Protect the Baby Birds: A Story of Motherhood from Pollyanna

This morning Molly greeted me on the rear patio wearing her forest green Girl Scouts t-shirt, a flowing cotton A-line hand-me-down skirt in finch print two sizes too big, and a pair of worn, pink ballet slippers half a size too small. In her hand was a wooden Nutcracker bear she’d picked up off the clearance shelf at Target a few years back. It had been abandoned on the steel shelf out in the garage when we moved-in last August. At what point she’d found it, I’m not certain, but ever since she’s made up her mind that she’s meant to be a ballerina.

I’d been outside piecing together the jagged edges of a story I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. It’s about my Southern Kentucky roots, the fear of a vengeful God, and racial tensions that have been handed down like ancient family heirlooms that should’ve lost their charm by now. When and why the South decided to resurrect the devil’s tomb, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it was never buried in the first place; perhaps it’s just been lurking on the outskirts of town and in the tight crevices of our own dark basements.

The weather’s been exceptional over the past two days, brewing the perfect conditions for writing outdoors. The Pollyanna breeze has been forgiving for July, and it gently kisses and wraps itself around the curvature of my bare arms. Leaves rustle in melodious bursts. Our wooden wind chimes sing along as the birds gladly rejoice in harmony amongst the sky and the trees. Days such as this have me longing for oversized-sweaters, biking past piles of autumn leaves swept to the sides of our neighborhood streets, and a good pumpkin ale by the fireplace.

Molly has been rambunctious lately. Her impulsivity can sometimes get in the way of her better judgment, but she’s working on it. She’s been getting in trouble a lot, mostly due to the hard knocks of growing pains. Whereas we used to step over her tantrums, she’s now old enough to require a respectful pause and engagement. Typically, I allow her to finish and cool down before engaging her in grown-up talk about mindfulness and all the confusing and complex hallways of her deepening emotions, none of which she’ll come to fully understand for quite some time.  There’s something to be said about little girls approaching adolescence and the onslaught of puberty:

“Her spirit needs conditioning, a constant reminder to trust herself; her soul to honor the unique aspects of her girlhood that overflow with a sense of self-worth, courage, and strength.”

Yesterday Molly had gone outside to play soccer when she suddenly appeared sullen in the doorway. “Mommy,” she said. “There’s two dead birds in the driveway.”

“Maybe a cat got them, or a raccoon,” I replied. “I’m sorry baby, but that’s the nature of things.”

“Can you please move them?” she asked. “I think they’re babies. It makes me sad looking at them.”

I turned off the faucet where I’d been washing dishes and wiped my hands on the sides of my loose-fitting, cotton t-shirt. I walked over to Molly and bent down to her level. Reaching out, I took her hands into of mine, noticing how much larger they seemed from the last time I’d embraced them. She’s quickly approaching nine, and I know that soon she’ll be well into double digits like her sisters whose tired ballet slippers and old clothing she now wears outside to play.

“Let’s say a prayer,” I suggested. Joseph toddled over, turned around, and sat in my lap between Molly and I.

She looked down and thoughtfully replied, “Okay, Mommy.”

Dear God,

Dear God,

Please give the mother birds peace.

Please give the mother birds peace.

Please protect the baby birds.

Please protect the baby birds.

Amen.

Amen.

I left Molly inside to help Joseph put on his little red velcro sneakers as I retreated into the garage to recover a shovel. In front of my car were the limp bodies of the baby birds’ remains. Their necks flopped to the side as I coaxed them into place, scooping their corpses into a yellow plastic grocery bag I then placed in the garbage bin at the edge of the driveway.

This morning Molly seems to have made peace with the unfortunate outcome of her baby birds. She twirled along the gray, rock slates of our back patio and stopped before me on tippy-toes. “Did you sign me up for ballet, Mommy?” she asked. Without pause, she ran over to the back door and plopped herself down next to a pair of black, industrial grade rain boots, noting that it looked as if a storm was on its way.

the Book of Empathy & the Art of Storytelling

~ Mommy Saves the World ~