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?"
"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.