Afikoman

Before I returned to my home town for Pesach, I was shopping at Paris Farmer’s Union in New Hampshire.  PFU is part hardware store, part garden and agricultural supply store.  They have several branches throughout New England and every one I’ve been to has terrific customer service.

There’s something mystical and weirdly wonderful about a store where you can’t identify 60% of the items you are looking at.  If you don’t know anything about farming, then most of the implements are like tsotchkes from an alien planet.  It is completely humbling because you, a city person with your fancy college degree and world travel experience, suddenly realize that maybe there’s a whole part of life and people you know nothing about and you have a very steep learning curve ahead of you if you want to make your way from one end of the store to the other without feeling like a total ignoramus, which, in fact, you are.

The day I was at Paris Farmer’s Union, the sales folks were setting up their chick-warming station.  They had just received a sample order of day-old chicks and were putting them under a large wooden crate set up with warming lights,  which is used as a nursery for hatchlings.  The chick orders were expected the following week, the clerk explained.

Chick orders?

Apparently farmers from miles around order their chicks from a mail-order supplier via the store at the end of winter.  Come Spring, day-old chicks arrive for pick-up.  These chicks represent the coming year’s layers and fryers – their egg and poultry supply. They also get in ducklings and goslings.  People pay a 50% deposit at the time of their order, and then they pay the balance upon pick-up.  The store was expecting 2,500 chicks!

That’s when it hit me:  What a great Afikoman present!  Chicks!  My grandkids had been begging their beleaguered mother  for a pet.  But my daughter has six little “animals” of her own of the human variety to take care of, and hardly wanted to get stuck with the responsibility of any additional “creatures.”  So I thought before putting in an order for chicks, I’d better ask her for permission, just to be sure.

The good news is that the grandkids no longer wanted a dog.  My daughter has our dog Spencer to thank for that.  When I broke my foot, I could no longer walk him, so they dutifully came over every day for a week and took turns walking him on my behalf.  The first day, it was a fight to see which kid would walk him first.  After a couple of days, several kids dropped out of the program.  By the last day, none of them wanted to walk him.  “I’m really surprised,” one grandchild told me.  “I used to want a dog so badly, but now that I see how much work it is, I can’t stand it.”  (This gave me a great idea for a business!  Any mother whose children are nagging her to get a dog, will pay me for a week’s worth of aversive conditioning.  By the end of a week of full responsibility in caring for my dog, the kids will never ever broach the topic of pet ownership again.)

(The same principle worked for a 2nd grade class guinea pig.  A different grandson was so excited when it was his turn to bring it home and take care of it over the weekend   But the guinea pig did not enjoy being held, it bit whomever held it, and it just pooped a lot.  So that was the end of wanting a guinea pig. My daughter remains ever grateful to the teacher who is the actual owner of the Class Pet.)

But back to the fluffy, adorable, peeping chicks.  I thought it would be the ideal pet.  For one thing, there was the educational and practical aspect.  Not only could they study up on raising chickens, they could then have fun building a coop. After the chicks grew and their cuteness factor diminished they could supply the family with eggs, and when the chickens got too old to produce, the grandkids could learn all the laws of shechita (ritual slaughter) and learn how to make chicken soup.  It wouldn’t have to be a very long commitment, and the chickens could be kept outside.  The chickens could be set down on the grass and rid the lawn of all sorts of insects.  It seemed like a win-win to me.  So I called my daughter from the store.

“Hi,” I said, “I’m calling you from a store in New Hampshire.  Listen, I have a really great idea for an Afikoman present!  How about chicks?”

The silence was deafening.  This was not the enthusiastic response I expected for my very original idea.

“Are you kidding me?”  my daughter finally sputtered.

Actually, she knows me, and she knows I wasn’t kidding.

Despite my sales pitch emphasizing concepts like “educational,” and  “practical,” she was unmoved.  Alas, there would be no chicks for Afikoman this year or any other year.

Go figure.  The kids were happy with the boring, run-of-the-mill Afikoman gift they ended up with, and were none the wiser.

We’ll never know for sure, but I’ll bet that if they had gotten those chicks, I would have been the most popular savta (grandmother) in my entire home town!  Fortunately they love me anyway.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tiger Mike on April 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    About 20 years ago, I was flying a cargo 747 to South America. Among the cargo were crates and crates of chicks. half way through the long flight I left the cockpit to walk around downstairs in the cargo compartment. There were thousands of peeping little yellow fuzzy chicks running around the cargo compartment.

    I began to scoop them up and randomly shove them in the crates. I don’t know how they got out as the crates seemed to be sealed well. But after I put them back (I think I got all of them), I noticed that each crate was marked either male or female.

    I have no idea if I put them into the correct crates. I can’t even imagine how you can tell a male baby chick from a female baby chick.

    Today I still wonder if a few months later a South American farmer wondered why his hens didn’t lay eggs.

    Reply

    • TM,
      I guess you’re lucky they weren’t snapping turtles! (When I once went to an airport’s cargo desk, they were awaiting a customer’s pickup of 400 live, snapping turtles. Apparently Chinese use them for food and medicinal purposes.)

      Reply

  2. Posted by miriam f on April 28, 2011 at 4:00 am

    I would not have wanted chickies around my house, either !!! no matter how “cute” they are. : ) m.

    Reply

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