I was part of a writer’s workshop over the weekend which centralized around the philosophies of Virginia Woolf. One of the chosen exercises encouraged us to take a favorite short tale and retell it with more flowery, poetic, and meandering writing. A later exercise asked us to remember a time when we fell in love with a favorite book. We were to mindfully bring ourselves into the action while describing details about the book, day, moment, emotion, etc…
For the first task, I chose The Little Red Hen, my beloved Golden Book from childhood. When the time came for the second task, my mind was still on The Little Red Hen track. I wanted to record the exercises here for one day- for something. I don’t know why…
The crimson feathered hen’s heart ached at the decisions her dearest loved ones continued to make as they allowed her to do all of the work while expecting to reap the rewards. Each of them, the hen included, shared the same dream.
She was drained tired but knew the warm, white bread would be worth it.
Wings in mitts, the hen reached into the brick oven and brought the steaming loaves out, “These smell like heaven!” the hen exclaimed with a satisfied sigh, while the mental countdown began as to when her friends would show up expecting to fill their bellies. Her gentle heart hated to deny them, but she knew it was for their own good. These friends needed to learn the value and sacrifice found in hard work…
Was it the first time, or simply a time? Had my mind followed the words a thousand times before, their story not quite sinking in, or were they exploring the tale, brand new? Either way, their meaning settled upon me like a dawning.
Criss-cross legs on the floor. Bookshelf Papa built looming over head, books piled high on shelves and stacked low on carpet, surrounding me.
I wanted to reach into the pages and let the weary hen rest in my arms.
Muted rays of light attempted to flood this space beyond my tiny, tin framed bedroom window, as salt-tears traveled down my cheeks for her, the tired hen. Those friends should help her, and do their share. Of course, they cannot share in the bread! I raged angry and protective, appalled at the injustice of it all.
I would sit in this same spot, with these same pages, for years to come. Even as a middle school girl, loving boys and carrying life’s heavy luggage, this hen held space for me… and I for her. To this very day, one-million lifetimes later, this sweet hen’s story still wounds me. She was so tired and yet they would not see her. She gave and she gave, those around her only chose to take and take and take… Even me really, holding her story and tracing her pages, those deep red feathers giving me far more comfort and friendship than anyone had bothered to gift to her.
I loved her.
I am her.
is it because I foresaw it then, or did the engraving of this hen upon my small-girl-soul direct my path?