Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Turtle Dove

We were eating lunch one day last week when I first noticed the turtle dove outside our dining room window. The bird would land, peck around our wood pile, then take flight again, finally landing in the nearby lilac bush. This sequence took place many times through the duration of our feast of leftover ribs, reheated baked beans and cold milk. 

That afternoon I sat outside on my laptop and worked in the sun while the kids napped. I am not a bird watcher by any means, but I was excited to recognize the turtle dove back again, busy as ever. I stopped my work in order to observe hers. 

She was picking up twigs and dandelions and taking them into the lilac bush to build her nest. Incredible! Piece by piece she plucked and placed. Sometimes she’d drop the twig or weed and would swoop down in a rush and try to find another. I slowly walked over to the bush to confirm my belief and saw the nest, quite large, resting on a branch. I got back to work so I wouldn’t bother her. 

Then I made the mistake of hosting a post-nap ecology lesson for the kids. We went outside and quietly (as quiet as 1 ½ and 3 ½ year olds can be….which isn’t) snuck over the lilac bush to spy on the turtle dove.

Sure enough, she was resting in her newly created home, sitting straight up and alert to the chaos on the ground. I swept the kids up and we went to the barn to pick on someone our own size: Daddy.

When I was preparing for motherhood and in the act of delivering our children, I didn’t have an appetite for fanfare. My mother even asked to come in and visit and I declined the offer. This wasn’t the time to ask me if I’d seen how nice the produce selection at Aldi had become. Minutes later, she was at my bedside, encouraging me. I’m not sure who let her in, but something tells me it was my husband who needed a break from the 26-hour ordeal. 

I guess this is why I’ve tried to keep the kids away from the turtle dove for a few days, while she hopefully prepares for her family. At every meal we talk about her and every morning Caroline is quick to run to the bush to see if she is home. It is not easy keeping curious minds and hands away from something so intriguing and special. 

Particularly when we need some new life around this place. We scraped a cat off the highway two weeks ago and on Saturday Caroline brought me a cracked egg in one hand and a feather-less baby bird in the other. I didn’t react well to her presentation. Another ecology lesson and much hand scrubbing followed.

I think, now more than ever, it is critical to help our children find the magic in ordinary days. 
To watch a bird build its nest or an ant fill up on dropped popsicle pieces or clouds evolve into shapes and animals in the sky. 
To enjoy ruining clothes in soil and gravel and sand. 
To feel soft grass on their tender feet and experience eating a grape tomato warmed from the sun. 

We should be cautious about what they see and hear. There are unsettling words, stories and images all around them right now. 

Caroline prayed recently, “God keep away the wolves, werewolves, coyotes, the virus and mean geese.”

I was taken back that she knew enough about the virus to ask for God’s protection from it. I was also curious about her experience with mean geese, but I decided to save that question for another day. 

So for now, we’ll shut off the damn news,

focus less on mean geese

and be more like hard working turtle doves

who have built their home

on visible hope for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quarantine Cut

After looking at Easter photos I realized that Cyrus’ hair was so long you could barely see his piercing blue eyes. It was beyond time for a haircut, but all the shops remained closed due to the times we're living in. 

I asked my husband if he could cut Cyrus’ – an extremely active 1 ½ year old – hair, because I certainly wasn’t doing it. 

Do you remember a time when you came to the realization you weren’t talented in an area? I remember clearly a day that I decided to trim my Barbie styling head’s hair. Barbie styling heads were a big deal in the late 80’s. They were simply the large head and shoulders of a Barbie that you could apply make-up to and style the hair. It was very basic training for your first homecoming dance. 

With purple Fiskars in hand, I began the trim on one side, and slowly twirled the head around while I snipped precisely, from ear to ear. When I finally got around the entire head, I spun her around to learn that the cut ended in a perfect spiral. In fact, the left side of her hair was down past the chin, and by the time I got done, the right side of the head had hair above the ear. 

It was then that I knew: I wasn’t cut out to cut hair.

Fast forward thirty years and my husband was plugging in clippers and snapping on guards in our kitchen. My blood pressure was rising.

I sat Cyrus on my lap and wrapped a towel around him like a cape, then kissed his cheek. The clippers began buzzing and he jolted. But dad talked to him throughout the process and he became completely calm. He giggled when Cody went around the ears. 

White hair began falling onto the towel and he fought to get his arms out. He grabbed a handful and studied it like snow. 

I grabbed a handful and set it aside. That handful now rests in my cedar chest in an envelope, “Cyrus’ Quarantine Cut 2020”. If you come to his graduation open house in 17 years, you’ll probably see it on the display table. 
I have a damn hard time letting go.

Then, the mood suddenly changed when Cody began dropping hints about how badly he, too, needed a haircut. The hints were unnecessary; I’d been living in the same house with him 24/7 for 45 days. 

I told him the Barbie styling head story and he either didn’t care or didn’t listen, because by the time I wrapped it up, he was sitting in the chair with a towel wrapped around himself like a cape. 

Two minutes, many verbal complaints and an acre of dark hair on my kitchen floor later I told him:

“Listen, pal. I can’t do a fade. I can’t blend. I can only take little bits off a time and hopefully not an ear.”
“OK,” he replied. “Well, my girl in town can do all of it. Just try.”
“Ok, well, your girl in town went to school for this. She has a license to run these clippers. I only have a license to drive a car,” a snipped back.

“Daddy. Who is your girl in town?” asked Caroline. 
The three-year-old took the words right out of my mouth. 

It took twenty minutes and four trips to the bathroom mirror for Cody to agree that we could end the charade. 

He was somewhat content with his fresh quarantine cut, 
the kids were covered in dark hair from playing on the kitchen floor and 
I was hiding a dirty little secret: a 1” x 1” patch I shaved bare behind his left ear.

You can keep a secret, right??