Three Little Wrens

Spring and early summer means birds nesting, hidden eggs in some hideaway, the loud chirping of mother birds and the eventual shallow squeaking of the babies when they respond. This is especially true in barns. I mean, what bird could possibly resist? Shafts of golden straw and hay, strands of long hair from horse rubbing their manes on fences all woven together with Spanish Moss from nearby Oak trees.

We were lucky to have two separate nests this summer…of course, when the mother flew up from seemingly nowhere, it caused our hearts to jump. Fortunately, she situated her second nest in a less conspicuous stall and we were able to monitor the babies from a safe distance.

One morning, while emptying the water buckets to refill while the horses were in the paddocks, we were alarmed to discover what I previously thought to be a “road apple” turned out to be drowned wren. Could it be the mother? We crept into the unoccupied stall to check out the now fledgling babies. Immediately three gaping mouths reached upward to receive food, obviously hungry.

Damn!

As animal lovers, we were worried without their mother they wouldn’t last much longer. Immediately, we googled “what to feed fledglings”. Isn’t Google wonderful? I never realized I’d done it wrong all those years ago. Under definite no-no list was bread and water. Surprisingly, soaked dog kibble (very soft) or crushed meal worms. I opted for the soaked kibble and a small syringe, all the while reminding myself their stomachs were half the size of a pea.

Frankly, we didn’t think they would last throughout the night but we tucked them in, made sure their nest remained intact and placed a small wool towel around the base.

The next morning we were greeted with three gaping mouths and high pitched squeaks. Hallelujah…we hadn’t killed them.

About two days later, we heard what was definitely a mature wren chirping quite loudly. Who knew suchIMG_3898 a small bird could emit a sound 10x its size? We continued to feed them but since we were now being scolded, we let the male bird take over…or what we thought was the dad.

Doing night check the following evening, we noticed the wee three amigos perched together on the stall door. We had watched the activity from the previous day. Obviously IMG_3901the parent had encouraged his entourage to spread their wings. It had only taken 24 hours for them to leave the comfort of the only home they had known up until then and begin their journey into the great beyond. Fortunately, we were able to photograph them before they disappeared entirely.

We are happy to report, the next morning they hopped from hay bale to hay bale before flying to the window and taking that final leap into the unknown. I’d like to think we played a small part in their success if only with a few meals.

 

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The True Definition of Perfection

In response to  DAILY PROMPT   https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/perfection/ 

They sat together as they had for years, tucked away in their booth, out of the way from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. Close enough to watch the fascinating dance of waiters carrying well balanced food trays weaving between tables covered with white linen cloths.

Slowly, he reached across to grasp her hand in a loving gesture of perfect harmony. He felt the softness of her skin and rubbed his thumb over the familiar simple gold wedding ring. A perfect moment where the din of the banging cutlery and china faded into silence. It was their anniversary and here, they could have their own miniature celebration before joining friends later that evening.

For those sitting nearby, their display of perfect affection drew slow smiles of appreciation and yet those witnesses probably didn’t comprehend the thoughts behind the value of perfection.

Perfection to him didn’t mean flawless or a fashion magazine’s interpretation of ideal beauty. No. As he caressed her hand, he could feel the soft skin dotted with well earned age spots and permanent creases. Cerulean blue eyes met his gaze…ones that had seen much edged with radiating crow’s feet signifying decades of laughter and joy. Lines from the corners of her eyes showed where life’s tragic events created a path for tears. Together, they had survived life’s struggles, family tragedy and experienced the most joyous moments life has to offer. When he looked at her, he saw imperfect perfection. The silver hair, the glasses, the soft lines of living and the knowledge that together they had weathered the good and the bad. In sadness, they had discovered  strength. In happiness, they had experienced inner peace. In frustration, they had learned the importance of patience. Ultimately, their imperfect life was perfect.

Ghostly Memories of Thanksgiving Past

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A writing prompt group I belong to threw out a suggestion about the aromas we remember from previous Thanksgivings. Perhaps it was from the fumes of paint stripper as I worked on a new writing desk that made me grab onto the subject and take time to ponder my response. After doing so, other memories from decades past bubbled to the surface and a face came into focus of one I hadn’t really thought of for a long, long time…perhaps too long.

As l remember, her salt and pepper hair was always pulled back in tightly pinned bun. After all, she lived on a farm and wearing one’s hair down just wasn’t done. It wasn’t practical and if my grandmother was anything, she was definitely practical. Every black and white Polaroid showed a taciturn woman, a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles perched on a less than feminine  nose, wearing a plain, cotton house dress typical of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that ended mid-calf and covered a thick pair of stockings rolled to just below her knees. The only words to describe the shoes she always wore are black, blocky and durable. I believe they were called “Cuban” shoes but definitely capable of trudging through the muck typical of a working farm. To complete the ensemble, Grandmother always wore a top to bottom apron, a virtual necessity of that era, which covered a range of duties from holding freshly laid eggs to protecting her frock from flour during bread making. Most importantly, the apron covered her ample bosom.

Legend has it, my grandmother’s ample girth and bosum hid untold treasures which was later confirmed by my older sister many years later. As the story goes, there lived a woman on the outskirts of town who, to put it delicately, serviced interested gentlemen in the county. Perhaps she was beginning to feel the time had come to pack up and move along but whatever the reason, she came to the decision to sell her forty acre parcel. My grandmother was a shrewd business woman who knew a good investment when she saw one. They decided to meet and while their two attorneys were hashing out details in the parlor, my grandmother and the woman came to a mutual and satisfactory conclusion, sealing the deal with a handshake in the kitchen over a glass of buttermilk. Then my grandmother reached into her bosum and pulled out the agreed upon sum of cash. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure her bosum was safer than the bank.

Truth is my grandmother had been widowed far too early in her marriage: a difficult and frightening situation in a town of about 150. By all accounts she remained stoic and faced the adversity the only way she knew how; with determination, pragmatism and a no-nonsense view of the world. That particular era seemed to be in short supply of warm and fuzzy emotions so I’m sure it couldn’t have been all roses for my father yet he possessed a delightful prankish sense of humor.  Looking closely once again at an old photograph of her, I swear I could finally see a little mischievousness in her eyes too. Perhaps there was more to this woman I always remembered as flinty and slightly distant.

As I continued sanding and stripping, a particular memory slowly came inching back. A visit to my Grandmother’s farm was the closest thing to bliss in my youth. There were pigs and dairy cows along with a stern warning to stay clear of both. She had three devoted Chows, two of which never left her side while the third, a teddy bear with a thick black coat joined me on my adventures. An abundance of bullfrogs and crawdads filled the creek that sliced through the pasture. She always seemed to have a new litter of barn kittens darting out and about the barn sheds. When the mood struck, I would leap on my pony with two lead ropes attached to the halter and ride into town for a cream soda at Pearl’s mercantile. I usually ended up tossing feed to the chickens and the two turkeys in the backyard. On this visit, however, the turkeys were conspicuously absent.

My mother called me in to wash up and a mixture of heavenly aromas hit me as I walked up the back stairs. It wasn’t until I saw my grandmother stand up in front of the cookstove that I mentioned the missing turkeys. Wiping her hands in her apron she didn’t immediately respond but did manage to block the opening. My mother shot my father a guarded look which I didn’t catch but before he could spill the beans about the truth of our guest of honor, my grandmother spoke up, explaining turkeys often wandered off for days at a time. “I’m sure they’ll return by the time you come for your next visit.” I must have taken her explanation at face value for nothing more was said.  She gave my shoulder a little squeeze before shooing me off into the living room to play Chinese Checkers.

Sitting down for Thanksgiving supper at a table covered with a vast array of the most delicious looking vegetables about twenty minutes later, a plate with a slab of ham was placed in front of me. In fact, everyone was served ham. If anyone had thought to question the menu, she must have silenced them with a warning gaze over my head. Maybe she didn’t approach every situation with knife edged bluntness. Perhaps time, age and life had taught her a little levity and holding on to childhood innocence a bit longer to be more important. As the memory came inching back, I’m certain of it.

I look at those old family photographs differently, especially those of my grandmother.  Yep. There was much more to that lady than she let on.

Hope everyone’s memories from holidays past bring a slow smile to your lips. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parenthood = Roller Coaster

From the moment they are placed in your arms, you are overwhelmed with this immense sense of responsibility. They capture your heart when you hear the first flutter of a heartbeat and the love continues to grow. And although you would never in a million years volunteer for the “Rip Ride Rockit” at Universal Studios, you have unwittingly signed up for a lifetime front row seat to the roller coaster that is parenthood.

From the moment they take their first step, you would do anything to shield them from hurt. You know they are going to stub a toe, fall off their bicycle or skin their knee and your heart aches. That’s just the beginning. Next there is the first trip to the Principal’s office, being omitted from a birthday party or worse, not being picked for the sport’s team and you haven’t even left the single digit age bracket yet.

After this stage, we watch as they move to new schools, filled with the angst of making new friends and the navigating the social pecking order. You witness the first crush and the first breakup. During this time, you heart sinks right along with their own, although by now your support is mostly silent…after all, they are teenagers and “they do know everything.” Are we done yet? Not even close.

We feel their pain wishing with every ounce of our being we could take away the sting, knowing full well these are milestones they must experience just as we did. Knowing this fact does not make it any easier. The challenges are bigger, the stakes are higher and a simple kiss can’t make the booboos go away.

Today, I unknowingly took my reserved front row seat on that exhaustive roller coaster. My son loves tennis. I’m not quite sure he understands the sacrifices required to become as good as he wants; only time will tell, but he has stepped up his game in the past few weeks. The next stage will involve competition…at least two tournaments per month, plus setting time aside to practice serving and using the ball machine for consistency. It is during tournament play where the rubber meets the road. Previous matches have not always resulted in a win which is a difficult concept difficult to grasp. This morning yielded the same result—a complete, unequivocal defeat. Needless to say, our young son exited the match disappointed with his performance, feeling completely talentless, stating he should quit but wanting a reason to continue. Unfortunately during times such as these, a parent’s words of encouragement just don’t seem enough. I gave him the same pep talk and pointed out things he might have done differently when I realized he’d crumbled into an emotional heap in the car seat beside me. Truth be told, these teenagers, for all their bravado, are still children.

We sat in the parking lot of Publix and for the first time, I kept my mouth shut; a first for me, unfortunately. I just let him vent, cry, and pour out his frustration. When he was done, we didn’t talk about it and just went to lunch. As luck would have it, next to our table sat a woman with her two sons. The oldest, probably 8, was having a full blown meltdown, albeit quietly while his younger brother, about 5, looked on. After things had calmed down a bit, the mother stood up to get the food and the napkins. It was during this time the younger brother said something to his older brother. Although we were watching, neither of us could make out the words, however, it became clear within seconds whatever it was displeased the older brother immensely. He gave his brother a deathly glare that could only be described as the most incredible “unibrow stinkeye” we had ever seen, again and again. We broke up laughing.

I don’t exactly know what happened to my son during those hours between matches. What I do know is when he walked out on the court later that afternoon, he was different. He carried his head high, walked with purpose and carried a positivWait for ite attitude ready to listen to the little voices of his coaches he carries in his head. Without fanfare or hullabaloo my son had grown up on his own…he had turned the lemons from the morning into afternoon lemonade. Every time he looked at me during the match, he gave me a confident nod. Gone were the outbursts of exasperation and the barely audible swear words. When he walked off the court after losing 6-2, 6-4, he proudly told me, “I think that’s the best I’ve ever played.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Time Waits for No One

Chase on the Beach in HawaiiOur son completed his second year of high school. High school…..the two words together almost choke me. Two words put together to create a whole new meaning. It leaves my head spinning as to how we arrived at this juncture at what seems to be warp speed.  Only a moment ago, they were placing a squirming bundle into my arms.  Just yesterday, it seems, he assumed the well recognized “knee-to-chin” squat position on a beach in Hawaii to closely examine some shells where he comfortably remained for what seemed an hour.

Nothing defines rapidity of passing time than handing the keys of your car to your young teenager when only a brief moment ago you were

Don’t misunderstand. We are very proud of him. There are times he displays such unbridled determination that he accomplishes amazing feats, startling himself in the process. During those times, he walks on air, five feet above the ground, unable to suppress his excitement. I live for those moments because every poignant triumph only reinforces his self confidence in a way no mere compliment can. But there is a bittersweet side as well, one parents wouldn’t change for the world yet the feeling looms ever closer with each passing year.

We used to look at college or high school years with a gentle nod of acknowledgement, yet we remained unruffled. Heck, those years were decades away. We had plenty of time for Little League Baseball, swimming, Christmas vacations with the relatives, choir practice, band, so on and so on. Until, all of a sudden, the realization that our sons and daughters are about to embark on their own path. The best analogy that comes to my mind is the bird’s nest we used to have outside our window when we lived in California. You would see the parents flitting back and forth, bringing food to cavernous beaks, in an endless tag team to keep their babies fed and protected.  As time passed, we would see the now fully feathered babies on the edge of the nest, stretching our their wings as if testing the currents, hesitant, curious, not quite ready. Looking up one day, they were gone, the nest unattended, perhaps a few remnant baby feathers stuck in the woven sides. Right now, our son is testing his wings, not quite ready to leave the nest, but ready to contemplate the possibilities before him.

It seems only a moment ago, I was on the very same edge. Full of doubt and trepidation, my father gave me a gentle shove. I’d been offered an outstanding job but it meant relocation from Illinois to New York. At the time, my father was recovering from a heart attack in the ICU and I felt my first priority was to remain close and help my mother. I secretly dreaded the thought of receiving a call in the middle of the night so I entered the hospital room to inform my father of my decision. I remember the nagging beeping sound of the heart monitor and the various catheters snaking out from the sheets. When I told him, he pulled himself up, looked me straight in the eye and quietly stated, in no uncertain terms, “You can’t live your life through me. It’s time for you to spread your wings. Now, I want you to get on that plane and take that job.”  You didn’t argue with my father when he used “The Tone”. However, walking down the ramp to the plane was the hardest journey I’d taken up to that point but it also prepared me for the moment coming.

We will never be ready to see the backsides of our children and, unfortunately the time comes along too fast. Way too fast. But when the time comes, I hope I have a fraction of the courage my father had when he spoke those words to me so long ago. So, although in my heart, I will be silently saying, “stay a little longer”, his father and I will urge him to follow his dreams, to not let anyone discourage him, to surround himself with truly positive friends and allies and capture his adventures. In our hearts, we will hold those precious memories we have accumulated and savor the remaining school years we have left. And tonight, when he is sound asleep, I will sneak to his bedside, give him a gentle hug, and thank God he was placed in our care over fifteen years ago.

Father and Son at Sunset_0038

Unexpected Priceless Moments

Today we celebrated my son’s birthday with a trip to Universal Studios, albeit a month late. He brought one of his best  friends and they settled in the back seat as I acted as chauffeur. Turning fifteen means very shortly they will be vying for the keys of any available vehicle but so far, they have shown little interest in getting their driving peruniversalstudiosmits. This suits me just fine not only because I worry about the risks of teenage driving, a very real danger, but because the ensuing backseat conversations and banter has throughout the years provided the most incredible entertainment ever.  I don’t know what subjects girls discuss, but as far as boys go, you can be sure there will be ample mention of flatulence, gross jokes, innuendos about their friend’s sexual apparatus and great deal of ribbing and trash talk. Best of all, there might as well be a glass wall between the front seat and the back seat for I seem to be invisible for the most part. There are no filters on these conversations….everything is just thrown out there.

Going to the park was mild by their standards…excitement about the day, knowing they could fulfill their junk food desires without restraint and best of all, making it a challenge to keep everything down as they tackled the assortment of rides and roller coasters. One stop they were determined to put on the agenda was the Harry Potter Candy Shoppe where they each nabbed a small bag of what jelly beansI thought were plain old Jelly Beans. My mistake. These jelly beans were actually Harry Potter Bertie Borrs Jelly Beans with flavors like earwax, bacon, spinach, grass and rotten egg to name a few. I wouldn’t have believed it until I tried a few and the mixture of spinach, pepper and sardine exploded in my mouth causing an immediate gag reflex. Blech!!!

On the way home, however, the exchange started to become really interesting. To entertain themselves, they created a new game: “Pop the Unidentifiable Jelly Bean” The only goal seemed to be who could last the longest before spitting out the offensive Jelly Bean. To protect the guilty I have labeled the boys simply by S and C. They each picked out a jelly bean, ate it and then waited expectantly. I didn’t have long to wait.

S: (laughing hysterically) “C! Dude, your face was classic! What was the flavor?”

C: (trying to maintain coolness) “Tastes like soap! Seriously gross man! It didn’t smell like soap.” (major spit reflex)

They pop another one and wait for the other to call uncle.

C: “Tastes like s***! Had to be spinach or broccoli!”

S: (His face crinkling) “Eeeeww. This tastes like pepper…like hot and nasty.”

C: “I heard they make one called booger!”

S: “Yea, they do. When we were up in Virginia and my friend Nathan got some. They also make “dog poop”, “vomit, and “dirt”.

C: “No way!”

S: “Uh huh. We tried them all. I’m pretty sure I puked, though.”  (To myself, I’m thinking; you knowingly ate candy that tastes like dog poop and vomit?????) Then they moved onto the jelly worms.

C: “Smell this one. This one smells good, kind of like limes.”

S: (Takes an enormous sniff) “Yea, that does smell good.”

C: “Dude. Your nose touched it.”

S: (chuckling) “Yea, it did.”

C: “You can have it……”

S; “Thanks.”

As we covered the miles, the conversation began to sink to mild insults regarding the others personal anatomy although I seriously don’t know how the topic veered so far away from the disgusting sugar treats. At some point, C makes the following declaration.

C: “S…..you’re just jealous of my wealth….you know…”

S: “Huh? I have no idea what you’re saying, C!!!”

C: “You know…down there.”

At this point, S goes in for the jugular, giggling hysterically.

S: “C!!! I have never heard that term before. Well endowed, yea but wealthy? Dude!” At this point, they involve me. “Mrs. C, have you ever heard anyone refer to their schlong with the word wealth?”

I said the first thing that came to mind.  “Okay, who wants Dairy Queen?”

No doubt about it. I’m going to miss these times when they’re over. Priceless.

There is a Time to Pause

Although several weeks have passed since I’ve found time to write, something happened today that gave me pause. Nothing serious although there was a definite toss of the dice. No blood spilled, no sprained ankles, no broken bones, no rush to a hospital which has been the end result of many of our escapades. I’ve often thought back to our medical adventures with a mixture of anxiety, followed by a pinch of humor after returning home. All of us have encountered accidents in our lives and they tend to shape our demguardianangeleanor to a certain extent. You either develop a slightly warped sense of humor or resolve to remain in a cocoon as much as you can. Of course, mishaps often occur more readily when working on a farm.

When we first moved to Florida, our farm, a dilapidated, unkempt pile of broken fence boards, debris, exposed nails and an assortment of heretofore undisturbed wasps nests, called for us to remain steadfast in our dedication to clean up the property.  Fortunately we were at the age where we still felt undaunted, fearless, capable of anything and, to be honest, a little stupid. At the delicate age of nine, my son heard his first bonafide expletive when I stepped on a nail protruding from one of those broken fence boards. It didn’t help matters to discover the board, lying in overgrown grass, covered a close knit nest of wasps. I regretfully confess, the swear word began with a capital F but in my defense, the situation called for a dramatic punch. My son, having had the bejeebies scared out of him hightailed it to the house which was fortunate since the sole wasp gunning for us only had eyes for my backside. First trip to Urgent Care.

Fast forward a few weeks when hubby and I tackled the overgrown vines choking the many oak trees dotting the paddocks. Hacking, pulling, yanking and severing the huge thick stalks threatening to choke the life out of the oaks.  We  worked all day while our son attended school, celebrating our victory with hot dogs on the grill later that evening. It wasn’t until the next morning when my husband and I awoke to our son asking us, “What’s wrong with your faces?” that we realized the vines we’d so enthusiastically attacked were, in fact, mature poison ivy vines. Second trip to Urgent Care. The doctor took a little more interest in us this time around. You could actually see the wheels turning as her curiosity grew.

They say third time is a charm. I would like to know who “they” are, Although, I can happily admit we stayed out of the Urgent Care for a whole three weeks, much more work remained to be completed. One Saturday, I decided to clean up the remaining fence posts while my husband made a quick trip to the local recycling center. The wasps had moved on, their nests eliminated, the piles of boards in overgrown grass had been burned and the grass bush-hogged. Two weeks earlier we had purchased a tractor with a front bucket. Placing the fence posts in the bucket required minimal effort. My son, a sucker for farm equipment had happily volunteered to raise and lower the bucket. We had even taught him to drive forward in turtle mode. Since he was on a need to know basis, we hadn’t taught him how to alter the speed so the tractor simply crawled when he applied pressure to the accelerator and stopped when he took his foot off. Things were going splendidly until the fourth load when my son noticed the lever for cruise control. Damn! Instead of putting his foot on the accelerator, he turned on cruise control. I knew immediately something wasn’t right when I told him to stop the tractor and he couldn’t, noticing the look of sheer panic on his face. He simply didn’t know how! The tractor continued to creep forward excruciatingly slow and began pushing me against the paddock fence. For some stupid reason in an effort to stop the tractor, I placed both hands on the blade of the front bucket and pushed back. Yea, like that was going to work. At the last moment, my son turned off the tractor and we were off to Urgent Care for a dislocated thumb.

We laugh about these escapades now and, thank heavens, my son has no horrific recollection of them. We changed doctors, understandably and have since mastered the complexities of farm equipment. Or at least, I thought we had. Today was a stark reminder of how quickly accidents can and do happen, even when one is capable, experienced and knowledgeable. The little patch of acreage where we hope to rebuild has some majestic oak trees and water oaks but years of neglect have left them covered with vines, underbrush and scrub growth. This time we hired a professional to help but old habits die hard. When my husband took off to pick up our son, I continued cutting here, pulling there. Picking up the chainsaw, I decided to begin where my husband left off. Now I’ve handled a chainsaw many a time. Although it’s not something one brings up in polite conversation handling a chainsaw often comes with working around a farm.  We were just finishing up a swath of small trees and as I slowly lowered the chainsaw, I felt a tug on my jeans. Sure enough, the teeth had grabbed the fabric above my knee and chewed open a hole about three inches. Thank heavens my jeans were baggy. Thank heavens I had taken my hands off all the buttons. Thank heavens the chainsaw wasn’t as sharp as it should have been. All this brings me to the above title.  My mother always told me, “Can’t never did a thing!” and I’ve tried to live by her motto. I love being able to tackle the hard tasks and jumping in without fear. However, I don’t think she was referring to chainsaws. Furthermore, at some point in our lives, one should really consider the possibility that although we CAN do something, the wiser option might be to choose not to and not feel regret for making the wiser decision.

I do know this….when I die, I’m fairly certain the guardian angel who was assigned to watch over me during my lifetime is going to walk right up to me and smack me upside the head.