Tomorrow I’ll address a great question regarding social media, when to ignore or avoid people, and when to cut your losses.
While I would have never thought a few years ago I’d end relationships over political beliefs, something has shifted. The time has come when I can no longer sit by and interact with those who espouse hatred, ignorance, xenophobia, and intolerance.
I’ve more work to do on that blog, so instead today I give you The Nest.
I wrote this several years ago. Today, as I watch my son wind his way through his freshman year in high school, I find the sentiments to still ring true; in some respects more than they did when I first put these words together.
Part I: Birds Flying Into Windows
Tom (now known as “Mr. Patience and Understanding”) and I sat out on our deck after work one lovely summer evening enjoying a drink as we waited for his son Taylor and his girlfriend Alex to arrive so the four of us could go to dinner. We planned on a sushi feast that couldn’t be beat and the reservation time was drawing nigh.
Suddenly, several birds began squawking and circling overhead.
The majority appeared to be bluebirds, but they were joined by hawks, crows, and robins. First there were three, then over ten, and suddenly the sky was filled with them. It was reminiscent of a scene out of “The Birds,” but without Tippy Hedren and the arty camera angle.
Margot began barking and suddenly darted down into the backyard, furiously trying to get behind a bush directly under our dining room window. Tom went down to investigate, and found a wounded baby bluebird who had clearly flown into the dining room picture window and landed with a sad little thud below.
What I assume were the parents of the injured bird darted frantically in and out of the bush, trying to attend to their broken baby while avoiding Tom, now bravely wielding a shovel, and Margot, who couldn’t decide if she wanted to eat the bird, mother it, or if she was afraid of it.
Taylor and Alex arrived in the midst of the excitement and the four of us tried to come up with a game plan.
I won’t identify the proponent of each plan by name or GENDER, but half of the group wanted to take the bird to Dove Lewis Emergency Animal Care Center and the other half wanted to expedite the little guy’s delivery to the Great Nest in the Sky so we could make our Hiroshi reservation on time.
I say little “guy” because by now Alex had named the bird Riley, and she and I were convinced it was a boy even though we couldn’t make out the presence of a tiny little bird peen. And we looked, believe me!
Once the bird had both a gender and a name, especially one as endearing as Riley, it was clear that we would be doing our best to ensure his survival: The Life of Riley, as it were.
We boxed Riley up and delivered him to Dove Lewis, who later delivered Riley to the Audubon Society.
When I called the next day to inquire about his condition, I was promised that once Riley was rehabilitated he would be brought back to our house and released in the backyard to increase his chances of reuniting with his family.
“With any luck,” I thought to myself, “Riley will make a note of our dining room window, and steer clear of it in the future.”
To that end, I made a vow not to wash it for several months: improving the life span of birds in my neighborhood and simultaneously excusing me from a least-favorite household chore.
I’m lazy and altruistic all at the same time.
Part II: Anthropomorphism at It’s Finest
I held sympathy not only for Riley, who may have been a bit of a clumsy dumbshit, but also for his parents whom I named Nick and Nora. My vivid imagination conjured up a picture of what happened in the moments prior to the accident.
Riley peered over the edge of the nest nervously and asked his parents,
You want me to do WHAT?
“Just jump out, sweetie,” cooed Nora, in her best “Mommy Believes In You” voice.
“Really, you’ll be fine! You just flap your wings, and you’ll soon find yourself aloft with the other birds in the neighborhood. Go have fun with the other chicks, sweetheart. Just stay away from the crows on NW Shenandoah, they’re a murderous bunch.”
“Hey mom,” Riley likely protested, “I’m just not ready for this yet. My wings aren’t fully developed, and I think I feel a leg cramp coming on. Can’t I just hang here with you guys, maybe help feather the nest or something?”
At this point, Nick takes over. He was starting to worry his son might be a bit of a wimp.
“Look son, you are the last chick in the neighborhood who hasn’t flown the coop yet. You are starting to make me look bad. Do you want to be known as a coward? Do you want to live with us and eat regurgitated food from your mother’s mouth for the rest of your life? Good God, boy, just do it!”
And with that, Nick nudged Riley out of the nest with a loving but firm peck on his head.
Maybe Riley soared for a while and started to get the hang of it before he hit our window and his day took a very bad turn. Maybe his accident was immediate, and his parents should have known that a child can often acutely sense their own limitations.
Either way, Riley took the right of passage known as his first flight as all birds must do unless they are the very unfortunate and not-at-all-creatively named “flightless birds.”
Part III: It’s All About Me!
In a similar vein, last weekend I put Jake on a bus for his second trip to Camp Four Winds Westward Ho on Orcas Island.
Last year’s camp was just one week, and although he had trepidations at first Jake loved the Four Winds experience and couldn’t wait to go back. The difference this year is now that Jake is nine years old, the camp session is four weeks.
That’s 28 days. 672 hours. 40,320 minutes without my kid around. Not that I’m counting or anything.
For the past few months, I asked him repeatedly if he was really sure he wanted to go to camp. I peppered him with questions and hypothetical situations to ensure he was ready for a month without his family, friends and pets. He assured me he was prepared to go on this adventure, even if I was not.
My heart ached as Tom, Patrick, Crista, and I dropped Jake off at the camp bus last Saturday in Seattle. However, it also swelled with pride at the little man he had become. He and his cousin Michael were anxious to get on the bus and get going, while I silently clung to the tail of his shirt, chewing the inside of my mouth to stop the tears and hoping for a few extra minutes before the campers were called away.
(“Jesus, Mom, let go already!”)
When it was time for us to leave, Jake gave me a big hug and kiss, and whispered in my ear, “I know you’re worried, Mom. Don’t be. You loved Four Winds and so do I. Be happy for me; don’t be sad. I’ll be home soon.”
No really, he talks like that. He’s kind of a freak, but the apple and the tree analogy is apt in our case.
I let go of my little boy and surprised myself by not falling apart like John Boehner at a prayer breakfast.
I had to let him fly.
As we pulled away, we noticed one child sobbing into his mother’s arms, shaking his head “no” and clearly not wanting to get on the bus. This was a poignant scene, and my slight disappointment that Jake hadn’t lingered longer by my side was instantly replaced by relief that he trusted himself enough to take this step.
Patrick, Crista, Tom and I all began to talk about how sad it was to see this child crying, not only for the kid but for his mother too, who must have been tremendously conflicted over whether to wrap him in her arms and take him home, or give him a peck on the head and send him on his way.
Then we all had a good laugh as we imagined really mean things to shout to this kid, including but not limited to:
“Suck it up, loser!”
“Get on the damn bus already!” and
“Man up you little brat: mommy needs a vodka and some Sexytime® with her boyfriend!”
We’re kind of awful people when the four of us join forces.
Part IV: Back to Riley
As I later pondered and compared Riley learning how to fly and Jake leaving for camp, it dawned on me that a nice ending to this blog would be to give an update on Riley’s condition.
The last time I spoke with the Audubon Society they informed me that Riley was doing well, eating quite a bit, and extremely friendly. They thought Riley would be ready to be released into my yard within a week or two.
Armed with my new brilliant blog closing idea this morning, I phoned the Audubon society for an update on the Life of Riley. I provided the woman on the phone the reference number that should have allowed her to look up Riley’s status to give me a report.
She put me on hold twice.
After the first hold, she came back, asking me if this was an adult spotted towhee.
“No, no, this is a baby!” I cried.
“His name is Riley, and he is a bluebird. He ran into my window. You guys promised you would release him back into my yard when he is better so he can find his family.”
“OK, hold on,” the woman said, and disappeared for about five minutes. When she came back on the line, she was apologetic.
“Hey, I’m really sorry, but we can’t seem to find Riley. I can’t find a record of him or you anywhere. It’s like he just disappeared. Are you sure Dove Lewis brought him here?”
I’d like to write more, but I am driving to Orcas Island to install video surveillance cameras on the camp property and install a GPS chip in Jake’s neck.
I’ll blog from the road.
You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762
PS: Please share!