Tasty Truth

My daughter is an intelligent, funny, beautiful young lady already in her late teens – I still wrestle with that fact. Not long ago I watched as she drove up in her car, walked in high heels, and made a phone call about her job. I was reminded that sadly I was no longer looking at my little girl. I’d been reminded of that before and she knew what I was thinking when she saw my face. Where did that tiny kid go I used to carry in my arms?

“Will you always think of me as a five year old?” she asked as she rolled her eyes.

“Yes Baby Doll.” I answered, calling her the name I’ve called her since the days I carried her in my arms.

Even as that five year old kid she was outgoing, curious, and questioning. Like every child with every parent, she often asked questions that forced me, I felt, to come up with the tiniest of white lies in order to shield her from the harsher realities of life for as long as I thought I could. How dare anything ruin her happy, innocent world? I couldn’t stand the thought of her sweet little head being contaminated by life’s occasional negatives.

For instance, the time she softly asked why the cute raccoon was lying on the side of the road, I naturally told her he was just taking a nap. I rolled up the window before she could ask about the odor. And who could fault me for telling her that our goldfish was simply learning to float on his back the day she saw him belly up in the tank? I turned on her music box so she wouldn’t hear the toilet flush him away. Once day we watched a program on television about Africa and before I could grab the remote she saw a crocodile drag a gazelle into the river. “Everybody likes to wrestle their friends in the water, Baby Doll.” I said as I hurriedly switched to cartoons.

I couldn’t stand her innocent little mind being tainted by such things and I found myself constantly on guard for additional realities I might need to protectively water down. I was off my game the day the chicken truck pulled up beside us at a red light.

Just a few miles past where we lived at the time were chicken “factories”. Periodically, trucks with loads of live chickens traveled down a major road near our house. Several times in the past I had done illegal U-turns just to avoid them if I had my daughter in the car. I couldn’t imagine what I would say if she ever asked me about those trucks with stacks and stacks of pitiful live chickens, obviously miserable, being hauled off to their deaths. I was always mindful when I used that road. Except that day.

Only she and I were in the car at the time and I hadn’t even noticed it was a chicken truck as it pulled up and stopped beside me at the red light. I noticed the truck cab beside me, but trucks of all sorts used that road and nothing in particular was triggered until I reached over to change the radio station. That’s when I saw, through the windshield, a huge white feather float slowly down and land on the hood of my car. I sat bolt upright.

“Chickens.” I said to myself.

As I leaned over to look, almost afraid to confirm what sort of truck it was, I noticed my daughter in the back seat looking intently through her window. Just feet away from her dear, chubby little face were hundreds of terrified white chickens crammed into tiny metal cages. Feathers floated everywhere. My daughter stared at the birds. I can still see her red cheeks and wide eyes as she scanned the many cages full of chickens.

I whirled around to face the front, said nothing, and prayed for a green light. It remained agonizingly red. I thought maybe she wouldn’t ask me anything. I thought wrong.

“Daddy?” she asked, in that sweet little girl voice.

This was it, I realized. Please let me think of a good one.

“Yes?” I answered, willing the light to turn green. It would not.

“Is that what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them?” she asked. Through the rear view mirror I saw her lean forward to get a better look at the birds.

I couldn’t think of anything to say. In fact, I had no idea she even knew chicken nuggets came from chickens. She apparently hadn’t paid attention the day I told her they were made by nugget elves.

Well, she was five after all. I guessed it was time she start processing some of those harsh realities of life. I could think of nothing to say to avoid this one. She was staring face to beak at a truckload of misery and there was no way I could save her. I nearly teared up as I resigned myself to the ruination of her innocence.

“Yes, Baby Doll.” I finally answered, in the saddest of tones. “That’s what chicken nuggets look like before we eat them.” I held on to the steering wheel, stared at the stubborn red light, and waited for her to scream, cry, and wail from the pain of that awful truth.

“Mmmm!” she said with a huge grin. “I love chicken meat!”

The light turned green.

She asked to go to McDonald’s.

Stuart M. Perkins

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57 Comments

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57 responses to “Tasty Truth

  1. That’s truly funny and I can see how it’s the pure truth!

  2. Yes! It grabs me too. They make me feel innocent.

  3. Oh Lord this so classic!!! Just love it!

  4. They really do often operate on a very different level to the one we think they are on. Great post and as a mother of four, I get this.

  5. Stuart,
    I love your stories! I follow many blogs, but often don’t have time to look or read them. Yours I keep until I have a free moment to sit quietly to read. You have a remarkable knack for capturing a moment and activating my imagination. And, I’m in awe of how you can do this so often. Thank you!!!
    Carla

  6. rubble2bubble

    R E A L L Y loved this one. I wish my teenagers would shield me from the realities they’re coming to learn about. harsh! Really enjoyed this one.

  7. We should all boycott any type of chicken as a food source because of the way chickens are treated by the “factories” which you mentioned. That part of your story makes me sad. VERY well done, though.

  8. mikemajor9

    “Nugget elves” — that sir, is pure genius – wish I’d thought of it. I had a similar incident with my little angel involving burgers and cows – yup, she was equally as resilient. Loved the story – and I feel your pain – though I really enjoy the experience of my baby girl growing up, I also wish she could stay young.

  9. pi314chron

    “Classic Stu” from first to last! This one I forwarded to my wife who doesn’t do the blogosphere thingie. After she reads it, I think she’ll have a better idea why I spend so much time here! Smooooooth as glass, Stu.

    Ron

  10. That is so funny, in part, because you sound so very much like my husband with our daughter. And she never gets as upset by truths as we think she will. Luckily, children have beautiful innocence on their side to protect them from those harsh realities.

  11. My kids grew up in Alaska with a mom and dad who hunted. We raised rabbits to eat. Nontheless, our kids, both Tim and Meg, were tender hearted about animals. The first time his dad took Tim deer hunting, the boy was sad when they shot it. “It’s so beautiful” he breathed. Yes indeed his father agreed, it is a beautiful animal. They started to drag the deer down the hill to the boat. The snow was deep, the hill was steep, both Tim and his dad worked hard with that 150 pound buck. After several drag-and-take-a-break sessions, where they sat on the carcass while catching their breath, Tim turned to his dad. “This isn’t a deer dad,” Puzzled, Tom asked what he meant. “This is venison” said his suddenly very unsentimental son…

  12. Got a daughter. Five. Respond like you at times. Good story. The twist at the end was great.

  13. Love the story.
    It is so true: dads are always trying to protect their little girls.
    I wonder if parents do this with boys? I’d have thought they’d try to harden them up to the harsh realities of how their food is produced, mincing machine and all.

    My daughters are 8 and 14… so I’m very familiar with these situations of old. However, the girls are getting their revenge now by reminding me of what I used to tell them!
    “Daddy do you remember you used to tell us that…”
    I gave up covering things up years ago; the truth is always best.

    • I treated my son the same way I did my daughter. This particular post was about my daughter, but my hilarious son is a year and a half younger, so many times before I could “block” the awful truth, my daughter had already filled him in!

  14. Brenda Taylor

    As the mom of a son and two daughters, I can attest to the fact that we try to protect them from as much as possible for as LONG as possible; however, there comes a time when we painfully come to understand that we cannot protect them from everything. BEAUTIFUL story, Stuart. Now you can look forward to the day you will try to protect your grandchildren in the same loving way!!!!!

  15. You are a wonderful parent. If I weren’t so old, I’d ask you to adopt me. 😉

  16. tellthetruth1

    (Heart-in-mouth)…Phew!

  17. That was a wonderful story! I have learnt to try and tell the truth as much as possible to my kids as they will always ask awkward questions otherwise and get to the truth in the end. It turns out that they are remarkably resilient to most truths about life. I love dealing with their curiosity and funny, sweet comments. 🙂

  18. I so enjoyed this. It reminded me of the many conversations I had with my daughter when she was that age.

  19. Oh, my. So many memories of raising my five children who never missed a chance to ask the hard questions. Chicken nuggets forever!

  20. I grew up on a farm. In addition to grain we raised cattle, hogs and sheep for our food, to sell and become other people’s food, and for breeding. Occasionally we killed and butchered the big 4-legged animals ourselves. Always we did our own chickens. Plus we had dogs and cats. Everything was free-range. We didn’t even consider any other way. Organic labels were entirely unknown. It just made economic and ethical sense. (1950s-85.)

    Everything died, my siblings and I learned that at a very young age. It was simply part of life, part of our means of survival. It was hard sometimes, but it was a fact. Our parents consoled us when a favorite animal was sold or died. We learned so much about responsible animal care. Illness or weather was not an excuse to not care for them. Same was true for pets. We did what was best and humane for them, keeping in mind that they were our livelihood.

    We euthanized animals that were badly injured or too I’ll, including dogs and cats. I’m a better pet owner today due to those experiences.

    In the meantime, I can understand how the cycle of life could be very confusing for children who lack any working farm experience. It makes sense to me that parents are concerned about how their children will respond to such information.

    Last of all, great story, Stuart.

  21. Totally delightful!!! Thank you for sharing….

  22. Even now I can’t tolerate the harsh realities of life. Understand why you wanted to shield your daughter. lovely post

  23. Well, I was not as sensitive to my son. So as he ate an hamburger I asked him if he knew where it came from…he was not sure. I told him they kill cows,, cut in little pieces and grind it…he was disgusted and did not want to meat anymore. Eventually he got over it.
    i am not, I do not eat beef and almost gave up on chickens even when is organic. I liked the story on train and you do have an appealing way…write a book and make people smile.

  24. Janet

    LOL, I will never forget the day you told your co-workers about this incident!

  25. Such a pleasure to read, from start to finish. I love the juxtaposition of the sweetness of innocence and the imminence of sobering realities that “growing up” always brings. This was a delight: poignant, charming, heartfelt.

  26. It’s funny how you happen upon a blog.
    I’ve read a couple of posts this morning and really enjoyed the read.
    Thanks for popping by mine for a read too.

  27. What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

  28. jlthomp2013

    I wonder how many times that sweet, completely innocent little princess, inwardly rolled on the floor laughing at some of your excuses for the world’s cruelty. They’re at times a lot more savvy than we’d like.

  29. Stuart, this is the first story of yours I’ve read. I love it because, for me, it reinforces the innate understanding and acceptance of reality that many children have. It also serves as a metaphor for things we can’t protect our children from, and it reminds me of the time, many years ago, my older brother told me that the chop I was eating came from a lamb. He sat at the table singing, baa, baa, baa. It was a long time before I could bring myself to eat another chop. 🙂
    Thanks for the follow. I think I’m going to enjoy your blog.
    Tricia

  30. As always, I love reading your stories. Such simple delights. I’m amazed at how often you write such entertaining pieces. And I love your daughter, her reaction was just epic. Wonder what white lies I’ll have to tell my kids. Well, until then I suppose.
    Great story Stuart

  31. Oh my, this is beautiful. I am a vegetarian and all for animal welfare and stuff so I shuttered a little. Lol. But your love for your sweet little girl and your longing to shield her innocence against the pain of reality is beyond beautiful. Stunning. It reminds me of that song “If I Could.” Which is sung by different singers.

  32. Greer M. Perkins

    My handsome brother just got off the phone with our oh so… interesting father. My dearest brother told me to read this lovely blog of yours for it reminded him of me. I must say, there is indeed a resemblance between your daughter and me. Almost like… I am her… but that’s not the point! The point is I thought this was a lovely, funny, and very real story for I do love chicken meat! And apparently always have. And I probably always will. But really though you’re so talented Daddy! And every story you write brings tears to my eyes. Some stories are ones you’ve told, others are new to me, but they all make me smile like it’s the first time I’ve heard them. And Daddy… I’ll always be your Baby Doll 🙂

  33. Hi Baby Doll! I see you and Evan both are practicing your own story shucking tonight! I do have some serious competition! Keep it up! Love you!

  34. Lovely story. Thanks for sharing!

  35. I have a question, Stu. How did you get rid of the WP header bar? Are you using a premium theme with that option?

    When my own daughters were little, my compulsion to shield them went a different direction; they hated my running commentaries during TV time, but they listened. They also listened when I warned them about boys; better to find out the ugly truth from me, than to regret wrong choices all their lives. Fortunately, my lack of male progeny diverted the necessity for those tense discussions with sons.

    • Hi, sorry I’m not even sure about the header bar? I know I’m not using anything premium, just one of the generic templates they offered. Sorry I can’t be of any help – not good with the technical stuff myself… Thanks for reading and commenting!

  36. So touching. You capture life’s storytelling moments.

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