Personal Narrative: One of the Worst Weeks of my Life

Samantha Montalbine, Staff Writer

The date of November 23rd, 2021, had marked the beginning of one of the worst weeks of my life thus far. The time period before this had been great. I had just finished all of my midterm exams, I had led my team of Technology Students Association officers through a successful online conference, and I had finally had the time to relax and count down the days until I finally got to relax and have fun over my Thanksgiving break. But then, with one more day to go, everything changed.
For over five months at that point, I had raised and loved six chickens by the names of Kiki, Jenny, Lizzie, Patty, Lucy and Delilah. I had never really had pets of my own before and these girls were my babies, where I’d spend so much of my days making them snacks, letting them free roam, and live as wild as they can safely. Well, unfortunately, at this time my dad had had COVID so had been quarantined in his room and asleep most of the days, so wasn’t conscious when my neighbor had texted him that he saw a fox in his backyard. So, I had gone outside with my grandfather, like I had every night, to close the coop up and say goodnight to my chicken butts, as that was the highlight of my day. I close the coop door but, when going to say goodnight, I can’t see any of them inside the hen house. I ran screaming until I found a flashlight, and had to see my little baby’s body there dead on the ground. I have never screamed that loud in my life. Just as everything was finally going right and I was genuinely happy, I lost my girls. There my mom and I stood, screaming and crying as she tried her best to call for them. I thought all was lost when I looked across the backyard to see a shadow in the shape of a chicken on top of a ladder. I was so scared that I was going to see her dead, but there they were, my Kiki and Jenny, traumatized but alive. I was so so happy to see my girls move, but I was so devastated nonetheless. And so, with one half day left before break, I tried my best to suck it up and go to school.
Growing up being bullied and living with the incredibly strong woman who is my mother, I had rarely cried in school, only doing so in my current school, Freehold Township High School, only once during my freshman year. I know I promised my grandfather I wouldn’t be sad, but I cried in every single class. I couldn’t stop getting the image of her on the floor out of my head, and I still can’t to this day, but it was obviously much more severe the day after. However, going to school was the best thing that I could have done for myself as I realized I was making some amazing friends, how lucky I was to have some of my teachers, and that, as my AP Psychology teacher Mrs. Brusotti kindly said, I wouldn’t have been able to stop thinking about what happened if I stayed at home, so coming to school and distancing myself with some fun pre-break games was the right choice.

After feeling much better after that extremely long shortened day, my mom and I mourned together, talking about all the good memories we had with my girls, spoiling Kiki and Jenny with every snack we could buy, buying a fox trap the second I got out of school, and finishing the day off with watching a cute Christmas movie that for some reason had just been released on Netflix. While a beautiful and well needed moment, from this time with my mother, I too had contracted COVID. Her symptoms had developed the following morning, on Thanksgiving day. The holiday we had all been looking forward to and planning for weeks before this situation ensued with my asthmatic mother being sick in bed alone, my father, still in his quarantine, remaining unconscious, my grandparents trying to make the best of the situation and food, and my sister and I crying at the dinner table as I refused to eat anything turkey or bird related. And then later that night, as I had tried to watch some TV alone to boost my mood, my symptoms started to form.
I have a shockingly amazing immune system. Other than with nerves, I rarely get sick. There is no moment that I can specifically recall falling ill during throughout the end of elementary school and the entirety of middle school, with my only time getting sick since them being a fever I had during my freshman year double lab Biology class, which only lasted for an hour and is to this day my only absence on my almost perfect record. So, with my father now being sent to the hospital, my mother unable to even feed herself, my sister somehow having all her health, and my grandparents gone after my grandmother had caught the virus as well, I had to figure out how to take care of myself, my remaining two chickens, my mother, and my sister, all while being the sickest I have ever been in my life, and without any knowledge of how to properly take care of myself. As the fall season had finally started to feel like winter, I was forbidden by my mother and grandparents from going outside to care for my chickens, even when Jenny, so traumatized from the incident, had become egg bound. This meant that, although her body had produced the egg, for two weeks straight she could not lay it and, as I was improperly told by a friend of mine, unless I helped her she would die from the condition.

With the fear of finding one of my remaining girls dead when I wake them up in the morning, of my father who had developed double pneumonia and could barely talk to me due to the machine he had been hooked up to, and of my mother and sister not being well fed or taken care of, I had to step up greatly. I had spent hours researching everything I could to ensure health and happiness amongst chickens, I had tried my best to show my father nothing but love and patience through his life-threatening condition, and I had stayed strong to clean the house up, feed my little sister, ensure that my mother was eating and that I was staying productive as, ontop of all of this, I still had college applications due.

With all of this happening all at once, I had been thrown into the deep end and forced to stand up and be the man of the house so that, when all seemed already lost, we could all make it through this horrible week. And now, two months later, everything is finally starting to return to normal. My two girls are laying a beautiful and strong egg each and every single day, which is actually unusual for hens during these winter months, my father is almost fully recovered and is returning to his own new form of normalcy, my mother, who had gotten the antibodies, can now go to bed without the fear that she won’t stop breathing during the night, my grandparents are healthy and thriving in Florida, my sister is happy and remains COVID-free, and I can finally say I feel happy again. All of my college applications are done, I get to see my little girls running around their coop every single day, and I get to see my family all together again, both happy and healthy. It hasn’t been all easy, every night this week I’ve had overly vivid nightmares of chickens dying, and I still wake up with the same fear that I’ll lose Kiki or Jenny to the cold night or that one of the many hawks or crows that have been circling the coop daily will swoop down if I’m not there, but in due time, I’ll finally be done mourning and be able to look at pictures of my girls with joy of the memories we had, not of the pictures of that horrible night.

Although possibly the worst week of my life, this experience truly has taught me a lot. As I finish my final year of high school before I begin my life as an adult, I can now say I’ve learned how to be independent and learn to take care of myself, how to be selfless and stand up to any challenge even if I too cannot see hope, and how to be productive even when everything around me seems to be falling apart. With my loss, I have also learned about grief and acceptance. As I had never lost a pet of my own before, it’s been hard but these past two months have showed me how to keep going even with this large hole in my heart, and how to accept that they’re gone and in a better place, as I like to say, flying above me in chicken heaven. This week has truly changed me for the better, into the stronger and more responsible person I am today and, although I hope one never has to go through what I had, I hope you can take at least something from this.