Sunday, December 16, 2007

gifts and small blessings

This morning I was given an armload of chickadees.

Well, okay, no one walked up to me and handed me a bunch of twittering and excited birds, but when I was walking Champ the injured pitbull through the nearby vacant lot just after dawn today an excited throng of little birds fluttered and hopped all around the stalks of blue chicory, now gone to bird delighting seed. What can I say? It felt like a gift.

The ravens were out in great flocks as well, calling from the oaks, swooping down to the pavement at the school. Champ tried to catch them, as he always does, though I tell him he really can't fly, tug at the leash though he may. He doesn't believe me. My youngest son never believed me about this either; he was so certain, when he was 5 or 6, that the whole family knew how to fly and probably did so when he was asleep. These days he spends a lot of time earnestly holding up two fingers, one and then the other, and saying his words for "good" and "evil". He is perpetually trying to figure out the world; his other categories of preoccupation are "real" and "not real". He'll be 19 this spring, something that seems incredible to me for many reasons. Because he had such a difficult first few years, in which every wind, every change in the weather sent him into pneumonia and desperation. Because, as a person with Down Syndrome, he just doesn't quite look that old, though his prized fuzzy beard is growing in. Because...well, yesterday I was 19, and this is my youngest child.

How can that be?

I was recently off in another region, in a city, in an apartment looking out to the ocean. And there's a long story to be told there, of old friendship and the passing of time and the joy of taking time out of a life full of distractions and obligations, but this is not the place to tell all that. Still, when I was there, with a cherished friend, I glimpsed, on her bookshelf, a blue vinyl volume. High school yearbook. Our senior year.

Well, being a writer and a narcissist at that, I was curious to read what I might have written back then to my dearest friend. Of course, I also teased her by reading aloud a lot of the other nicely scrawled know the sort, "you seem like such a nice person; it was nice having you in Spanish class" or "I hope to know you better in the future". There was one by a guy neither of us could recall that sounded like a confession of true love. How had we missed that one? Well, he was younger than we were.

My statement, written in my still childish hand--it wasn't until I was in my 30's that my handwriting got some strength and dash--said pretty much "it is so odd to be writing to you". And I added a line of cryptoscript, bidding her "make that say whatever you want". I don't remember doing that. My ever faithful and loving friend thought it highly original. I thought it was a writer's cop out, personally, but inscribing year books is not a highly thought of field.

And we laughed. One of her cats captured and killed the dread feather duster (he is diligent in protecting his mistress from the incursions of the hot turquoise monster). It has been a long, long while.

Indeed, it has been pretty much a lifetime, though I'm hoping we have a couple decades left to us. Her mother said, one afternoon, "I still feel 17". Yes, I said, I know that feeling too. It was kind of nice to know it would go on--this lovely woman is going to be 85 next year, and still flirting madly with attractive young men. "Oh, women really love tall guys" she said to one blushing checker, and nudged me "don't they?" I chimed in in the affirmative "oh yes, especially when they are so cute". He asked us what we were doing that evening. Thanks to her I am kind of looking forward to becoming a thoroughly wicked old lady, scandalizing the neighbors.

"Ever see the movie Harold and Maude?" I asked, as we left the smiling--and yes, very cute--guy. Turns out to be one of her favorites. Ah yes.

It has all made me think more about blessings, about my life of such wealth. Traveling to that city I talked a while with a woman on a train who said "If you have three friends who will drop everything and come to you when you need them you are rich beyond most". Why yes, yes I am.

Gabe and I are cutting snowflakes from bits of paper. I have to keep adjusting his hand so he doesn't end up cutting himself, and it is a slow process, but the end result is very pretty. Tonight the streets of this little town shine with rain and colored lights; this morning my cats managed to turn on the radio, blasting the air with old Christmas songs sung by little children with clear and delicate voices. Coming to the door I thought surely we had morning carolers, how odd. No, simply the cats doing their bit.

Does it connect? Well, of course it does, this time of year, when connections are made with more ease, and the air is bright with renewed, impossible promise. And chickadees.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might also like Venus, with Peter O'toole.
You must have my birds, they seem not interested in the feeder they have been visiting all summer. I suppose someone is offering them something better. Perhaps its time to put out the suet?

11:00 AM, December 17, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I suppose Christmas really is the time of year for "counting your blessings" (which reminds me of "White Christmas", one of my favorite movies). And of course, at this time of year, we become aware that we ARE getting older... so strange... I suppose we all picture ourselves as being eternally 18 years old (or 25 years old, in my case!). The grandkids are arriving soon, the snow has been falling, on and off, all day, the mountains are still and soft with fog... So, I look through my old "Nautilus" yearbooks, and wonder, "What happened to that crazy kid, the one who spent summers down at the Santa Monica Pier? The kid who flew kites on blue-sky windy days at Franklin School? The kid who had dreams and hopes and an unending future?". Well, he is now an old man, sipping on his cuppa tea, with a fat old cat in his lap, and an old terrier laying by his feet. And you know what? It's not so bad! Regards, Jeff ;-)

2:41 PM, December 18, 2007  

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