Friday, April 25, 2008

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

Well, it wasn't really singing!

Our very own, first little house in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, had such a big yard and so many trees. It had been farmland that was gradually suburbanized, and many of the old elm trees had been left standing. Our little house started it's life as a four-room, built by owner. Nothing about it was really square or level. There were a couple of additions done over the years before we bought it. But it was what we could afford, and it was all ours! Maybe more about that another time. But, on to the topic at hand.

Linda and her sister shared a bedroom off the dining room. Next to that was the room of the three bears, er - the three boys. At the other end of the house was our bedroom. Since the sun came in the windows very early in the morning, we had them well-draped, so the room was fairly dark. It was rare that I slept past sunrise, but it did happen on the few weekend occasions that our five little ones played quietly upon arising. Since their rooms were at the opposite end of the house, occasionally I could sleep past their getting up. Usually, however, they announced early summer sun-up with delighted squeals, shouts, or other noises purposely designed to get motherly attention, not to mention breakfast.

Their Dad could be nearly as playful as his offspring. He had quite a little-boy penchant for mischief, and was not above playing pranks of one kind or another. One or the other of the children, sometimes all five, were usually the object of his attention, but he was definitely not above showing his devotion to me by sharing the wealth.

Once in a while on a weekend morning, Dad would get up early, and quietly closing the door behind him, see to the children's breakfast. On occasion, I would even be served breakfast in bed. This particular Sunday morning was dark with clouds left over from a downpour during the night. In other words, it was a perfect morning for sleeping late. He must have gotten up before dawn. The house was very quiet and I didn't even hear the stirrings of the children. What a treat! I snuggled down and continued whatever dream I was having.

You know how sometimes you awake very suddenly, and for no reason you can identify? Well, I don't know what it was, but I remember my eyes popping open, with a vague sense of something - I didn't know what - being not quite right. I didn't shift position. Only my eyes were looking around, trying to see what seemed to have caused the sense of unease I felt.

It was still very dark in the room with just a kind of gray light coming in around gaps between the drapes. Did I see something?


Holy @$&%!!

That got me really awake. I still didn't move, but I thought there seemed to be a vague, dark shape, maybe a small movement, above the window on the wall opposite the bed.

OMG! as the younger ones would say these days. I sure didn't want to turn on the bedside lamp, nor give any other indication that there was a living, though barely breathing, being under those blankets. I tried to focus my eyes in the dusky light so that I could see what that dark, shadowy "thing" was. A bat?? But how? My eyes playing tricks?


Well, I'd never heard a bat, much less seen one up close and personal, but I was pretty certain they didn't sound like that. Hmmm, was that some rustling I heard outside the closed bedroom door? Uh, huh! Something is definitely afoot. But, I'm not moving until I can get a better idea of what's going on and what my options are.

Slowly, I uncovered one hand just enough to reach the small flashlight on the night stand next to me. I pointed it downward and turned it on, trying not to let the little slider click. Then I gradually moved the light to focus on the "thing". And, holy "pallid bust of Pallas", the "thing" resolved itself into a very wet, very bedraggled rather largish black bird. It was perched, not above my chamber door, but on the pleats of the window drapes. Since those kept bending under it's weight, it was shifting from one foot to the other trying to stabilize its perch.

Of course, there could only be one culprit responsible for setting up this dastardly morning surprise. And he, no doubt along with some accomplices, was outside my chamber door. I suppose they were waiting to be rewarded with screams of fright. Or at least some indication that this little trick had gotten a response. Which they didn't get, by the way.

Evidently, a puppy had needed to be let out early, and just outside the back door, Dad had found this poor, wet, young crow. How could he possibly let such an opportunity pass? Well, he could have, but having a rather twisted, (in my opinion), sense of humor, he didn't.

Though we had rescued several little birds, among them our little Robbie, and the now-famous Chipper, this one was perfectly able to be rehabilitated to the great outdoors. Which happened very quickly. With great glee, Dad opened the door and retrieved the "raven".

"Were you scared?", the accomplices asked with anticipation.

"Not on your life!", I said.

(Darn. Moms aren't supposed to tell fibs.)


  1. Nice story, and by the title it sounds like you are a fellow Beatles fan. I think you're kind of young for that though, but then again I did a good job of raising both of my daughters to know and love all of their songs. So "take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise" :)

  2. That is a great story(-: I just love when someone tries to scare me that way...(-: You did real good keeping a straight face. That makes it all the more funny!!!
    I am glad the bird was rescued and he recovered to fly away(-: I also love to rescue strays(-: We have done our share of rescues over the years too.

  3. Jane Marie, This is a guest post from my mom. I'm older than I look, and grew up on the Beatles during the 60's. Mom has eclectic tastes in music, which she passed on to me. It was really fun growing up with a mom who appreciated contemporary music. We are very close, and it was one more thing we shared.

    Cindee, Dad was full of fun and surprises!

    It's so rewarding rescuing birds. We've had our share of hopeless cases, but the ones that made it inspired us to give each one the best chance we could.

  4. What a story that is :)

    Have a nice weekend :)

  5. Thank your Mom very much for sharing such whimsy with us. I enjoyed it very much!

  6. Thanks for all your positive feedback on the story. Linda's two younger brothers and her sister loved to test me. We lived in an area with some open fields the kids called prairie. The neighborhood children traveled around with their "finds", taking penny or nickel bets on whose Mom wouldn't be grossed out by whatever slimy, creepy crawlie they brought. My children always won the bets so they quit coming to our door. Linda's sister tried one last time. She was in Arizona as a graduation gift from us. She brought back a tarantula in a cottage cheese carton, thinking that would be the end-all gross out. (It had been between the tarantula and a horned toad.)(When that didn't work, either, I think they all kind of gave up on me. What can you say about a Mom that used to play with snakes and lizards when she was young?

  7. Shades of Edgar Allen Poe!

  8. What equanimity!

    I'd have been really, really cross!


  9. Mom, I always thought it was cool that you weren't scared of bugs and snakes and stuff. You were a role model to me in that regard, and I ain't scared of 'em either, don't remember a time when I ever was.

    Y'all, One memory I have of my Grandparents' Missouri Ozarks farm was Mom finding a little green garter snake and showing it to us children. She raised us not to be afraid of creatures many people fear. She appealed to our natural childhood sense of wonder at how awesome nature is.

    My sister was afraid of spiders. Interesting how she thought to scare Mom with a tarantula, don't you think?

    Sometime either Mom or I might tell the story of all the critters we got to have when we were growing up, and the baby critters we got to see being born. We grew up seeing babies born, and sick and old critters die. We saw nature's cruelty many times, once when a mother guinea pig ate her own babies. We experienced great joy and great loss with our menagerie, and learned so much in the process.

  10. Barbee and I were thinking the same thing--Edgar Allen Poe! I was also thinking you were too young to be writing this. Good story mom. And what a great mom you are also. My mom was scared of her shadow. I had three brothers who tortured her to pieces.

  11. Well, it definitely seems to run in the family. In my classroom we had a praying mantis (and her decapitated husband and babies), a tarantula, composting worms, and from time to time a huge guest lizard (and some fish, a parakeet and hatchling chicks). From day one my students knew I was kind of different in the creepy crawly department, and I think in the end they appreciated having a teacher who loved gross stuff as much as they did. I guess having a mom and grandma who could handle a wiggly earthworm or confused squawking crow with ease helped me on my way to being grossout-proof.

  12. Anna, she's a wonderful mom. She and I are very close, although we live over 200 miles away. We've been very close, kindred spirits as Anne of Green Gables would say, since I was born.

    Threetaboos, yep, not being scared of critters is a good thing to pass along the generations I think. You've certainly had your share of critters too, albeit a smaller version of the menagerie I had as a child.

    Your students were enriched and enjoyed hands-on learning in a way that kids who read about chicks hatching, what lizard skin feels like, how to compost, etc., don't get to experience.

    They'll never have another teacher like you, and you've made a lasting impression and a difference in their lives.

  13. Linda, I *finally* (huff puff--I'm out of breath) wrote up my blog Excellence post! :)

  14. Linda, I don't know if you remember when we went to the Kentucky State Reptile Garden in Bowling Green. The tour guide had some snakes to show. One was a very long - maybe 4 ft snake, that he offered to spectators to hold. I volunteered and one of the ladies near me almost fainted and had to leave. Another time, after your Dad passed away, I went to Florida and took an air boat tour of the Everglades. The pilot had a "pet" alligator that I held. It was about 5 ft long - small by alligator size. But interesting to notice how different critters feel when you touch them. It's also good to be cautious. If you don't know what the snake is, don't touch.

  15. Not sure if you check back to my comments for updates, so I'll duplicate: Good Lordy no, please don't start the E award cycle all over again! ;-) As I said, I'm not wild about the "snowball" effect, but I just wanted to call out blogs I enjoy reading, of which yours is one. And spending time in real gardens is always optimal! Blogging is much easier in winter, isn't it?!
    ~ Monica

  16. I didn't realize your mother had written this until I got to the very end; thank her for sharing this. Loved the references to Poe, and I'm still humming the tune from your title.

  17. Thanks to Linda's mom and Linda for this great story! I needed the clarification, too, at first thinking this was a more recent story.

    The only birds in our house were a series of parakeets - not a 'raven', but I can sure relate to the setting. Back when the Beatles came to the USA I also lived with my brothers and sisters and parents in an owner-built house in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Linda, you and your mom are so very lucky to have each other, and the siblings, as adults. I was wondering why you would name one of your own children 'Linda', then got it after your comment. It all fits together about not being scared, knowing the background of family trying to get you to respond to their teasings. All around a satisfying and entertaining tale. You, Linda, have inherited your mother's gift of telling a great story. Thanks. And thanks also for planting that song in my mind, it is one of my favorites.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  19. Monica, I do remember reading that. Thanks!

    Rose, Mom has done a couple of other guest posts, and I hope she'll surprise me with more emails in the future that she's been inspired to write another, and another. . .

    Annie, I'm glad you enjoyed the story. With all the critters Mom let us have growing up, she put her foot down on pet birds. The only birds we ever had were wild ones, and they were always only temporary guests seeking refuge from whatever storm it was in their lives that led us to them.

    I can't remember Mom ever turning down a stray in need of help, animal or human.

    Frances, I think one of the nicest things about Mom's and my relationship is it's never been taken for granted. Mother-daughter relationships can be very tricky. I never forget how lucky we are to have each other.

    Thank you for the compliment Frances! I do like a good story, and am especially fond of true stories with happy endings.

    Blackbird is one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs. It's been playing in my head the last couple of days too. It's a good song to have playing in one's head!

  20. What a wonderful story but I'm so glad it didn't happen to me! I think I would have screamed :-)

  21. Good story! esp the part about bats not squawking...

    sounds like there were a lot of laughs at your home growing up!


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