My mom is awesome. There, I've said it. My mom is really one of the best moms that anyone could ever hope for. She's always there to talk, she's fun to have around, and my whole family is really good about helping each other out. I'm stuck in the office today, on Mother's Day, but I was thinking about all of the things that Mom has done for me over the years as I plugged away at the computer today.
About two hours ago, I was working on some boring xml files, when a baby bird flew into my window. He didn't hit it very hard, and tried to change direction just beforer running into it, so it wasn't one of those awful collisions in which you just know that the bird is dead. It was still noisy enough to scare the bejesus out of me and make me spill hot coffee down my front and across my desk.
As I sponged off with some Microsoft-issue paper towels, I watched the baby bird sit on the ground and shake his head a few times, trying to get his bearings. He was really quite small and cute, and he looked utterly alone. It was probably one of his first flight attempts, and he clearly hadn't gotten the "Don't fly towards those big shiny surfaces" memo.
Only a few seconds later, his mother found him. She hopped over, gave him quick once-over, and nudged him a bit.
I know birds don't have particularly expressive faces, but you could almost read the relief in this little guy's body language. She took a couple of hops away from him and looked back. He hopped unsteadily after her.
A few seconds later, he opened his maw and started begging.
His mother began gathering seeds and bugs from the ground to drop into his demanding gullet. She seemed to have an air of patient parenting about her, although I know that her behavior is more instinct and less about tolerating lazy offspring. This "baby" is probably getting to the point where he can peck his own food off of the ground. He's learning to fly, afterall. All his feathers are grown in, and with the exception of the window incident, he looks as though he's about ready to start taking care of himself.
I started to wonder if maybe this baby bird, who I'm calling Larry, is possibly a great big teenager who's refusing to learn to live on his own. Maybe Larry technically CAN fly and get his own food, but he'd rather mom do all the work for him. Clearly, I have issues with anthropomorphism (I think I used the term correctly this time), because I was really beggining to ponder taking Larry's mom aside and saying, "You know what? I think Larry can handle this on his own. Also, did you noticed that Larry is getting a little pudgy? Just a thought."
And then I remembered a time that I like to call The Worst 6 Months of My Life.
For some reason, my sophomore year in college sucked. It's a long story involving a crazy roommate, an overly-sensitive Dorm Committee, a vindictive Campus Housing Office, and something that was referred to as "dorm dynamics". The long and short of it is that, in the spring of 1997, I sort of lost it. The drama of a bad living situation that refused to get better really wore me down.
I became depressed. I couldn't stop sleeping - I would literally wake up, eat breakfast, and go back to sleep for another 23 hours. I got very strange infections under my cuticles so that my fingertips were swollen and red and painful. Then I lost my appetite altogether. To top it all off, my grandfather was very ill and I was thousands of miles away. I remember calling my mom and not really being able to say anything at all.
Mom could tell that I was cracking. She flew me back to the West Coast to visit my grandfather. Then, she and I went on a road trip around the rainforests of Washington State. We circled the Olympic Peninsula, staying in small rustic lodges, going for long hikes wearing bright yellow rain slickers, and eating fresh seafood by roaring fireplaces. It was the best time I'd had in ages, a very therapeutic experience, and still a highlight of my life. My mom picked me up out of my slump, reminded me that there were people who cared deeply about me, and took care of me when I most desperately needed her help (it should be noted that my mom, who is a nurse by trade, was also the only person to correctly diagnose my case of appendicitis - the doctors had it pegged as all kinds of other things).
Even though I was technically old enough to take care of myself, it was good to have my mom there, being a mom. I was 19 years old, but I felt like a 9-year old. I was helpless at that point, emotionally drained and physically ailing. I don't know how things would have gone if my mom hadn't sensed the desperation and pain in my voice. I might have dropped out of college.
Basically, I had run into a big glass window. And I might have sat there on the ground with no idea how to go on if my mom hadn't hopped over and nudged me, taken me under her wing, and reminded me just how much she loved me.
I returned to college after a couple of weeks, feeling refreshed and ready to make the best out of a lousy situation.
Today, when I was watching Larry the Baby Bird hop around as his mother patiently fed him, I was a little concerned that he wasn't maturing fast enough. But now I realize that Larry's mom was just helping him up after he fell.
Chances are that she had seen him crash into the window, and fretted a bit over her teenager. Then she swooped down, gave him a little nudge, and fed him until he remembered how to feed himself.
About an later, Larry started pecking at the ground on his own. Maybe his mother's patience ran out, or maybe he just remembered how to take care of himself. But thank goodness his mom was there. I'm sure that Larry is, in his own way, really thankful that he has such an attentive and caring mom.
Just as I am thankful.
(Photo by Fabrizio Salvetti)