DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley's baby holds a stuffed parrot
Family & Friends

Rainbow Chicken

I know I keep writing about it, but wow, March was HARD.

I cried more than I’d cried in months, and I had moments when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be okay in the long-term. I had terrible anxiety at night and walked around like a bit of a zombie during the day.

But I convinced myself that my kids didn’t really notice. Or if they did, they didn’t care that much. They still had school and their friends and my dad. So what if their mom was a little bit off?

Claire asked how I was doing a few times, and I was honest that I was sad about Shawn. Austin just held my hand when I read to him, which he had mostly stopped doing a few months prior. But Tommy was the same – demanding and adorable, seemingly unaware of my moods.

One night, Tommy came in my room just before bedtime. I had been crying, and I wiped away my tears. “Hi baby,” I said to him.

“Guess what I found?” he asked me.

“What baby?”

“It’s my new stuffed animal!” he said, and then he pulled out this hideous-looking multi-colored stuffed parrot.

“What IS that thing?” I asked.

He studied the stuffed animal for a moment. Clearly, he didn’t know what kind of animal it was.

“It’s my RAINBOW CHICKEN!” he said proudly.

Well, I’m not sure what got into me in that moment, but I started laughing. I could not stop. How in the world did he think to call his stuffed animal “Rainbow Chicken”? I know that this may not strike you as hilarious, but trust me, I found it to be one of the funniest things I’d heard in weeks. I laughed so hard that tears came out of my eyes. Tommy had no idea why what he’d said was funny, but he got a huge smile on his face.

“Rainbow Chicken!” he said again, and then we both laughed.

He repeated this a half-dozen times, laughing each time he said “Rainbow Chicken!” He kept looking at me to see if I was laughing, and since I was, it was contagious.

Austin came in. “This is my Rainbow Chicken!” Tommy said and laughed, because that’s what we were doing every time he said “Rainbow Chicken.”

Austin laughed. “Tommy, that’s a parrot,” he said. But he was smiling and he was looking at me. Austin wasn’t sure why I was laughing, but I saw in his eyes a flicker of joy. He knew one thing at that moment: Mom was happy.

Claire heard all of us and came in too. I told her about Rainbow Chicken and how funny we thought it was and after a while she was laughing too.

I let them all pile on my bed that night and we read stories and then watched stupid things on the iPad until way too late. At one point, I asked Tommy, “what do you like so much about Rainbow Chicken?”

“He makes people laugh,” he said. “If you are sad, you can just hold Rainbow Chicken and say ‘Rainbow Chicken’ and then you are happy!”

Well, that’s basically what had happened, so hey, it was a logical conclusion.

“When do you think someone might need Rainbow Chicken?” I asked him.

He thought about this for a moment. “Maybe if your Dad dies?” he said.

“Well, yes,” I said, “though even if you have a Rainbow Chicken, someone whose dad died would probably still be sad.”

He looked at me and really studied my expression. He was trying to make sense of this world – sense of a world that ripped his father from him before he was potty-trained.

“Well,” he said, “Rainbow Chicken made you feel better. So next time you are sad, I’m going to say, ‘Rainbow Chicken!'”

I smiled at him. “Okay, baby,” I said, “you can do that.”

That night, just before he fell asleep, he half-opened his eyes and sleepily said to me, “Rainbow Chicken, mama.”

I smiled and looked at his sweet face. He was clutching Rainbow Chicken to his chest. I watched his breathing slow and his face relax as he drifted off to sleep.

My baby boy. He’s my Rainbow Chicken.


  • Becky

    this one made me cry for sure….when I picked him up yesterday, he was squatting next to liam watching Julia play lacrosse looking so mini in his little hoodie. I gave him a little hug and he just couldn’t have been more adorable. Rainbow chicken for sure….

  • Rachel

    Operation find rainbow chicken every day is now in effect. Usually the ones closest to the ground spot them first.🌈🐤

  • Maurie Beck

    I just read your Washington Post story about your father’s grief served with a side of eggs.
    I don’t have to tell you he’s a special man, but give him a hug, just the same.

  • Gabe

    I can picture the rainbow chicken party so well. Very sweet moment, happy you all had a good laugh.

  • Marci

    My son and I have, luckily, had a few “Rainbow Chicken” inside jokes that keep me going. There is something about that infectious, hysterical laughter over something so little that spreads your heart with warmth. He’s sleeping beside me in my bed now. I’ll be sure to share the story with him when he wakes….

    • Marjorie

      I love this. Thanks so much for sharing. I think we all have our sweet Rainbow Chicken moments that get us through.