By Daphne Biener
The kids were set on breaking some world records last fall, which brought the three of us to the back yard. I’m nothing if not supportive. Acadia was doing laps on the monkey bars, and Kira’s jump-rope hadn’t stopped spinning despite the poor conditions (slatted back porch) with which she was bravely contending. Walking off their athletic conquests, the children paused together beneath the blue spruce, and began screaming.
Despite the fact that both girls were still standing and not bleeding, my heart took a time-out from the pesky business of beating. No, they were fine. But there before me in the form of some flopping feathers was one of those parenting moments. Their hopeful faces looked expectantly up at me, the same children who sincerely doubt my ability to find my way home from school, or successfully cut their crusts off now demonstrated total conviction that this, I could fix.
“You’ll save him, won’t you? You CAN fix this, right Mom?”
Yeah, sure. Have no fear, Super-mom is on the scene.
With the girls looking on in awe, I began mouth-to-beak rescue breathing immediately, then inserted a breathing tube and a sugar-water drip. Or not. But as their cries grew more urgent and tears started to fall, I did what I always do when I find a gap in my parenting-preparedness. I called my mother.
You see, back in the day my mother rescued her own baby bird from the bloody maw of our cat, Cinnamon. Mom nursed her patient in an old Treetorn sneaker box nestled with shredded Kleenex. Dad fashioned a cast of toothpicks and soon enough our baby bird was ready to soar. Or hop, at least I think he got in a hop of two before a grateful Cinnamon devoured his good-as-new treat. Bye-bye birdie.
Next on my phone list was my friend Brenda, whose husband is a state representative, making them a prime bird-death-avoidance hotline. Brenda suggested city hall who suggested the humane society who—and I swear this is true – said they’d send someone over – STAT! Really. STAT! Um, are you sure? Did I mention it’s a bird? Because you see we have a sitter coming and a dinner reservation and I was just about to jump in the shower and come on, really? It’s a BIRD and surely you don’t…
“We need to start digging and find some worms. Maybe if Baby eats he’ll get better, don’t you think, Mom?”
Nodding seriously, I handed a shovel to Kira, head-digger and bossy-boss. Acadia, the official worm handler, would be, well, handling the worms.
Which left me to scoop the broken birdie into the halfway house the girls had assembled. A shoebox, of course, lovingly lined with cotton balls and a fistful of grass, soon to be squirming with an all-you-could-eat buffet of plump, juicy worms.
“Yes?” I was working up a sweat trying to coax Baby into his new home. This was not my forte.
“Is Baby a girl bird, or a boy bird?”
I’ll have you know that I actually flipped Baby upside-down in an attempt to reach for one of those teachable-moments they talk about when thankfully the doorbell rang.
I dropped Baby into the box and followed as the girls flew to greet their savior. They pulled on this lady’s arms, shouting the bird’s stats and urging her to move more quickly. I filled in the gaps, ala “ER”: heartbeat a million flutters per second, no discernible appetite, probable broken wing.
The woman in my kitchen, with my girls hanging from her arms, looked stunned and squirmy.
“Well, hello, I’m Annie. I’m running for city council.”
Oops. My bad. Seems I had dragged a stranger into my home all in the hopes of helping my children alleviate the pain of one Baby bird.
“Are there any problems or issues that you’d like to see addressed?” she kept going. Um, yeah. There’s the problem of the dying fowl on my porch. What do you got for that?
Annie beat a hasty retreat.
The funeral took place that same sun-drenched autumn afternoon amidst Kira’s teary face and Acadia’s trademark stoicism. As Baby was being gently lowered beneath the pine needles, the doorbell rang once again. I thought the humane society guy handled the news well, considering the role his delayed arrival played in our feathery fiasco, but he begged off the ceremony just the same. Guess he had to rush off to help a suburban squirrel with a nosebleed.