This story is dedicated to all the parents separated from their precious children on Thanksgiving. And dedicated to to all the children who are being denied the love and care they deserve from a parent due to an unjust court order, or due to an abusive or alienating parent.
Summary: A curious turkey who peers into the window of a farmhouse on Thanksgiving Day, wondering what the holiday is about. The turkey is startled to discover the mother living in the farmhouse is not celebrating Thanksgiving but rather, grieving the loss of her children. This leads the turkey to a startling revelation about the human world, and what he is thankful for.
Inspiration: This story is based on a touching article describing the care and nurturing a mother turkey (hen) provides her young: A Mother Turkey and Her Young – “Their Kind and Careful Parent”
I also used as a source: NWTF: Wild Turkey Lifestyle & Breeding
This story is also based on my own horrific experiences with the family “injustice” system, and the pain I being kept away from my children, due to an abusive ex, on Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful that I am not as evil as Judge Patrick D. Robben in Hennepin County. I may have lost custody of my children but I have not lost my heart, or my integrity. Judge Robben has not only alienated my children from me with an illegal, and unjust court order, he also REFUSES to grant me any parenting time on any holiday. to spend time with my children.
I don’t know where my children are this Thanksgiving. I won’t be able to serve them my special dish – sweet potato casserole. I won’t be able to take them to church. I won’t be able to hear their sweet voices share what they are These children have a mother who loves them with every breath in her body, every fiber of her being, and this mother is grieving their loss on Thanksgiving.
A wild turkey ventures close to an old farmhouse bordering his woodland range. He looks into a kitchen window on Thanksgiving day: strangely, the lights are turned off, the oven is cold. A whimpering cry can be heard from another room, curious the turkey draws closer…
Mama Hen warns, with several high-pitched notes: Putt, putt, putt. Do not get too close to the farm. Under the deep curve of her wing, I am safe.
What is there to be thankful about on Thanksgiving for a Turkey?
Curious birds, turkeys are. So Thanksgiving day, I leave my woodland home. Flying over split-rail fence, I land onto gravel road leading to the farm. I shrug off Mama Hen’s warning as I near.
Thanksgiving – what is this holiday that brings man and bird together?
Mother Hen said I am too young to understand. Hah! Admire my tail fan, brown and black feathers growing long. A red-orange round bumps protrudes my from skinny leg, this spur marks my growth into a real tom. Soon a crown will grow on top of my bald head, the color of a blue sky, and I will fight for my place in the pecking order.
The farm is strangely quiet, for a day all turkeys fear – Thanksgiving. I puff my feathers to menacing height, a tactic that works against most predators. In the distance, blinking red and blue lights travel farther down the gravel road and out of sight.
No humans in sight. I stride to the barn. Old rooster crows in protest. Cows moo low and long, begging to be fed. Snow begins to fall on scraggly grass.
I cross the yard to peer into the windows of the old farmhouse. The kitchen is dark, counter tops bare. A strange white “tree” in the corner of the kitchen has colorful “leaves” that grow out of it. On one of the leaves is the picture of a smiling human “poult” (baby) riding a pony. Another of a human Mama Hen and the poult, swimming at a beach. Did you know that we turkeys can also swim? Not my favorite but sometimes you need to cross a stream or pond in order to reach better foraging grounds. My wondering is startled by wailing heard from another room. This is a sound unlike any other … curious I walk around the farmhouse, seeking another window.
Looking into another window, I see a room dimly lit by a small “sun” hanging from an indoor “sky”. A forest of lifeless stuffed animals is piled in the corner. A bottle scratched with the word “Bubbles” is tipped on its side; a crystalline river seeps across the floor. The human Mama Hen is curled on a perch that is decorated with flowers, her knees to chest. My heart marvels at the golden brown color of her hair- it is the same color as my beloved Mama Hen’s soft brown feathers. The snow accumulates, covering a chaotic trail of human tracks leading from the gravel road and scattering across the yard, and beneath this window. It is growing dark. Mama Hen will be gathering us soon, to roost high in the trees. I ignore instinct as I step closer to the window. The human Mama Hen must sense my presence because then she looks up, tears glisten in her eyes as she stares … through the pane of glass, I stare back.
Very slowly, the human Mama Hen begins to stand. Her legs uncurl, they are strange legs with fuzzy feathers decorated in pink and black stripes. Her claws are also painted a shocking color of pink. She is cautious, not to startle me. I would not run, even if I could. I am transfixed by the sight of her. The human Mama Hen stands just a few feet from the window, her featherless “wings” clutch a square of crumpled “bark”. The “bark” is scratched with the image of two figures, both smiling. A heart is drawn over their oval heads, along with “I Love You Mama”.
Then I understand… A Mama Hen is the center of her young’s world. The moment the egg cracks open, imprinting begins. Mama Hen nurtures and guides her young safely into the world. During the first few weeks of life, the poults sleep on the ground, in the warm embrace of her protective wings. When strong enough, the poults leave the ground to join Mama Hen in tree branches, where she sleeps at night. The bond between Mama Hen and her young forged early in their development is critical to their survival, and remains with them for the rest of their lives.
The sounds made by the human Mama buzzed in my head then came into focus as my own imprinting responded. Though different species, turkey and human, the wailing cry is the same – it is a terrified sound made when the young strays too far from Mama. When the poult responds to her call, Mama Hen runs towards her little one. She gathers the poult close, nuzzling him softly with her beak.
This human Mama Hen was also calling for her lost ones. Her wings flap uselessly, with no poult to cuddle. Though they are lost to her, the human Mama Hen remains connected to the smell, the warmth, the yearning… for her young.
My senses opened in a way never experienced in the wild. The world of the humans is cruel. It destroys the bond between flock. It separates Mama Hen and poults, leaving the young without protection in the harsh world. And leaves a mother to grieve on Thanksgiving Day.
Though the life of a turkey is short, I am thankful to have experienced the deep love of my Mama Hen. Thankful for the belonging, and closeness of the flock. Thankful for the freedom of wild life.
Even the turkey whose life comes to an end on Thanksgiving are more fortunate to have died quickly, than to experience the prolonged suffering a human Mama experiences as the result of the loss of her children. Thanksgiving is a time when family and flock should be together. Instead, Mama is alone, crying in dark, empty rooms. It is unjust, and wrong.
We turkeys understand nature – some survive, some are taken by predators. But there is no predator in the wild that preys upon family, causing trauma, separation. No predator that steals the young from their Mama; who are not returned, even when she calls. Such a vicious predator that feasts on its own flock, and destroys its own family, exists only in the human world and its “pecking order” (the courts, government).
I turned away from the window, troubled in a way I have never felt before. My heart felt cold and heavy like a rock submerged at the bottom of a stream. I raised my break to the frigid November night, to form an urgent sound – an insistent, high pitched yelp. This is the sound we turkeys make to call a scattered flock back together. To call the lost ones back home. I puffed my feathers and I inhaled deeply, my voice rang pure and clear over the woods, down the gravel roads, and into the spreading blue-black horizon of night, urging this Mama’s young home.
In the distance my own Mama Hen responded. I headed into the snowy woodlands, away from the human world, and its injustice.
“Emily Court”, November © 2017