Our chickens were all producing eggs so we didn’t want to slaughter one of them. I decided to buy a live chicken. Buying one already slaughtered, defeathered and prepared to cook was unheard of in this rural, third-world country.
That morning, soon after I arrived at work at the Health Centre, I asked Sister Roberts if live chickens were always available at the market. I didn’t even bother asking about a turkey–I’d never seen one in The Gambia. Sister was familiar with our Thanksgiving. “You’ll want a big bird, Mariama, so you should buy a rooster. But you must leave now or they’ll all be gone. People buy birds early in the morning.”
“Leave now? But I have this work to do.”
“That work can wait. You need to get your Thanksgiving bird.”
So I left the Health Center and walked to the market. Sure enough, the few birds for sale were going fast. I found a large rooster and bought him, probably paying more than I should have. I’d forgotten to ask Sister Roberts what it would cost. It was big and I had my hands full of flapping wings before I could settle him into the crook of my arm.
Planning to put him in our chicken coop, I stopped by the hospital to tell Sister I’d purchased my bird and I’d be back as soon as I took him home and walked back again.
“Why walk all the way home and back again? Here, give him to me.”
She opened a supply closet door, put the rooster on the floor and closed the door. My mind whirled with the idea of a live chicken in a hospital closet.
Once in awhile that day we’d hear a muffled cock-a-doodle-doo coming from the closet. No one else seemed to think it was strange at all.
At the end of the day I picked up my bird and carried him home. I stroked his smooth head feathers. Already I’d grown attached to him, but I steeled myself for his pending demise. I wasn’t looking forward to that part of our Thanksgiving preparations.
I had a renewed appreciation for America’s pilgrims and how they had an even more difficult struggle for food. We added a new level of appreciation and thanksgiving..