2008-05-25

Into the light of the dark, black night

The other day I was lounging on my sofa; it is next to a big window that faces the street. As I was reading, I heard the clip-clack sound of someone running in shoes not designed for said activity. I looked up, and one of the college students who lives next door was scurrying past.

"Huh," I thought, and went back to reading.

One and a half sentences later my doorbell rang. There she was, standing on our front porch.

"A baby bird fell and is in our driveway," she announced.

It honestly took me a split second to realize why she was telling me this. Oh, she wants me to come help her, I brilliantly deduced.

"Would you like me to come over and help you?"

A look of gratitude flashed across her face, "That would be great! It just fell onto my driveway. I don't know what to do. It's just laying there."

At this point I'm wondering what she thinks I can bring to the situation. Not that I mind helping, not at all, but I couldn't figure out why she needed assistance.

"Do you think we should put it back in it's nest?" I asked. "They say you're not supposed to do that because then the Mama bird will boot it."

She just looked at me with an uncertain look. I was thinking that was probably the best route to go...better than leaving it laying on the ground, right?

I wasn't prepared to see what I came across. I'd pictured a cute little birdy, unable to fly, confused and looking up at the branches from which he'd fallen.

Not. the. case.

This tiny little creature didn't even look much like a bird. It didn't have feathers...just pink skin with a few scattered tufts of down. The beak and legs looked soft, as if they were molded of orange jello. The poor thing was prone on the cement, its entire body struggling to gasp for breath. There was something trailing out of it; I wasn't sure if it was intestines or the poor thing had lost the contents of its bowels from the landing, or the stress.

It was clearly not going to make it.

I looked at the girl- well, woman really, she's probably twenty or twenty-one- and I knew I couldn't tell her that.

"Ummmmm, he looks pretty badly injured," I said. I looked up, trying to find the nest. "Where is the nest?"

"What nest?"

"The one he fell out of."

"Oh, he didn't fall out of a nest. His mom was carrying him and dropped him. He fell pretty far."

Ugh. Either a Mama bird is going to start dive-bombing us for hovering over her baby, or she's rolling her eyes at us for doting over the runt she dumped.

"Well, let's see..." I stammered.

She asked, "Should I get a box and some towels?"

I looked at her and realized that despite the fact that she's somewhere around twenty years old, she was looking at me with the same expression my four-year-old daughter does when she's got a boo-boo (medical term), Please, make it all better.

That's why she came to me...she needed a grown-up. Right now, even though she's technically an adult, she needs someone to take control.

"Yes, grab a box and some towels. He's going to need to go to a vet. Do you have a car? Can you take him? I can't, I have to get my son from school in a few minutes."

She said she could and ran off to get the emergency medical supplies for the bird, and I stood so that I blocked the sun beaming down on the poor bird. I imagined the bird being taken into a vet's by this sweet college student, and them graciously thanking her and telling her, Don't worry, we will take good care of him.

And then looking at each other after she left, wondering what they should really do.

I looked at the little orange beak, opening and closing as the bird tried to breath. I pictured a little dropper, guided by a vet's had, hydrating the bird drip by drip. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he'll be okay.

The student rushed back and handed me the box full of towels. I really, really didn't want to do this...but I crouched down and gingerly attempted to scoop him up. His little body was limp and I was horribly afraid I'd squish him, but after a couple of attempts I was successful and placed him in the box, his makeshift nest.

"Thank you so much," the student said with a huge sigh of relief.

One evening a couple of months ago I walked by her house while taking my dog for a walk. It was dark outside, so the large picture window facing the street glowed like a movie screen. The dining table was filled with laughing students, and the aroma of their meal reached me on the sidewalk. I smiled, remembering back a couple of decades to a dinner party I threw while at college. I got all nostalgic for those years of young adulthood....the burgeoning independence, the future wide open before me all full of hope and promise, the developing friendships you just know will last forever. I have to admit, I was a bit envious in that moment as I passed by.

Looking at the student before me, baby bird in hand, that memory flashed through my head. I realized how young she really is, how much I've grown in the past twenty years, and that no matter how enticing the trappings of her world might look from a brief outside glance, no way would I want to return to it.

"I'm really glad I could help," I answered.

23 comments:

  1. That was so sad, but sweet too. Your neighbor sounds like a bit of a baby bird herself, and you did a good thing.

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  2. That is a really precious story. What a good Mom you are to realize the needs of a child, even one that is not your own.

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  3. Poor baby bird. Did he make it?

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  4. Your post was so well written. A lot of times I find myself skimming posts to get to the "meat" but this was one of the few posts that I read from beginning to end. Very touching story. I loved the symbolism and the innocence of it all, baby bird, little girl (technically), and a mom making it all better. I am sure her mom would have thanked you for being her "mom" that day.

    Of course, I do need to know now, if the baby bird made it. It didn't sound good, but one can hope right?

    I hope things are looking up for you all at your house. We're definitely in a rough patch over here. I'm getting a biopsy on Tuesday and should get the results by Wed. I hope things come back benign because if not, then my Dr. mentioned termination of this pregnancy which is not something I am even letting myself think about right now.

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  5. Its so sad that as a society we have become isolated from our neighbors. I too helped out a "Baby bird" of a neighbor last week. It makes us stronger as a community to know that we can rely on each other.
    You might need to "borrow a cup of sugar" one day soon.

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  6. That's a powerful little story. Thanks for sharing.

    I hope things are looking up. Trust me, I've been in the financial sqeeze for long that I'm not sure what to do anymore. I ordered myself a camera, and ever since I put in the order, I've felt like vomiting. Go stress!!!

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  7. Everyone else has already picked up on all the metaphors in your story. So, I will simply say that it was very well written. You made me devour each word...and then I read it again. Thank you!

    (just randomly surfing...I really have no idea how I stumbled onto your blog...but I am glad I did!)

    Dan

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  8. That is a sweet story. I think it is the mommy in us that can't help but look at almost anyone a few years younger in a nurturing light...hormones, ugh.

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  9. As if my whole neighborhood didn't already question my stability, here I am weepy in our wi-fi coffee shop. Rarely do stories of our modern lives translate so poignantly and poetically. Beyond all your gentle metaphors, you've created a place where as a reader I find myself standing in that chasm between the girl who felt so helpless in the presence of the injured baby bird and the nurturing caregiver who reflexively helps, but is so unsure of the eventual outcome.

    I feel sinful in not having added you to my blogroll 'til now!
    (Thanks for stopping by...I'm keeping good thoughts for you. :) )

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  10. Sometimes we all just need someone to "mother" us in that way that we know it everything will be alright.

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  11. mzsamiam9:58 AM

    What a beautiful, poignant story. You did a very good job. Your mother would be proud of you.
    PS. Baby birds can be touched and returned to the nest and the parents will continue to care for it.

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  12. how touching - what a gift to be able to lighten someone's heart when it is heavy.
    p.s. I'm gonna guess San Francisco or Austin (the Chapel Hill of Texas)

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  13. This was so bittersweet and beautiful.

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  14. I love the story. And when you mention your neighbor, I wonder. Because until last summer, my neighbors thought that I was in my late 20s/early 30s. I just got this again recently at my "new" job. There is a huge difference between perceived maturity and age. Obviously I have been making younger people look really good.

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  15. What a beautiful story. I remember those days, too, of being young and vulnerable. We had to go through so much to get our callouses and wisdom. And I'm sure my grandmother just shakes her head at the baby bird I still am, compared to her. Lovely story. Thank you.

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  16. Featured on Good Mom/Bad Mom on the Houston Chronicle: http://tinyurl.com/43ezzb

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  17. Such lovely writing. As catnip said, she seemed a bit like a baby bird, too.

    I'm so glad to find your blog, and I will definitely be back.

    Congrats on being included on Good Mom/Bad Mom!

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  18. Found you on Good Mom/Bad Mom. This post deserves a kirtsy! http://www.kirtsy.com/story.php?title=This_is_an_example_of_why_I_love_to_read_blogs-

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  19. I really enjoyed this post. I'm one decade away from my early 20s and still seem to oscillate between moments when I feel like I've finally grown up, and moments when I think, "Clearly, I'm not qualified to be an adult!" :)

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  20. What a lovely writer you are. I will be back for more.

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  21. That was beautiful....
    I am also a college student living out on my own for the first time, and its wonderful people like you that make a difference to our lives. It reminds me of when my little unit flooded last year - I was at ends for what to do with all of the water slowly damaging everything I owned(my poor mother who lives hours away recieved a heart-wrenching voice message later, with me blubbering undeciferable 'I dont know what to do's in between fits of tears!) but a beautiful soul similar to yours who was living across the road saw me with buckets in my hands and tears in my eyes and brought her sons across the road to help. I hope as I get older I remember her generosity, kindness and motherly love that she shared with me - and grow to be a little more like her and you. It wasn't about the water, it was that somebody was there to take my hand and tell me that it was all going to be ok.

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  22. This was really so very, very cool. Awesome writing - nice and smooth and thoughtful and full circle... all my favorite things. Thanks for this!

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  23. This was a great story. Glad to have found you through Neil!

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Brilliant observations: