Posted by: ktzefr | December 11, 2014

Music, Memories, and Chickens at Christmas

I’m listening to Handel’s Messiah this afternoon and ordering chickens.  Must be Christmas!


Every year about this time I dust off and crank up the old stereo and set the records to spinning.  Highlights from Handel’s Messiah, by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.  This album is from 1982.  From the first measure of “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” to the last “Amen” I float through the house on a cloud of memories. 

Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” in my high school choir in Kentucky. 

Eating boiled custard and peanut butter rolls and chocolate fudge. 

Peppermint canes and logs and pillows. 

The sound of church bells and “Jingle Bells.” 

Chimneys puffing and the scent of coal smoke in the air. 

Fresh sausage in the morning, a chunk of side bacon in the shuck beans. 

“I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” on the radio. 

Sometimes dreams came true, 

like the year I got a pair of real Bass Weejuns for Christmas,

or the blonde walking doll with the big eyes that opened and closed

or the books I would read quickly and never forget —

such as the simply-told 365 Bedtime Stories,

a book full of characters whose lives I would still recall years later

and read, again, their tales to my young son. 

Memories are the best gifts.

I always listen on an afternoon in December when I’m alone and can turn up the volume to the hilt so even the dog walkers and kids getting off the school bus might swivel their necks and try to figure out where the glorious music is coming from.  I sit by the window with a cup of darjeeling and a bowl of Harry and David’s Milk Chocolate Moose Munch and imagine what they’re saying…

What are their dreams?  What will their memories be?  


And now to the chickens…

I grew up with chickens.  They are wonderfully gentle, soft, accommodating creatures.  They are frightened easily, but they are never frightening.  I’ve gathered eggs from beneath a hen still on the nest, watched new chicks peck their way out of the shells and into the world, and witnessed the final moments of a hen’s life when my mom or Granny would wring its neck in preparation for Sunday dinner. 

A chicken is a gift that keeps on giving by producing eggs and more chickens.  A flock is a nutritious gift for a malnourished child or family in a poor country.  Money for basic necessities — clothes and medicine and education — can be earned from selling eggs.  Heifer International calls these “Opportunity Flocks” — “give someone a real nest egg” they say.  So, that’s what I’m ordering this year.  Chickens.  For $20 I can buy a flock of chicks or ducks or geese.  Or a share of a llama, two shares in a goat.  Thirty dollars buys a beehive or a share in a school of fish or a water buffalo.  But it’s chicks for me this year.  The girl in the picture reminds me of my younger self with my sweet chicken Bess who was bright pink on the day I got her (they used to dye baby chicks at Easter but, thankfully, that doesn’t happen anymore).  Helping people help themselves — what better gift?

Chicks for Heifer International...

Chicks for Heifer International…

Heifer International has been around for 70 years helping provide people with an opportunity to support and feed themselves.  Check them out online at




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