Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Daily Reminders

I looked out my window this morning. There are several berry bushes and a crabapple tree inviting a small flock of birds.

Three Blue Jays, four Cardinals- two males, two females- half dozen Juncos, a tufted tit mouse. Sparrows. I’ve not seen so many birds out my window before, all busy, a bright blur.

I hope the cat is in.

I smile. My mother and I used to watch birds together. I hear myself telling her what I see.

We would sit on the porch, binoculars passed back and forth, pointing out different birds to each other. Eventually, we’d see one we didn’t know and I would run to get the bird book from inside. The book would be passed back and forth, until we were sure the bird was correctly identified.

When I bought my first home, I put up a bird feeder. She sent me a bird book. We would talk on the phone about who was at the feeder. I would update her on my war with a particular squirrel. I can hear her laughter as I described the morning I looked out to find the feeder itself being eaten by the squirrel. And her delight in my spying a Baltimore Oriole. Out of season, I had to describe what I saw to be sure I was right.

When she moved to a new house, the bird feeder, next to an old cherry tree, was the focal point. A Red-Bellied Woodpecker showed up on occasion. She would point it out to my kids.

It has a red head, Ben said.

There already was a redheaded woodpecker when they discovered it, she explained. So they called it a red-bellied one instead.

Why? Ben was little. He did not understand. Grown ups could be so strange. My mother knew what he was thinking. She was wonderful with him.

She shrugged and said, doesn’t make any sense at all, now does it?

Enough gazing, I had a pile of bills to take care of and dentist appointments to schedule. I opened my desk drawer- I needed to find Ben’s insurance card and make a call about the primary care doctor listed. The very exciting minutia of my housewife role.

A letter from my mother, dated July 22, 2006 is on top of the mess. I see her small scrawl and start to cry. She is everywhere this morning. The birds outside. And now, a letter.

“Dear Sara,

I’ve needed to tell you how very much I love you and how I adore the boys, no matter what happens, those two things will never change.”

I’ll skip the rest. It wasn’t very nice after that line.

I can’t stop crying. I should to be over this by now. Moving on. And yet my mother is everywhere.

I looked up and the birds were gone as suddenly as they were there.

The cat must be out.

I said to Jeanine last night, please, try to remember, my mother just died. We had a complicated relationship. I’m having a hard time.

You want an excuse to be a jerk, she said.

Enough already was the message I heard. No more.

I have to stop mourning. Make dentist appointments. Call about insurance. I put the letter back in my desk. I have a fee schedule to read, a job description to approve and take hamburger out to defrost for dinner.

Stop watching the birds. Listening for her voice.

The daily reminders.

And move on.


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