While Nate sat on the floor watching the fourteen baby chicks getting acquainted with each other and their new home, he heard pounding on the back door.
When he opened the door, The Uncle came inside. His voice filled the small sunroom. “What is wrong with you, boy?”
He heard the frantic peeping and wing-flapping of the baby chicks who had been frightened by the sudden noise. Then he spotted the brooder box in the middle of the sunroom, and Nate instinctively pulled it to himself to protect the little lives inside.
“It looks like you left the reception for your grandmother’s funeral to go off and buy some baby chicks. You are sixteen years old now. What sixteen-year-old person in their right mind does something like that?” he asked, not expecting an answer.
“Now you listen. Your Aunt Grace is on her way in here, and you’d better make this right. She was worried sick when we couldn’t find you. We thought you had gotten yourself depressed. She thought you might have run away—or worse. But instead of hurting yourself, you chose to hurt everyone who loved your grandmother. I’m only going to say this one more time. You had better make this right.”
Just then, his Aunt Grace came in with some early daffodils from The Grandmother’s favorite spot in the garden. They always bloomed with her favorite lavender crocuses.
“I hope you don’t mind that I picked these,” she said. “I thought you might like something to bring some cheer into the house.” Then she noticed the peeping of the baby chicks. “Well, I see you’ve brought some cheer into the house already. Good for you. Do you mind if I sit and watch them with you?”
She pulled a chair over to the brooder box and leaned over. “They are adorable,” she said, clapping her hands together with delight. That’s the brooder box your grandfather kept in the garage isn’t it?”
He nodded. “Grandmother said I could get some this spring to raise for myself and my friends.”
“After your grandparents were married and bought this house, they raised chickens for a while before putting in the garden. Have you named any of them yet?”
“Only two, and they are my favorites. They seem to belong together. Gracie and Bessie.” He reached into the brooder box and picked them up and handed them to Aunt Grace who already had her hands out to receive them.
Nate hunched his shoulders as if he could feel The Uncle’s scowl behind him.
“Gracie like me, and Bessie like your grandmother Bess. You know we were the closest two sisters in our whole big family of girls. I’ve often felt sorry for your Uncle Eddie being the only boy in the bunch—and the youngest at that.”
She gave them each a kiss on their downy heads and held them close to her cheek. “There is nothing more full of love and promise than a baby chick,” she said.
Nate nodded his head in silent agreement.
“We will still see you on Sunday after church for lunch and a review your lessons, won’t we?” she asked, handing Gracie and Bessie back. “They are going to love their new home. More than that, they are going to love you.”
“Thank you, Aunt Grace.”
“And I expect to see you tomorrow afternoon at The Shop,” said The Uncle. “No excuses.”
“You will. Uncle Buddy, Thank you both.”