(I read this at my mom’s memorial last year).
My momma’s nickname is Poulette, Cajun for lil chicken, because she was always pecking around, picking up, cleaning, cooking, just always moving. Growing up I remember Momma always with a dishrag in her hand, ready to clean any surface she passed.
I have many Momma memories, and one of my favorites involves my sweet Poulette and a hibou, Cajun for owl. I was about 17 years old and I awoke in the middle of the night to sounds in the front of our house. I hesitantly walked towards the sound until I reached the kitchen. Perched in our kitchen sink was a large barn owl! It was white, brown, and gray and about two and a half feet tall. We stared at each other in quiet surprise, and then I rushed to my parents’ bedroom.
“Momma, Dad, wake up! There’s an owl in the kitchen!”
“Wha? Huh?” my dad said.
“I swear there’s a big owl in the sink!”
Dad just rolled over started snoring.
Momma was already putting her robe on and coming my way. “A hibou? Let’s go,” she said. We cautiously approached the kitchen and stopped about four yards from the sink and had a staring contest with the owl. After a minute of silence, Momma went to the utility room for her broom. Silently, I motioned to her that I would open the back door as she shooed the owl outside. This seemed like a sensible plan until our blind cat Cupid dashed inside as soon as I opened the door and Momma was waving the broom at the owl. I started screaming, worried the owl would attack Cupid. Momma turned her broom to Cupid and yelled “Chat! Chat!” as she swept the cat toward the back door. Cupid quickly ran outside.
The owl did not budge.
The cat commotion shook both of us up, and Momma held the broom shakily.
Suddenly the owl flew out of the sink and toward our small den. At the same time, Momma and I were yelling and running out of its path. Then the hibou settled on a foot stool in the den. Next, Momma and I ended up in a short hall near the living room. Standing close to the front door we suddenly had the same idea: Open both front and back doors to create a draft so the owl knew where to escape! As I propped open the front door, Poulette Momma bravely raised her broom and advanced toward the hibou. My 5’ 2”, 100 pound mom, who shrieked and hid when she saw a small lizard, now had warrior bravery. Cowardly, I held the back door way open so it totally covered me as I peeped at the mighty Poulette’s face-off with that hibou. The owl had been looking longingly out the huge picture window in the den, and then he did that slow creepy head turn as Poulette neared.
With her broom above her head, Poulette yelled,”Shoo! Shoo!” and she lowered the broom and swept the air around his feet. The bird blinked twice, opened his wings, and smoothly flew out the back door as I cheered from my hiding place. Momma’s courage expanded as she whooped and continued sweeping the intruder out of her home.
“We did it!” I bragged as Poulette and I hugged and danced by the door. “What a big hibou!,” my momma declared. “But not too big for a poulette with a broom,” I said. She hugged me again, laughed, and said, “I gotta sit down.” So we sat in the kitchen and drank coffee and laughed.
We never did find out how the owl made its way into our house. Maybe it was stunned or slightly hurt and a strong wind blew the back door open, so it wandered in. Maybe some prankster put it in our house.
The Hibou Mystery has become part of our family folklore. However, one part of that story holds no mystery whatsoever. Poulette has heroic bravery when it comes to protecting her “chicks.” My Momma may have ended up in a wheelchair and she no longer rushed about the house cleaning and organizing her family’s lives. But when she looked at me with her crystal-blue eyes and gave me her pure-love smile, I still saw the spark from her brave spirit that chased the owl from our kitchen many years ago.