Listening to birds with Mom

The birds are what I remember the most.

In kindergarten, I would stand with my mother on the front steps of the two-bedroom, white Point O’ Woods cottage we rented, and we would listen to birds I later learned were towhees. They would sing a song of three distinct notes which my mother would mimic in English so that I could remember it:

“Drink your TEEEAA!” she would delightfully command, drawing out the final word, then looking down at me with a smile and closed eyes, hunching her shoulders slightly, as if she and I were part of a holy conspiracy.

Maybe it wasn’t so much the birds themselves, though I do admire them even today. (And some of their cousins aren’t bad eating).

But birds, I suppose, have always meant intimacy.

It was my mother translating the song into a memorable phrase. A few years later, when I was in second grade, it was the Hasidic men, dressed like tired old crows, who’d sit on the green wooden bench inside Central Park at 98th and Fifth Avenue and who used to let me in on their fun of feeding the pigeons bread crumbs. It was the eagle I saw a few summers back, all by myself, at daybreak–when I felt intimate both with the winged mother providing for her offspring and also with the Divine allowing me to be a part of that moment.

The moment froze but had motion; its aroma was eternity.

In eternity, nothing ages. You can move around in eternity. Spread your wings. Fly.

I’m still 5 and listening to birds with Mom, and I’m 55, watching the purple martins fly low to the ground and catch mosquitoes at dusk.

purple martin
Courtesy: Home Depot


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