the first movie roën ever saw was “march of the penguins.” she was awestruck. we watched the movie over and over and over again. we listened to the soundtrack in the car. we bought the book and leafed through the photographs constantly. anything with a penguin was rapture-inducing and automatically beloved.
i don’t really remember where chick came from. i think he was a gift from someone who got him at that imperative gift shop one is required to exit through when one visits the georgia aquarium. i boycott it on principle, but that’s another story. i do remember that chick came into being when roën was about 3. he may even have been a birthday present.
chick was roën’s talisman, her beloved, her doppelgänger. he went with her every day to preschool, then to summer camp and then again to preschool. he slept with her every night. he ate every meal with her and watched her take her baths and brush her teeth. very soon his painted black pupils faded away so that he started blankly with two white orbs, but this didn’t blind him to roën’s moods or needs. at some point, and this was relatively early in their relationship, she came home from somewhere, and chick was missing a flipper. his right flipper. roën was horrified that her chick was maimed, disfigured, symmetrically imperfect. she wailed in despair. it was a touch-and-go moment for us all. then we decided that we loved chick for chick, not for whether he had two flippers or one. we learned that our differently-abled friends are our friends first and that chick’s single-flipperedness didn’t affect the love roën had for him. chick was still chick, two flippers or one, and chick was an immutable part of roën’s life.