Thursday, February 05, 2009

The unexpected

When I was in my twenties, in New York City, imagining being a wife and mother (because I probably dreamed more of making a family than of "making it" as an actor) I just never could have imagined this life, that is oh so perfect, but entirely unexpected.

This morning, Gillen was frying up some eggs and singing a made up song really loudly - some manly, guttoral, warrior belting. I was in another room looking for Nicolas' missing phone and was relieved, I admit, when the singing suddenly stopped. I went into the kitchen to help with the eggs and make some toast but the frying eggs were all alone. The outside door to the back deck shut. Gillen came back into the kitchen, his big dimples highlighted by shiny cold red cheeks. He washed his hands and went back to his spot at the stove.

"I just shot a squirrel," he said, pride stretching his grin.

"Just now? What? You shot a squirrel? How? ....Why?" His citified mama was very confused.

"I saw it getting into the bird feeder so I went and got my BB gun, and I shot it. First shot!"

"You were making eggs for papa and you left them to go shoot a squirrel?"

"Yes. I can't believe I got him. Do you want to see?"

I didn't. But I followed him outside and looked anyway. One shot in the heart. I was relieved to see he never suffered. Gillen's first kill. Wow. I can't say I ever imagined having to deal with guns in my home and a passion for hunting. Nicolas and I asked if he had thanked the squirrel, as previously instructed in many discussions about hunting. He had. He bagged it up and put it in the fridge and before I knew what was happening, the husband of my local homeschooling friend was here on our porch eager to teach Gillen how to mount it.

Jesse and I hid inside playing Quiddler. Jesse was shocked by the killing but had decided to wear his camouflage shirt out of respect for Gillen's moment - also unexpected, and very cool.

So right now, on top of my new art cabinet, a squirrel skin is laid out flat, curing in a plate of salt. There are four tiny squirrel legs soaking in salted water in the fridge, waiting to be marinated in something good while we go to gymnastics, and then eaten tonight (we have asked that Gillen eat anything he kills). The squirrel couldn't be mounted since its tail had been injured and it wasn't going to sit correctly. No mounted animals in my home. Yet.

I was also surprised this week by another example of how little I know about my children. I love how impossible they make it to pigeonhole them.

As a result of "that horrible Lassie movie" (I ignorantly brought home the one when Lassie is poisoned by an evil man and spends much of the movie dying), "The Yearling" (o.k., my bad) and "Around the World" (which had some frightening footage from race riots in the sixties) I have had a reputation with my eldest son for picking the worst movies ever. I keep trying to pick movies from netflix that everyone will like but most of the time Gillen won't even give them a try - until this week, when the netflix queue did not reflect conscious family choices that I hoped would appeal to everyone, at all. We watched "Mansfield Park" the other night, an historical drama that is based on Jane Austen's most autobiographical book. Not only did Gillen sit through the whole thing, he really liked it. Then, last night, we watched another historical drama about a farmer in MN meeting his mail-order bride. It was a slow, tender, visually beautiful film but definitely not one I'd have chosen for my sons. Gillen liked it.

You just never know.


mamak said...

Very cool. I bet your boy was beaming. I had good aim as a kid, and adored animals. What a mixed up hunter was I. Before long Deer, and Turkey!-K

Bhu said...

wow. i felt reading this that gillen is really transitioning into manhood. i really enjoyed this post. and i appreciate that he's learning to hunt with consciousness, that he thanked the squirrel and is curing (is that the right word?) hide. and jesse honoring g with the camo shirt. btw, i love that movie about the mail order bride. i forgot what it's called but it's a gem.

gail said...

Wow. I don't know how I would have handled this. Certainly with not as much grace as you did. I really think you're awesome! :-)

Madeline said...

The movie was called "Sweet Land" ( I was too lazy to go look it up when I wrote the post). So good!

He is definitely walking tall tonight. We all shared the squirrel, with soup and salad, for dinner and it was actually pretty good (I had to turn off any deep thoughts).

Danielle said...

Yaaaay, Gillen! My god I love that boy! But you know that. ;)

Hoooray for you guys. How cool you cooked it up! I think it really helps the kids connect the hunting and killing with the idea of food and honor. How empowering to be able to feed your family!

You guys are so cool.

kelli said...

OK, trivia for you :)

Sweet Land was written by a man from Bemidji MN. Attended the church that we used to go to, it was this huge thing around Bemidj when they made his book into a movie. *g*

Naomi said...

Oh wow! I totally respect Gillen's passion for hunting and being thankful for the loss of life. But I cant help feeling sad for the little squirrel. In my head I'm going to believe that the squirrel was a murderer, junkie squirrel that stole from old lady squirrels in order to feel better about it! You are a wonderful, patient mother Maddie! Love N XXX

Madeline said...

Gillen appreciated the appreciation (I passed along some of your thoughts).

Gail, thank you! You're the one! I had to act my way into real grace about it all. Faked it til I made it. The acting years are doing some good. He's been getting me ready for years.

Naomi! I thought about you yesterday, you who have made me so appreciate our squirrels and am glad to be able to report that yes, it was indeed the demon squirrel of Mansfield.

Deanne said...

Wow! Congrats to Gillen for being such a great shot, and to YOU for handling it all so beautifully! Wow!

Kaat at MamaStories said...

What a good story, and so well written too! This could be a great short story!

persephone said...

I was happy to hear in the comments that you all tried the squirrel (must say I'm kind of glad Gillen made his first kill now, with myself being so very far away)

Yay for Gillen! You capture him beautifully.

FLO said...

Beautifully written, Madeline. I love how you all handled Gillen's accomplishment- very sweet.

Sarah said...

"I love how impossible they make it to pigeonhole them."

I love reading blogs by parents who recognize this and celebrate it.

What a great day for your son - and I love the realization about Gillen and movies - very cool.

Schuyler said...

Madeline, what a beautiful post. The other day Beth Fuller wrote a note about no one ever really understanding you. I think there is so much wonder in a child who came from your body being bigger and more infinite (is it possible to not only be infinite but to be more infinite?) than you will ever fathom. How cool!

Rachel said...

Oh, Madeline, yet another beautifully written post about your amazing children and your own journey with them. I want to point out something, only because I know you would want to know, and also to show you what a careful reader I am of your blog, hee hee. The movie with the race riot scene is "Across the Universe," which I still have not seen, but remember vividly your post about. :)