Imagine with me a moment—the summer heat rising off the gravel roads, bright blue cloudless skies, green and gold fields for miles around, a white farmhouse and barn with a variety of tractors and farm equipment haphazardly lining the drive. Now…add in the sound of dying chickens and the screams of a couple of kids about 5 and 7. Ha, gotcha! I know you were thinking of iced tea and a porch swing while eating Grandma’s fresh-baked rhubarb crisp! But, that isn’t in this story.
When my oldest sister and I were small kids, my parents would go to my paternal grandparent’s farm and butcher chickens. They butchered enough chickens for several families, for an entire year. I won’t do the math, but you can imagine, it was a lot of chickens! For those of you who have never butchered chickens, you start by catching them, then you chop off their heads. Of course, the last thing they were thinking before they lost their heads was to run away as fast as they can. So, when the body leaves the head, the body starts running. (In all actuality, it’s a nerve reaction that causes them to run.)
Our job…you guessed it, chase the headless chickens! Why is this story important? I was five. Memory making and recollection during childhood is a fairly complex phenomenon. However, memories that are meaningful and important and shared with family remain intact, vivid, and profoundly influential in people’s lives (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-do-children-start-making-long-term-memories/). What made this activity so memorable for me? I remember having fun and being fascinated with the chickens running after they were “dead”. I remember being with my sister and family, which was and is always important to me. I remember that I knew we got to eat the chicken eventually and that it would be fried and delicious.
The seemingly mundane life task of providing food for a family produced one of the greatest and fondest memories of my life. Sometimes as parents and grandparents we are searching to make things so “memorable” that we forget that being together, enjoying each other, doing life together is what creates memories. What are your favorite childhood memories?
Contributed by Liz Hunt