Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Spreading the Love
I'm not sure how old I was when my grandfather died of lung cancer. I was young enough that the memories come back more as splashes than waves: being surprised that such a physically imposing man (he was 6'4") was confined to a bed; the gentle reminders to be quiet as I played in the family room with my sister and cousins; going into the bedroom one-at-a-time for visits; it being dark except for the glow of a candle when it was my turn inside. I also remember each grandchild receiving a monetary gift from my grandfather to spend as each of us wished. I don't remember now if it was $25 or $50. I do remember that it was enough to give someone as young as I was a moment's pause as to how I would spend it. I wanted to be respectful of the gift, to get something that would last and remind me of my grandfather. I decided on a bird feeder. I had spent many afternoons at my grandparents' house watching birds and squirrels with my grandmother. But most importantly, the bird feeder went front and center in our backyard, a daily reminder when I looked out our kitchen window - one that stayed there well past my high school years until the wood began to decay and it had to be taken down.
I hadn't given much thought to bird feeders until a couple weeks ago, when it dawned on me that I haven't had one for years. Even before the purchased bird feeder, we had made the typical run-of-the-mill pine cone and peanut butter versions and displayed them proudly in our trees. Such bird feeders gave me a special feeling of responsibility as a kid. I remember going into Poor & Sons to buy bags of seed and the sense of pride I felt carrying the seed out of the store, as if I was taking responsibility for a little flock of wildlife - that my small action somehow mattered. What made me stop making these simple bird feeders? When did I get too old or too busy to do something so simple that used to bring me such joy?
So, I was thrilled last week when Jason brought home a bag of seeds from a generous coworker (Thanks, Ruby!) intended for Audrey to use in her own bird feeder endeavors. Yesterday, we spread out the vinyl tablecloth and got down to business with our peanut butter, birdseed, and some heart-shaped cardboard cut-outs. If you are interested in the bird feeders we made, you can find instructions here. There is something satisfying about pulling out the tablecloth, knowing you're going to make a mess - and then following through with that mess. The smiles that getting messy elicit from your little one and a sweet little valentine to share with the birds are more satisfying still. We let our little seed valentines dry overnight before taking them out to hang on our fence this morning (we really need to work on planting trees this year). I can't tell you what Audrey was thinking this morning as I lifted her up to loop her bird feeders around our fence posts, but I was remembering what it felt like to be hoisted onto my grandfather's shoulders and have my head skim the ceiling above.