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30 June 2008

Name your pig and your chicken

Pig_and_chicken If you greatly desire something, have the guts to stake everything on obtaining it. -Brendan Francis

To the naked eye, this might look like picture of a little plastic pig and a little plastic chicken.

But it is not. In fact, you could not be more wrong. This isn’t a picture of a little plastic pig and a little plastic chicken, no. This, my friend, is a picture of what absolute, burning, overwhelming desire looks like.

It all started a few weeks ago.

One afternoon, I got to Tess’ pre-school to pick her up just after 3:30pm. The kids were all on the playground, hiding from parents who came to get them. Tess ran over to me, standing nearby as I talked with her teacher. She held a part of her dress in a tiny wad in front of her, the fabric wound around her fingers. “Did you hurt your finger?” I asked, bending down to get on her level. “Can I see it?”

Tess shook her head from side to side. “Is it hurt?” I asked again. I’m not big on blood and hoped the answer was “no.”

“No,” she said. “It’s not hurt.”

“She’s been holding it like that for a while,” the teacher explained. “But she doesn’t seem to have hurt it.”

We walked into the classroom to pick up her lunchbox, and then to the car. As I glanced down at Tess, I could see that her finger was still wound up inside of the piece of dress fabric right in front of her where her belly button was.

I opened the car door and Tess climbed in, still grasping the dress as she sat down in the car seat. To fasten the straps of the car seat, she needed to briefly let go and thread her arms through. She did so awkwardly. “Tess,” I said, “do you have something in your hand? Did you take something from your classroom?”

“NO!” she answered, shaking her head. “No.” She wouldn’t look at me.

“Okay, then, Tess. Are you sure?”

We drove away, making our way to Black Dome Outfitters so I could return a pair of hiking boots that, it turns out, were lovingly handcrafted by adorable beret-wearing natives in the rolling hills of Italy especially for people who hike 215 miles a day 365 days a year and who harbor an unnatural desire to ice climb by bolting big strips of metal into the front of the boots to dig into the face of ice walls. While I do like to ice climb with the best of them, I fear I only needed a pair of boots that would be useful for hiking 100 miles a day. Or a nice cot for a nap. Ahem.

When we arrived, it was clear that something was inside that wad of fabric in her dress, and not a hurt finger. “Tess,” I said, “whatever you have in your hand, you need to leave it in the car seat. You can’t take it in with you.”

She looked nervous, the kind of look that reflects a vast internal process of deliberation, all occurring at the speed of light. She leaned forward and rose from the seat, simultaneously turning away from me and scooping open the dress wad. A small white object tumbled out into the car seat.

“Tess!” I said. “Is that from your classroom?”

She sat down on top of the white object. “Tessie,” I continued, my voice softening to help her save face, “we can’t take things from our classroom. What if everyone took things from there? There wouldn’t be anything left for you to play with, would there? That wouldn’t be any fun, would it?”

She reached with her right arm underneath her bottom and extracted the cutest little plastic lego chicken I had ever seen. I wanted it immediately. “Tessie, we’re going to have to take that back to school tomorrow and talk to Ms Jess about why you took it.”

She looked at me, wide-eyed, frozen.

Then, in a moment I will never forget, without a word, she lifted up the front of her dress with one arm, pulled out the waistband of her panties, and reached deep inside with the other. After a moment, she slowly pulled her hand back out, and wordlessly handed me the pig.

I had to work hard not to laugh. Really hard. Bite your lip on the inside and look down hard.

“Tessie!” I exclaimed after a moment of gathering myself. “They are so cute!”

Pig_and_chicken2 “They fit together, Mama!” she said excitedly, showing me with her chunky, dimpled fingers how chicken fit on pig’s back.

“They are adorable,” I said. “Now, let’s leave them in the car and go into the store to return these boots, and then we’ll talk about Pig and Chicken when we come back, okay?”

We talked that evening. We made photographs of Pig and Chicken so Tess could hang them in her room. She wrote an apology to her teacher ("I am so sorry I took Pig and Chicken. I really LOVE them but I shouldn't have taken them), and took it in the next day, with Pig and Chicken in the envelope.  She stuffed the letter in her cubby, it turns out, and gave it to her beloved Ms Jess at the end of the day, unable to bear it earlier. Perhaps it was comforting to know for those few hours that Pig and Chicken were still hers, safe in her cubby in an envelope. Perhaps she thought she could still make a break for it with them in her panties.

37days Do it Now Challenge

Pig_and_chicken5 What’s the pig in your panties?

(You know what? I could have lived an entire lifetime without ever having had the excuse to write that question. I feel oddly satisfied now that I’ve had the opportunity…)

What Pig is worth the risk? What Pig is not worth the risk? Distinguishing between the two is important.

While I couldn’t condone stealing, I could celebrate the depth of desire that had led Tess there. I could help Tess acknowledge her own desire. I could respect that in her small four-year-old way, she had the guts to stake everything on obtaining it. I could help her save face and lead her back to truth. I could, of course, also to this day continue to search for a similar Chicken and Pig at yard sales because they are painfully adorable and would make her clap her hands together in absolute glee.

I can’t help but wonder how life would be different if we felt that kind of desire about relationships or peace or social justice, not things. That we just HAD to have them. That we would let nothing stand in our way. That we would stuff them in our panties, if need be. So to speak.

What’s your Pig? Your Chicken? What will you risk for them?


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The Truth.
Id risk everything for the Truth to be spoken out loud.

sooOOO cuTE!!!;)

Is this her Pig? Is this her Chicken?

Excellent post Patti...But, sometimes we should not feel shameless in desiring certain things in life... I sometimes feel a litle shame even if i am talking or arguing tooooo much for a cause...

Do u have tips on how to overcome this?


Patti, I love this story - because through it I relived a story of me at her Tess' age. And if I were near I would hug you for the way you understood Tess and handled it. My love and hunger for beautiful papers began sometime about 4 years old. I know that because one day at the Harris Food Store on Central Avenue in Charlotte,NC I put three chunky bars of Lux soap in my shorts. Then Lux soap was wrapped in enticing sparkling papers. I told Granny I wanted to sit in the car and she, distracted by checking out, waved me on. Once in the car she immediately noticed that my skinny belly was now oddly mis-shaped and discovered the soap. She was horrified and embarrassed that I had taken them. She and I were tight. I was sometimes led to believe I was perfect and here - a black mark. The long and the short is that Granny told me and I did, slink back in to the store and give them into the hands of Mr. Harris, himself. I was shamed and really scared - but repentant and cleansed. I don't steal, true -and I think I am a collage artist because of that early love of pretty papers - but I wish Granny had understood. This will be a wonderful story for Tess. Love, Ellouise

I love it when you give me answers to situations that might come up soon in my 5-year-old's life.

After laughing aloud reading, "What's the pig in your panties?" I could only hope that it's one of many sayings that will be carved into your headstone. (Maybe that bike ride through the cemetery the other day influenced me more than I thought. Jeffrey thought it was creepy when I told him about it, but, oh no, it was wonderful!) Although I'm a big believer in souls which means cemeteries hold no meaning for me other than a place to store bones, there's such beauty in headstones. Even if you choose not to be buried in a cemetery, maybe you could have a headstone on a plot just so future generations could read about this woman who said things like: "Follow your desire lines." and "What's the pig in your panties?"

Please don't think I exaggerate when I say my life shall now never be the same...since I shall henceforth be pondering the pig in my panties. I hope Tess won't feel burdened by the fact that she has become my guru.

Tess is so sweet! :) I'm so glad for the way you handled this situation. She can look back on the experience with fond memories instead of remembering being castigated for a minor infraction.

"What’s the pig in your panties?"

Now THAT'S a question I never expected to hear (in this lifetime, at least).

I laughed right out loud! You are brilliant.

Mr. Brilliant could take lessons from you!

Thanks, Patti, for the giggle.

Great post. It reminded me of teaching kindergarten in the days before I lost my affection for the things of this world.

Bless her little heart and bless your huge one, Patti, for being such a thoughtful, observant, feeling mama.

And also for being the type of woman who would write..."What’s the pig in your panties?" and feel oddly satisfied. You are the best!

Patti -

I used to teach preschool, and I was always *so* embarrassed for the child when the parents would angrily bring them in and shame them for taking something home. I found some children *need* little transitional objects.. and some just really grow to love something there. I always tried to find a way to let them keep what they wanted. Toys (most toys) are replaceable. (And for the record, none of the children I did that for grew up to think stealing was fine, or that they could have absolutely everything under the sun...)

It kinda, sorta looks like this: Except it looks like that poor chicken is stuck to a green base! An older set, maybe? Or from another brand, maybe German...


It's been a great effort keeping pigs OUT OF my panties. Now I am wishing I had one...

Maybe I have a chicken. I'll check the washing machine.


Loved the post.

Just when I had stopped laughing hysterically I got to Dharmamama's comment and totally lost it again - this time I think I peed. I can not continue to read your blog until I do my daily Kegel exercises.

The pig in my panties? Would you believe it's a 1963 Corvette? (I got some big panties...)

I may need to order another bracelet!
While they can't be played with and stacked and unstacked and marched about in the bathtub, those pictures were a brilliant idea. Ah - to covet. We used to trade toys and I remember coming home soooo very pleased by some sturdy cardboard paper dolls with "real" hair with punch holes in their midriffs into which you laced their clothes. No more annoying fold-over tabs with flimsy paper garments that blew off when playing with them ouside. The sad part was - once they were mine and not something I was allowed to enjoy while at my friend's house - I was ready to trade them again.
But if I were you, I wouldn't be able to stop looking for a pig-chick replacement. I searched endlessly for a Super Grover doll (for my son) to replace the one he took everywhere until he lost it on some shelf in Target one day when he was 2. I finally called off the dogs when he went away to college. Being of a less superficial nature than myself, though, I'll bet he'd still like that Super Grover.

one of these days I hope I get to be as cool a mom as you are.

What a wonderful story. I laughed out loud and could imagine my own children having done just the same.

My inner self is a 12 year old boy who knows that sausage is made from pigs and is busy chuckling about hiding the sausage in my panties!

I'll recover my sensibilities shortly. Maybe.

I love this. And I think my daughters' happiness is the pig in my panties. If you see me acting funny, it's probably because I'm working on smuggling that into the world.

the pig in my panties is possibility.
I am addicted to it!--that's why I teach Patti. Thanks for sharing the mighty Tess with us.

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