Due to a rescheduled event, yesterday I suddenly found myself with nothing on the calendar. Yes, during recital week. With baseball playoffs, auditions to run, and dress rehearsals jam-packed into multiple days both behind and in front of me this week, there was Wednesday, with nothing written on it. There was a vague “pick up summer ball uniform soon” email, but that could also be postponed. A free day. Blink.
What most of us would do this time of year for a day. To think. To breathe. Reset, reorganize, just stop the madness. I was referring to it all week as the Eye of the Hurricane day.
Don’t relax, lady, there is so much to do. It’s still a hurricane.
Like I was going to relax. HAHAHAHA! I don’t know how to turn things off. Pants to wash. Food to prep. Cleaning to always. I worked a bit. And then a bit more. I created work for myself that I knew needed to be done eventually, so how about now? I got the post-its ready with names and ensemble groups for casting, wrote roles to be filled on the white-board side of the easel, and illustrated the chalk-board side with Nutcracker themed decorations (isn’t this how everyone does it?).
Next, I started an excavation project: Finding My Desk. My desk is actually my sewing table, with files and bills to the left of me, accumulated cast-off scraps and pieces, notions, and embellishments on the right, markers and paints (and oddly, a pointe shoe graveyard) upstage, and the sewing machine downstage center. Guess what, everybody! I found it! I threw out the old pointe shoes. Filed the files. Stored the markers and paints appropriately. Buttons back in the button box, ribbons in the ribbon drawer, scraps tossed or stored. I moved on to the floor. I swept and plugged in the carpet cleaner to charge.
Somewhere in the midst of this, each of my kids got off the bus. Thing 1 happily chatted, while I continued cleaning, about the “best day ever.” Thank God. The eighth grade is currently on their big once-in-a-lifetime-memories-are-made class bonding trip to NYC, and she’s home, with the handful of left-behinds. The close-to-$1000 price tag for three days in New York would have also come with the price of missing her Nutcracker audition and dress rehearsals for her recital, and arriving back exhausted at midnight before a recital day she’s worked all year for. The timing was terrible, and the friends going weren’t close ones. I told her that could change with an opportunity to get to know some better and tried to remain neutral so the choice would be hers. She made it herself, and as a rule, she doesn’t look back. They’re having some bonding of their own. Doing tie dye, making volcanoes, working on stop-motion animation. She spent all night making stickers and face-timing with friends because she had a rare, actual night off.
Thing 2 arrived home and gave me a non-committal “good” about his day. He liked the progress I was making since he likes to share my computer, and items have been known to fall off the desk pile onto his games. He bee-lined for the Kindle to chat with friends there, in what I can only guess was fear that he’d get asked to help clean if he stuck around. Plus, I’m boring these days.
Mr. Catherine arrived home much earlier than expected, completely confused about why (and unaware in spite of the system) we didn’t have anything on the calendar. He saw what I was up to and was completely entertained that I was “Nesting for Nutcracker.” He even took pictures of me in my natural habitat. I usually just call the office “where the magic happens” (said magic is not ever tidy), but he’s recently tried to rename it “The Room Where It Happens.” I told him he’s late to the party on that, and it’s the Nutcracker Midwifery Area, the obstetrics ward for birthing my brain-children, now go find something else to do if he’s going to laugh at my expense awesomeness. We made plans to run later, which we never do together due to our approximate 11-inch leg-length discrepancy.
Since I was, at 3:45pm, still in my pajamas for all of the above events, he offered to take Thing 2 to pick up his uniform. There was a chat about whether Thing 2 could also go swimming with a friend afterwards, a negotiation about how long he could stay, a discussion about how family dinners are so rare and could we please just humor me and have one for crying out loud, more negotiations from Thing 2 about could said dinner be OUT at least?, a firm response of no promises, an even firmer stance about the absolute non-negotiation in which swimming requires lifeguards and parents and none of them should be looking at their phone or have alcohol in their hands at the time, not that any of them would but you never know what a high school or college kid in a summer job would do (and for that matter why do all my bad dreams involve water), and a reassurance that he’s not stupid, and a reassurance that I never said that, and oh my gosh why is eleven so LOUD? and a swimsuit and towel and an “I love you” and a he-pretended-not-to-hear-me and then in the eye of the hurricane it is QUIET. Sometimes even the quiet seems loud.
With the desk excavation in near-completion, I took the dog out to pee because she was Facing Massive Disappointment: her Person had come home early and taken Boy out instead of her. Solidarity, girl. This is where we’re at. She did her business and then wanted to sniff around a while. This is the time of year when the woodchuck babies, birds, and squirrels are leaving great smells for her to explore. And the birds were chirping up a storm. As the wooded areas around us have been gradually reduced, we often think of our little bit of woods as the new “bird urban development plan.” They’re pretty densely settled back there. So no huge surprise, while the Notorious D.O.G. did her smelling of smells, I noticed a bird in the trampoline. It was not a real baby, since it was doing some flying around in there. More like Fun Size, this Robin, who was smallish and tubby, and inexperienced enough that it couldn’t quite get high enough to get up over the netting. It would hang onto the side of the net for a bit, but then when it tried to fly again it would either stay horizontal or end up on the trampoline floor, exhausted. And then it would try again.
I walked around the trampoline a few times, talking to it, trying to urge it towards the zippered opening. Fun Size Robin was not picking up my signals. It definitely got the “go the other way” part but didn’t get the “there’s an escape route” part. At. All. So after a bit, I decided to put P. Doggy in, and get onto the trampoline myself to hopefully shoo it out. I don’t spend much time on there (not because I’m no fun, mind you, it’s because children are destroyers of spines and bladders) so I felt a little silly in there, but up I climbed, and with my sweetest Amy-Adams-in-Enchanted voice, kept sing-songingly (that’s totally a word) talking to this tubby bird like it understood every word I was saying and we were best buds.
Alfred Hitchcock alone could understand what happened next. Robins in all shapes and sizes – Full Size, Family Size, King-Size, Sharing Size – holy smokes! Robin aunts, uncles, granddaddies, moms, dads, and cousins all ganged up on me, chirping like crazy and flying around in wild and mysterious ways. The whole Robin Urban Development Association was planning a kamikaze mission against me.
I decided to leave them to help Fun Size without me. Not because I’m afraid of birds, but because they obviously had a Community looking for a Solution and I was just a giant Not-Amy-Adams-in-Enchanted (I was still wearing pajamas for Pete’s sake, she’d have been adorably put-together even if she’d had to cut up the curtains to get there) getting in their way. I will take my Happy Working Song back to my desk and finish my own business, thankyouverymuch. Do your thing, Robins of Many Sizes.
So I got my cleaning cloth all ready and did the final wipe-down of glitter and sequins from Paquita and, TBH, last year’s Nutcracker. I dusted a picture frame and admired my babies looking out at me from it, and put the last spools of thread back in the holder. I ran the vacuum. And then the phone rang.
“I just got hit on 495.”
It’s super nice that I’m hearing the voice I know and the word “I” at the front of that sentence, instead of a stranger starting it with “Your husband and son”, I think. Our boys’ age group is very aware this time of year that it’s the anniversary of a parent’s life that was lost in an auto accident. We’ll deal. Whatever it is.
We’re fine, just a scratch, not much impact.
What do I need to do?
Nothing. Just waiting for a trooper.
Someone swerved into my lane and I instinctively pulled to the left to avoid the impact on Buddy’s side, and grazed someone in the left lane.
Is it driveable? Should I come down there?
No mirror, but I think it’s driveable. I’ll see what the trooper says.The other person is fine too, and the original swerving guy drove off.
As the conversation continued, I wandered through the house. Giggles floated down the stairs from Thing 1’s room, where she was happily chatting away to her friend. Real talking and laughing, not just texting. I love hearing her laugh. Gosh, I’m glad she’s home and not in New York. I noticed the socks sitting on the coffee table – they’re always somewhere that isn’t the hamper. Those beautiful socks have to get washed for semi-finals on Friday. It’s all a get-to, not a have-to. It always was, but even more so now.
Buddy still wants to go swimming. I still have to get his uniform.
Do you need me to do it? Are you too shaken up?
Trooper’s here. I gotta go.
Phones don’t click anymore, but I instinctively hear one anyway, despite it being more of a boop-boop. The quiet is even louder now. I start thinking I’m now in the eye of the eye of the hurricane.
I practice a whole lot of gratitude. Optimism is not my default. What is: something along the lines of Nervous Nelly. It takes practice, so practice I must. I practiced in January, when a tree fell on our shed and house, but not our kids. I practiced in February, when Buddy broke his toe but not his whole foot or his neck. I practice all the time, with variable rates of success. I practiced again: our car is a bit banged up, but not our people. People die in accidents on that highway all the time, but these two dudes are A-OK.
I went upstairs and told Thing 1 what was up. Did I mention I was glad she was home under my roof? The dog started crying again. I get it, you miss your Person. I swear, she feels it. So I took her out for more sniffing and peeing.
The bird was still stuck in that trampoline.
I put the dog back in.
I was not about to try getting in there again, but I propped the opening wider and tried to make myself more annoying. Didn’t work. I’m super charming, even if by now I am wearing running clothes instead of pajamas, instead of an Amy-Adams-in-Enchanted gown. It was tired out; it had probably been doing this for hours. It was mostly sitting there, occasionally fluttering to one side or the other. Meanwhile the whole blessed Robin Village was cheering for it, or maybe yelling at it.
Come on! You can do it, Buddy! Just throw strikes. Get it over the plate. Watch the steal. Eyes on the ball. Load up. Watch it all the way in.
Find your fifth position. Start the turn on the “five”. Straighten your knees. Square your hips. Spot. Turn out. Point your toes. Smile.
I’m a crappy translator, but I think that was most of it. There were a lot of them, and they all had their own ideas and advice.
It let me get close on one side, and talk to it through the mesh. I was wondering if it was hurt by now. I noticed it was sprouting feathers around its eye-ring and wondered if that was a sign of bird puberty. Maybe it’s like bird-years-eleven and having hormones, and there are all the uncles and dads and like a million coaches who think they’re flying experts because they’ve been flying their whole lives, telling him what to do. Maybe it’s like bird-years-fourteen and also having hormones duh, frustrated that everything just seems harder than it has to be sometimes, in between wishing things were as simple as when it was little and wishing it had more independence, and money for that matter, and why does it seem like everyone is staring at it while it tries to figure this out, and ew, I look so gross in that picture, don’t post it.
I didn’t take any pictures just in case. But I thought about it.
It’s not hurt. After we chatted a bit I stuck a large branch in the mesh opening hoping to call attention to it. No dice. I tried the walk-around-and-make-suggestions approach some more, but still, no. I finally decided to remove the mesh from the trampoline on one side to give it a wide opening at the low level it was capable of reaching. I found the knot where it was tied on, and started picking at it. Seriously, what paranoid mother assembled this trampoline and tied this GD knot one hundred and fifty GD times? Gah!
Right about then, the mosquitoes came out. As I picked at that stupid knot for several eternities worth of West Nile, Triple-E, and Zika paranoia, I said some curse words at those jerks. Why do they always go for the face? They wouldn’t do this to Amy Adams. They’d be untying the knot for her. And seriously, these Robins could just STFU and use the picky parts of their beaks. My nails are only so good here.
Eventually that stressed-out mother’s knot came out and I was able to get a wide enough berth for it to fly out through, and I’m pretty sure the Swiss Family of Robins were all on my side at this point telling Fun Size what to do, but I couldn’t be on one side holding it up and open while also scaring it gently urging it into going that direction from the other side. I tried to prop it up with twigs (nope, too breaky), then legs from the cornhole game (nope, too short), and eventually took a tip from the community activist robins (teamwork makes the dream work!) and phoned Thing 1 to come down and help. Yes, I called her from the backyard. I’m not lazy, I was in the middle of a Project.
She skipped outside and cartwheeled across the backyard to get to me (what, like you walk?) and she held up the mesh with her go-go-gadget arms (why didn’t I think of that first? She’s super long!), and I talked my new friend into heading in her direction because she’s wicked likeable. Ding-ding-ding! Success! Freedom! So much winning!
Only, Fun Size just sat there on the ground.
All the grown ups kept up their hollering and he just sat in the grass like, “Enough. I’m done, guys.” Chirpers gonna chirp. You’re alright, dude. You do your thing in your own time.
I tied the trampoline mesh back up. Tightly. You know it. This mama don’t play. My baby is okay, just a scratch on the car and not even on him. Barely even worse for the wear, and that’s how I’m keeping him.
I cursed at the mosquitoes some more, and hoped Fun Size and the Fam would stay chubby by eating all of them and their relatives too.
It took a while to get everything tied up, but when I was done he was still sitting there. Yes, of course I’ve decided it’s a he and I’m pretty close to picking out a name that’s better than Fun Size. Don’t judge me, you’d do the same thing.
I went and sat down a few feet away. I told him he had a tough day, but he was alright, and those guys weren’t yelling at him, they were just trying to help. They think they know, but maybe they just don’t remember. I told him it was going to get easier when he was a little stronger and his body proportions made more sense. He blinked at me. I told him he could sit there if he wanted to, but eventually the fisher cat was bound to come around and turn him into a snack, and I’m not kidding they are real and they’re here, and even I’m afraid of them– and that’s what it’s like, this world that doesn’t hesitate to chew you up. Stuff happens. You can’t let it eat you. You have to keep going or it wins.
I gave him a little while longer. Sometimes when it’s been a Rough Day, you need to rest.
Then I picked up the branch again, and placed it in the grass next to him. I didn’t want to come close enough to make the bigger dude birds shun him from the nest, so I slowly moved it closer to him, not wanting to nudge him physically, but just give him the understanding that it was time to go. He blinked, I nudged. I tried to encourage him without embarrassing him. I nudged closer.
Off he flew (without even saying “I love you”) into those tall, gross, unkempt bushes that I never have time to do anything about (nor would I because honestly when is that my priority? I’ve got baseball pants to wash and a Nutcracker to midwife). Behind him went the whole vociferous chorus of relatives, darting in and out of the bush like crazy for the next few minutes firing away at him nonstop.
Next time don’t swing so early. It was a great at-bat, don’t sweat it, you made that guy use a lot of pitches. Tiny bit late there.
Next time pull up in the front of your hips. Don’t tuck your chin when you turn. Use your plie or you won’t get the push you need.
Mr. Catherine came home and took a nap. I ran three miles without him and understood. I picked up Thing 2 from his swim and he chatted happily about summer plans, in a future he’d never questioned for a second. I made burgers and guacamole and let them eat chips with dinner. Thing 1 kept her relaxed and happy spirits right through setting the table, if you can believe that, and Thing 2 didn’t protest as much as usual when he was called back to the table when he thought he’d escaped.
The Eye of the Hurricane day ended up not-so-quiet, but almost as uneventful as I’d hoped. With some perspective, it wasn’t ideal but I’ll take it.
Some days are hard on all of us. Sometimes they’re the days that were supposed to be the easiest. But despite all the suggestions and negotiations, the warnings to issue and heed, the nagging to be done and obeyed, the rules to be learned and followed and tested and tried, the “we’re only looking out for you”s and the “I can do this myself”s, and the relentless noise and laundry and dishes and storm of these difficult years, the nest will only be full for so long.
Hopefully, we and the whole gosh-darn blessed village will have chirped at these guys just enough, and from a place of love and hope – and they will have received help from unexpected places too – to help them fly successfully.
And hopefully too, they’ll fly back to us sometimes once they’ve grown and flown.