Everyone wants to be a hero — a badass. Few things compare with that feeling of knowing you were there, just at the right moment, and completely changed the outcome of a situation doomed for darkness. I could argue that maybe it’s this need that fuels motherhood, because being a parent requires being a badass many times a day.
Or… attempting to be a badass and failing at it, locking yourself into the bathroom and taking a bath at 3:30 in the afternoon because you figure you are least likely to do permanent damage this way while you mourn the fantasy of being the badass you used to once be.
I realized into my seventh year of parenting my Big Son that this desire to be the unexpected solution to a problem was HUGE. It fueled his play, picked his toys, and provided a significant motivation when it came to chores. While asking “Can you help unload the dishwasher?” was met with lackluster interest, rephrasing the question into something more of a plea for help, the clean dishes being menacing and overwhelming (which they often are, damn plates) resulting in an enthusiastic rescue. It turns out I’m not above playing the stereotypical helpless maiden bound by circumstances outside of my control (sock sorting, for example) when it comes getting help with the housework. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes being the kitten in the tree has perks.
There have been real life situation when I did need a hero. A Hero, even (and I include in this the female form of the word Heroine). Times when one showed up, times when one didn’t, times when I just got tired of waiting and decided to be my own. Or times when all three happen at once.
Sometimes my brain clicks on, loudly and fierce like a downhill train without brakes, at the wee hours of the morn. I lay in the dark, resentful of nearby snoring, and review all the ways I have fucked up. Or worry about the way I am going to fuck up. Sure, there is a undercurrent of self-love and grandmotherly charm somewhere in my head too, but it’s mostly drowned out by the screeching. After ninety minutes of this, it feels like a good time to do laundry.
On this particular October morn, I found my flip-flops in the dark and wandered toward the laundry room. It’s a very tight hall packed full of glass jars I can’t seem to use, recycle or surrender. It’s not a particularly welcoming area of the house, it’s supposed to be about function — but does not have much form. True, I often get a little skittish because you have to walk through the dark hall, three steps, to reach the light switch and then you stand facing the window on the back door and more than once I have scared the shit out of myself by seeing my reflection staring back at me.
This morning I was too sleepy to remember to be scared though, and as it would happen, as soon as I switched on the light there was a thudding sound of something hitting a wall and the squawks of startled chickens. At four in the morning, before the slow glow of dawn has begun to tickle sounds out of the world, these are really loud and terrifying sounds and instantly cleared the whiny bitch noise in my head. If I had only heard the thudding sound I would not have grabbed the closest “weapon,” the broom, and ran out into the dark night. I would have gone and woke up the slumbering big man of a bear in the bedroom. It was the squawk. A squawk of equal parts terrors and indignation… a call to arms. Broom in hand, I went forth.
As I ran out of the door and down the slippery wooden steps, I hollered over my shoulder to the sleeping house “SOMETHING’SINTHEHENHOUSE!” and ran, full tilt to meet the tormentors.
And then I stopped. As I cleared the corner of the house, darkness cut a sharp angle and only shadows of the hen house greeted me. I was taken over with the realization that my sleepy attire of yoga pants and flip-flops was sooo not the rodent-fighting armor I was wishing for. I have a vivid imagination, and in that nano-second of seeing the hen house and knowing I was going to get closer to it, I clearly lived the horror of having my toes mauled by a fierce furry thing. My toes were cold and worried. They were wondering if maybe they were higher up on the priority list then the chickens, because yes — the eggs are good but walking is really good.
Their complaints were hardly acknowledged before another loud round of thumping and squawking erupting from the wooden coop, which caused me to scream and randomly bang the outside of the coop. At the time, I had a vague notion that this was going to scare the critter out of the coop. Now I realize it was just reinforcing the perception my neighbors have of me that I am crazy. In fact, I was just practicing my broom swing…cuz I was fixin’ to do some mean sweeping on those darn varmints. “Sweep ’em clear to Sunday,” is the term I would later coin to explain my weapon of choice.
I could see ruffled feathered hens darting in the bottom run of the chicken coop so I ventured round to open the run — squishing into wet grass — toes loudly protesting as I neared the door. Two chickens ran swiftly into the safety of the dark and then ran back out of the dark because the dark doesn’t really feel that safe most of the time.
The chicken coop was put together from various found wood, which we hoard, and isn’t really the most clever in the design area. It is on wheels and it sits parallel the elevated back deck. There is the bottom run, which has a ramp leading up through a hatch — which had been left open the night before — and into the roosting area and nesting box. The nesting box has a lid that opens and the roosting area has a large door that you can swing open and latch. If you get really close and put down your broom. That’s what I did to find sleeping birds and lots of menacing blackness.
The perfect moment for a hero to arrive.
The outside light sprang on with a fierceness and the sliding glass door rolled open with a velocity that caused it to bounce back a tad, and out stepped my Big Son, his long brown hair wild and full, clad only in his plaid boxer shorts, holding in his two hands his pellet rifle, cocked and loaded. And as he stepped into the light he yelled out in a high voice imitating a low voice, “WHO IS MESSING WITH MY GIRLS?!”
I’m writing to Webster’s and telling them to update their entry for “badass.”
And for “hero” too.