Sunday, April 5, 2009

Murder in first degree shatters Easter bliss

This is a story of innocence and vulnerability ….

The mercantile store clerk reached down into the large pen and with one unfailing swoop snatched the little chick that was destined to go home with us.

The year was 1959. My five siblings and I ranged in ages from 11 to two. I was in the middle, turning seven.

There were blue, green, pink and purple baby chicks. We chose a pink one. Their feathers were intentionally dyed for the Easter season.

At the time, having a live baby chick at Easter was a marvel to our brood. It was like bringing home a hamster or a gerbil.

We took turns holding "Peep-peep," which is what we named him after his chirping sound. One at a time, we reached down into his makeshift pen, which was lined with Sunday’s paper.

Our bodies quivered while we balanced that fluff ball of innocence in our hands. Our fingers curled ever so gently around his tiny body to keep him from certain death by falling on the hardwood floor.

Some part of having a new creature in our lives was the excitement of holding vulnerability in the palms of our hands.

Looking back, that was a cruel Easter ritual for Peep-peep, but one that brought us collective excitement, second only to having the Easter Bunny himself hip-pity-hop right through our front door.

The baby chick’s pen quickly turned into a playful shrine, which we visited and knelt at, watching for long spells, waiting, wondering even though he never once came around to our caresses or attempted kisses atop his miniature head.

Embedded in my elation was a certain sadness. For our benefit, his body was dyed and then he was removed from his home. His appetite soon gone. The fight in him failed.

We wanted him to play. We wanted him to respond. Maybe that’s why the youngest, Anita, age 2, held on so tightly the morning after his arrival.

At first, she was skittish about how he felt on her skin. Then, she became ecstatic. Her eyes and mouth widened. Her grip tightened while her fingers collected slowly around his neck.

"Let go, Anita!" I yelled; the others joined my cry. "Let go-o-o-o-o-o!" We ran screaming for our mother, leaving Anita alone, frozen on an island of desperate bliss with feathery soft Peep-peep still under her power. His eyes closed. His head limp. His body lifeless.

In the years that followed, Mother forbade us to have another baby chick at Easter or any other time, for that matter.

This is a story of innocence and vulnerability. Down through the years, why is it that my siblings and I are compelled to retell it during family gatherings and at Easter?

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a popular columnist and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place in National Federation of Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. Recently, her work took second place in the South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests. To contact Paula Damon, email or join her blog at

No comments: