Today I went grocery shopping. And once again, the cashier commented on my purchases. “Wow, you eat so healthy. I try to eat healthy, but that stuff is so expensive!” I shrugged and said, “Well, so is cancer of the colon.”
Just kidding. I actually blushed, giggled, and mumbled some inane response like, “Well, I’m sure once I have kids I won’t buy all this stuff anymore.” Implying that I really don’t care what kind of hormones, trans fats, and chemicals I pump into my offspring, I guess.
Anyway, I’m used to cashiers commenting on my food purchases. “Wow, this is the healthiest cartload to come through here today.” “How do you make tofu?” “What does this yogurt taste like?” “What’s tem-puh? Or is it tempay? Tempee?” And, after warily examining my grocery items as if I were buying fancy, new-fangled lurnin’ and Baby Jesus in a Can: “Okay. I’m curious. Why do you buy organic anyway? I mean, is there really any difference?”
Now, I know they’re just making conversation. Being friendly. Maybe even feeling a little guilty about that platter of Oreos they had for breakfast. But it’s hard for me to imagine them commenting on a conveyer belt loaded with pork rinds and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies if I were oh, say, morbidly obese. “Geez, do you think you need all these snacks, Fattycakes?” Or if I were purchasing lots of low-sodium products: “High blood pressure, eh?” Or dozens of bottles of booze: “Oooooh, someone’s got an intervention in their future!” Or hemorrhoid cream and Metamucil: “Pushing too hard on the ol’ shitter, huh?”
And I don’t always eat healthy. Take this morning at Perkins. I ordered hash browns, buttered toast, and two eggs, sunny-side up. But the cook must have mistaken “sunny-side up” for “cold, mucousy boobs.” Which was a real bummer.
But it reminded me of a story. When I was about five, my parents took me to visit my aunt and uncle’s farm. Probably right after I drew that picture of Long Nipple Cat and told Miss Barb about the baby boilin’. The farm turned out to be a wondrous cornucopia of domesticated animals. There were rabbits, and cows, and horses, and pigs, and—my favorite for some strange reason—chickens! To my delight and surprise the adults let me pick out some freshly-laid brown eggs from a few nests. We could take them home with us! My uncle warned me, “Now, be careful. Some of those eggs may have been fertilized.” Which I took to mean, “Some of those eggs will hatch beautiful fluffy baby chicks that you can cuddle and love and keep under the bed and call George.”
But I knew one thing for sure. Eggs don’t hatch unless the mother hen sits on them. When we got home I snuck one of the eggs from the refrigerator and placed it carefully on the sofa. I put a pillow atop the egg, and then proceeded to “sit” on the egg. Just like a good mother hen. I gently sat on that egg for over two hours, passing the time by watching Pinwheel on Nickelodeon.
But my baby chick wasn’t stirring. So I decided to ask my mom how chicken eggs hatched. Maybe I had forgotten an important step in the process. I had to play it cool, though. She had no idea I was sitting on that egg, and something told me it would be a good idea to keep my little project a secret.
“Hey mom. How do baby chicks hatch?”
I’m pretty sure my mom was cross-stitching more seventies-themed wall hangings at the time, because I seem to recall her having some kind of thread in her mouth when she answered, “The mother hen lays an egg and sits on it to keep it warm.”
I frowned. I already knew this part. “Yeah, but how does the mother chicken make the baby chicken? Like when we don’t want to eat the egg?”
Never one to muddy answers to the tough questions, she replied, “The rooster has to peck the back of the hen’s neck. That’s how they make a baby chick.”
A-ha! That baby chick was almost mine. So once again I perched carefully above the egg, this time reaching around to peck the back of my own neck repeatedly with my right index finger.
I’m pretty sure that egg ended up next to my Dad’s toast a few mornings later.
This is the kind of fond childhood memory that makes me really excited to have kids and start feeding them confusing answers to difficult questions. And Ding Dongs and Ass-Kickin’ Barbeque Popcorn with real butter flavor.