My favorite auntie has always been Crazy Chicken Annie. I’m not the only one who calls her that, either, by the way. We just have this odd bond, and I love her for all her, um, uniqueness and quirks- these same quirks send others in my family running for the hills, but not me.
Some of my earliest memories are tied to Annie. She was always the hippie-chick, with flowey skirts, bead necklaces, leotards and yoga lessons, guinea pigs in a crate in the kitchen, the greenest thumb I have ever seen, and a penchant for pets. Even pets that most of us wouldn’t think of as pets. When I think of Annie, I think of the color green- verdant, lush, soft, earthy, warm, welcoming- the color of life and growing things. I still can’t open a bag of Super-Soil potting mix without being overwhelmed with memories of her. Think of a gypsy- you are thinking of my auntie Annie.
Annie and my cousin lived next door to us almost the entire time I was growing up, and there is something special about having your auntie so available. There was never a time where I was not welcome to just come in her home, no matter what, day or night. She always had an ear to listen to whatever was on my mind, and I loved the feeling at her house. Plants everywhere, animals everywhere, kids everywhere. Life everywhere. There were even plants in the bathtubs, along the edges of sinks, and on every windowsill, shelf or ledge. Mixed in with the plants were little bowls of guppies, like treasures to find. My own house was a happy home too, but Annie’s was just so different, I always gravitated there.
Any pet, anywhere, any time, that needed a home, ended up at Annie’s. She had every animal you can imagine, from the aforementioned guinea pigs (love the sound they make because of the memories they evoke) to reptiles, rodents, cats, dogs, and many, many birds. Every animal had a name, a personality, and a relationship with her. Birds were (are) actually her forte- and she didn’t believe in keeping them caged all the time. You would be sitting on her couch, hanging out, and a flock of quail (yes, with the little thingy on top, those kind) would go running across the living room into the kitchen from under the couch. A connure or a parrot or a pair of lovebirds would circle your head, and maybe land on your shoulder to nuzzle your ear. A chicken (yes really) might peck on the back door, wanting to be let in. And she would be obliged, with a greeting and a friendly pat, much like most of us would accommodate a dog. The chicken then might come and sit next to you on the couch, waiting to be scrathed, like a cat. It was the strangest thing for most people.
Things are a little different now. My cousin is a grown woman, with a career and a great life of her own (she is awesome too, but that’s for another time). The house where Annie was able to keep most of her pet-friends was sold, and she had to move to a smaller, less understanding place. Many of the animals had to be given to new homes, but she still has several birds, including her talking Amazon Parrot, and her dog, Harry. It just about killed her when she had to part with some of her animals, especially Hilda and Penelope, both of whom are chickens.
Landlord’s just don’t understand or accommodate chickens the same way they might a cat. So now, when I go visit Annie, the quail are gone, the chickens and piggies are gone, the house is smaller and quieter, but the spirit is still there. This is a woman, who while easily misunderstood by others, really played a large part in my formative years, and holds a precious place in my heart. I hope someday she can have chickens again. What lucky chickens!