Feed on

The other evening my husband and I enjoyed a very rare and much anticipated night out together.  We found a cozy and friendly café that has quickly become a favorite spot of ours, and nestled in for a delicious meal and uninterrupted conversation.  We finished eating, but neither of us was ready to dash out the door, so my husband suggested we order espresso.  I agreed.  Espresso sounded like a great idea.


As we continued our conversation over the strong flavor of rich coffee, taking slow sips between long and deliberate intervals, memories of my year living in France began to flood my mind.  It has been a long time since I stopped to enjoy a cup of espresso.  Equally, it has been quite some time since I rehashed old memories of France.  One experience in particular put a smile on my face, and even still evokes a good laugh.


It had been a busy day in the “bustling metropolis” of Vitrolles, France.  Truthfully, the bus ride home was more draining than the whole workweek combined, but I still was grateful to finally be off for a few days of Christmas holiday.  As I opened the door to Madame Buendia’s charming French townhome, I found a trail of feathers leading to the kitchen.  Curious, I followed the feather path.  Entering the kitchen, I startled Madame Buendia who was working on a stubborn pot in the sink.  When she recovered, a sly and mischievous grin crossed her face.  I asked her about the feathers.  She told me to open the fridge.  I did.  There, at the bottom of this tiny French refrigerator, lay three dead pheasants – “Christmas dinner!” announced Madame Buendia.  Her son’s father-in-law had a stellar hunting trip, and we were the honored recipients of part of his spoils.  Madame Buendia was getting the kitchen cleared and prepped so she could begin plucking the feathers from the pheasants.  I caught my second wind at the thought of plucking birds and hurried upstairs to change my clothes. 


When I returned, eager to start ripping away at the dead birds, I was sternly informed that I would not be permitted to participate in the pheasant plucking.  I asked why in as respectful and calm a tone as I could muster up.  Madame Buendia explained that this kind of work was not appropriate for “little American girls” (I was twenty-five years old and stood five feet, eight inches tall – not so little if you ask me).  After pausing for a few minutes and realizing she wasn’t going to budge on this one, I asked if I could at least get my picture taken with the dead, pre-plucked birds.  She acquiesced, and I got a nice “before” shot of Christmas dinner for my memory book.

 France Pheasant

I passed the remainder of the evening reading, and occasionally glancing over to the closed kitchen door.  Every now and then I’d hear grunting and cursing coming from, I’m quite certain, an exasperated and stubborn French woman.  If only she would have let me assist – we could have been grunting and cursing together!  How much more fun it would have been to pluck pheasants with company! 


The next morning, the remnants of the prior night’s activities were wafting in the air as I went to prepare myself a cup of espresso.  Feathers were everywhere: the floor, the countertops, chairs.  Every time I made a move, a rustle of feathers would swirl and whoosh like little tornadoes throughout the cramped kitchen.  Madame Buendia was still in bed- I’m sure recovering from her work out with the three dead birds the night before.  To this day I really wish I could have been a part of the Christmas-pheasant-feather-plucking action.   Yet, all I have is a picture of me holding two of them up by the legs. 


What’s the moral of the story?  As I sit here pounding away at the keyboard, Sydney is less than a foot away from me, earnestly sharpening a pile of pencils for school.  She is making a mess, but doing a great job and accomplishing a task that is well within her purview.  As I am slowly discovering – I tend to be a very slow learner – my kids are far more adept at simple and even not-so-simple tasks than I give them credit for.  They can make their beds, clean their dishes, do regular household chores and help me in the kitchen (my two-and-a-half year old included).  Do they do it perfectly?  Not always.  And I’m learning to lower my expectations and appreciate the effort they put into making their beds more so than the quality of the “military corners” and placement of throw pillows.  Those things really don’t matter anyway.


Another thing this teaches me is that the mess is not a bad thing.  Whether or not I helped Madame Buendia with the feather plucking, there was certain to be a mess.  Alone, she stayed up half the night working, long after I had drifted off to sleep.  And later, didn’t have the energy to clean up once the job was completed, as evidenced by the heaps of feathers lingering in the kitchen the next morning.  If I had been permitted to assist, the mess would have been made, but we could have finished a lot earlier and made sure the feathers were cleaned up too.  With my kids, I am doing them a great disservice if I never allow them to join me in making a mess.  Sometimes the only way to learn something is to mess it all up first.  Then, we also learn how to put it back together again.  I don’t want my kids to spend their lives staring at a “closed” kitchen door, longing to be in the thick of the chaos with me and learning something new.  I don’t want them to feel like I did the night of the feather plucking.  Witnessing a missed opportunity, but helpless to rectify it.


So here are a few “messes” I’ll be making with my kids this week:


  • Sydney and I will be cleaning out closets, throwing things away and re-organizing (she has a gift, and I want to nurture that in her and watch it grow!).


  • Brooklyn will be assisting me in the kitchen, putting together meals and snacks.


  • Jackson will be setting the table (something he loves to do!), and “folding” laundry.


If all of this came out of one demi tasse of café, there’s no telling what profound insights will emerge the next time I get a date night with my husband and another shot of espresso!

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5 Responses to “Espresso, Pheasant Feathers & A Lesson In Parenting”

  1. Good lesson, and you are a great writer, Amy! Looking forward to seeing what God does with you in this area.

  2. sister sheri says:

    Great analogy, Amy! Really makes me think… sometimes it is not the easy way that makes a boy into a man… but working through the hard things.

    Love the photos… wow! and such long locks!

  3. Charles says:

    Plucking feathers is just the beginning. The you have to gut, clean, stuff, cook…

    And feathers on pheasants are all but glued on (great quality glue too).

    Mrs Buendia meant well, but you would have learned it isn’t much fun, and she probably thought it would tarnish your memory of her hospitality. Vitrolles is close to Marseille, people there can definitely be stubborn.

    I hope you enjoyed your stay!

  4. Amy says:

    Charles, I DID have a wonderful year living in France. I was able to travel through a lot of Provence while living there too – I hope to take my family there one day (when the kids are a little older, of course :) .

  5. Angel says:

    Yikes! letting my kids make messes and help me are areas I continually strive to grow in. It is sooo much easier sometimes to just do it myself but we all miss out on so much when I have that attitude! Thanks for the reminder.

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