Recently, my second grader came home from school and walked into a Hitchock experience. Coming through our backyard gate, she was swarmed by at least two dozen sparrows, who are not exactly timid, but easily startled. By the time my daughter made it through the kitchen door, her own feathers slightly ruffled, the flock had resettled itself in our flowerbed, our sidewalk, and atop our gas grill.
Sweet daughter, you may blame your mother's love of little children for this alarming episode.
I have a great fondness for kids under the age of five, and when my nieces and nephews come over, I go to all lengths to make sure the feeling is mutual. One of my traditions with some of my favorite kids (We'll call them G & R, but don't confuse them with the metal band), is to let them feed the birds.
In my overcrowded storage closet, I have an oversized tub of wild bird food. When G & R come over, they, along with my four-year-old Livie, are given plastic cups and allowed to go bonkers with bird seed. They then spend a merry 20 minutes filling numerous bird feeders, potted plants, sand toys, and pores of my 30-year-old concrete, with seeds. Its an unholy mess, really.
But they love it. Especially if they stay long to see the birds arrive. Last time, G was out alone on the patio when six or seven feathered friends descended, and he waved his chubby paws in the air and stage whispered, "Guys! Guys! The birds are here!" (except he pronounced it "Dies! Dies! Da birds are heya!") I swear, tears came to my eyes.
The side benefit for the kiddos is that the imprecise seed distribution means some of the seeds actually grow. (It also means we occasionally get mice nosing around, but it's still worth it). And since their other favorite thing in my yard is to decimate my garden and make "salad" in a big bucket, all these birdseed weeds mean more greens to pick next time.
The side benefit to me (though perhaps not to my daughter), is that I get crazy amounts of birds in my yard for days after the kids go home. I don't know how the birdies know G & R have been here, but the word gets out that there is a sparrow smorgasbord going on at our house, and the regulars show up with their extended family.
I don't have pets, but I feel very attached to these birds. I'll be e-mailing away or elbow deep in dishes, and suddenly -- surprise! -- my birdie buddies have arrived. One of the most soothing sounds I know is the flutter of their feathers and the "clink clink" their little beaks make against the glass votives in the yard (which used to be for candles, but of course are now filled with seeds). They keep me company as I type. I watch their skirmishes in the morning as I drink my coffee. And though I would never run through my yard tossing seed all over the place, I'm so glad these precious little people in my life do.
This is, in fact, the best thing about having children. That I'm okay with their creative abandon, their messy enthusiasm, even if I've lost touch with my own. It's tough being a winsome adult, you know? One day my husband came home and found me on the porch scattering seeds on the sidewalk, trying to draw back a beautiful little family of bluebirds. Hubby said this behavior made me one click away from Crazy Old Lady, like the bird seed bag lady in Mary Poppins.
Early childhood, late-in-life senility. These seem the times appropriate for unabashed and simple joys. So being a mother in one's mid-thirties is awesome, because I live through their experiences, too. I let them make messes, drip paint, scatter seed. You never know what small, fluttery surprises may result from them.