When I was very young I learned two things that I attempted not to pass on to my own boys.
'Big boys don't cry'
'Boys should never show any emotion'
I remember feeling pride when I took a bad fall off my tricycle on the road outside our house and without crying or showing I was upset walked into the house bleeding and asked mom for help. My dad had an allotment in the field a couple of blocks from the house. He shared it with a friend and together they grew vegetables and kept a few chickens for fresh eggs. My brother and I often went out there. In fact it was our job to feed the chickens and look for eggs after breakfast a couple of times a week.
I never had much interest in the chickens and was just a bit afraid of the rooster after seeing him attack my dad a few times.
One year my parents told us that we were going to raise two geese at the allotment. They were to be for Christmas dinner that year.
The goslings were so cute I immediately named them but was told that was not allowed. They were to be treated the same as the chickens except they would be separated at feeding times. I never found out why because almost immediately they became larger than the chickens which were Bantams and pretty much ate whatever they liked.
That summer I spent more time at the allotment. The geese would allow me to carry them around even when they began to get too large for me and I formed quite a bond with them. They were always at the fence when I approached and followed me around. They weren't looking for food so it had to be friendship.
One Sunday I was sitting by the gate modeling a piece of clay my dad had dug out of the garden when a terrible ruckus erupted. A chap in the allotment 3 down was yelling for my dad to come and get his goose and I could hear the goose hissing wildly. The goose had managed to sneak out through a piece of fence my dad was mending and ended up along at the neighbor's allotment. I ran over there and found this big man backed into the corner of his allotment. The goose, looking very impressive with his wings out and his neck extended, was hissing like mad and had the poor man cut off. I am sure he felt very embarrassed when this little kid came up, picked up his tormenter in his arms and started to stumble back to the gate. Luckily my dad appeared because the goose was now far too big for me to carry more than a few feet.
When Christmas came I pleaded for their lives but to no avail. They had been reared for Christmas dinner and that was what they were.
On Christmas Eve my dad brought our goose home in a sack and my brother and I had to pluck out the feathers. I didn't cry or show any emotion but I felt no pride either.
It would be about 15 years before I allowed myself to bond with another animal. My wife's natural ability to befriend any animal made it inevitable that we would always have at least one pet and I would just have to get used to it.
I did get used to it and now cannot imagine life without a pet.
I still have trouble showing emotion but am improving. It is a moot point in our house, anyway, because my wife can read me like a book.
I can now look back fondly at the memory of my pure white feathered friend with his wings outstretched making a grown man cower in the corner of his own yard.