other croissant will ever taste like the croissant my mom made for me that day. It wasn’t made simply with the finest ingredients, it was made with courage and love. She is too humble to think herself courageous, but she defied the potential wrath of a hungry beast to share with me the beauty of that egg transformed. Courage is often in the eye of the beholder as the courageous so frequently fail to see their acts, humble as they might be, as courageous.