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The Flight of the Baby Birds

So where did we leave off with the baby birds, in the rhododendron bush in the backyard?

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They really were in there.

First they were pink and a bit fluffy, and then they started the hard work of growing feathers, which meant they needed a lot of sleep, with short breaks for eating and nuzzling with Mom.

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The four babies slept in an undifferentiated pile, in a nest that became progressively smaller and smaller, or at least that’s how it seemed.

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One day, the oldest of the babies saw me coming with my camera and flew out of the nest. The next day, they all saw me coming and flew off in different directions. But not too far.

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And the following day, they were gone.

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A week or so later, I saw one of the baby birds, a teenager now, standing on top of Mom’s temporary greenhouse in the backyard. He had a speckled breast, alfalfa-like hair, and clumsy long feet. When I got too close, he decided to fly to a nearby window, where he saw his mirror image flapping desperately in the glass and lost his footing (winging?) and started to fall, barely catching one long toe on the window ledge below.

Clearly, flying is much harder than Mama Robin made it seem.

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P.S. Miss Butterfly has healed so well from her surgery that she was up to a visit to the groomer.

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“Now that I look beautiful, don’t you want to give me a chicken treat?”

 

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The Baby Has Left the Building

 

The next door baby has left the building, because he and his parents and all of his accoutrements needed a larger living space. I’m going to miss hearing the sound of a baby crying as I walk through the hallway. I’m going to miss seeing the stroller waiting for him in the lobby, two tiny sneakers resting in the seat. I’m going to miss running into him on his daily walk with his nanny, who cooed to him as they returned from an afternoon of reading stories at the library and visiting geese at the duck pond. Both dogs liked to sniff the wheels of the stroller when it came back from its walks, but they weren’t especially interested in the baby himself. Maybe if he had shared his snacks with them, they would have felt differently.

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“Treats?”

 

I will miss watching the way his nanny soothes him, and his Dad plays with him, and his Mom makes googly eyes at him, full of love, that make him certain that he is the most important person on the face of the earth. He’d just recently developed a sustained gaze and the habit of smiling at people who smiled at him, and I’m going to miss that too.

My niece and nephews are all past the baby stage of life, and firmly into the sarcasm years. People become secretive and duplicitous so quickly nowadays; the honest and straight forward self-expression that is babyhood is a very precious thing to have around.

Cricket was not happy when we went downstairs, without the dogs, for a goodbye party for our neighbors. She couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been invited, first of all, and she imagined all kinds of treats she was missing out on, that the baby was allowed to partake in. I’m not sure what Cricket’s vision of paradise is, exactly, but she’s convinced it’s the place we go when we leave her at home. And she’s bitter about it. Butterfly, of course, was fine.

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“How dare you go without me?”

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Butterfly was busy snoring.

We will have a new neighbor soon, and I’m sure she will be lovely (the baby’s parents were thinking of our cozy little building when they chose their successor). And maybe she’ll have a dog or cat or bird who I will inevitably fall in love with. But there won’t be a human baby, and his absence will resonate with me for quite a while.

When moving day arrived, the baby was whisked away to avoid the trauma of seeing all of his stuff being removed. But Cricket had no such luck. She could hear every horrible moment of departure, and she’s not good with change. She spent the whole day announcing the presence of the movers, as if she thought we hadn’t noticed the first few times she’d barked her head off. There was also the added difficulty that, if we tried to take the dogs out while the movers were still traipsing in and out of the building and along the walkway, Cricket would bark them to death, so we had to put off anything but the most emergent need for an excursion. Unfortunately, Cricket thinks that it’s an emergency when she smells a squirrel in the air, and she whines and cries to let us know her plight.

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“Strange people are in my building!”

Even Butterfly added a bark or two along the way, to support her sister’s protest, if nothing else.

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“I’m here for you, Cricket.”

So it was a relief when the moving men left and quiet returned to the building. Except, it was too quiet. The apartment across the hall really is empty and the baby is not coming back.

Now Cricket is resting up for the next phase of the endeavor, when the new neighbor’s moving truck arrives and disgorges a whole new set of men and furniture to bark at. Announcing the apocalypse is a tough job, but, Cricket thinks, someone has to do it.

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Resting, for now.

 

The Baby Next Door

 

My next door neighbor is pregnant and due at any moment. The last time I saw her she was on her way out for a walk, to try and shake the baby loose, but I’m pretty sure he’s still in utero. She and her husband are going to be first time parents, and they have all of the new furniture and rabid anxiety to show for it. They’ve had parents and siblings and nieces and nephews traipsing in and out of the apartment for months, offering help and advice and a chance to practice their parenting skills. The two year old niece who cried 24 hours a day was especially good practice. Cricket survived the experience quite well, I think.

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“I survived, barely.”

But I am worried about how Cricket will react to having a baby next door full time. I hope that she will be protective of the baby, rather than frightened by him. I hope that she will see the baby as a fount of wonderful new smells, rather than a source of unpredictable noise and movement. Butterfly will, inevitably, want to lick the baby and I’m not sure if that will be allowed. I have my fingers crossed that my offers to babysit will be taken seriously, and that Cricket’s presence will not count against me. Our downstairs neighbor is a pediatric nurse, though, so if they’re choosing between us, I’m pretty sure she wins. Though I do spend more time at home, so I have availability in my favor.

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That tongue was made for licking.

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“I’m a sweetheart, Mommy. I don’t know what you’re worried about.”

When the most recent child visited next door, Butterfly took up her spot on the mat by our front door, and listened to the child’s voice, mesmerized. It’s possible that she thinks babies know all of the mysteries of the world, and if she just listens long enough she will absorb all of that wisdom. Or maybe she can smell them from across the hall; the mix of poopie diaper and sticky jam hands must be intoxicating. Maybe our neighbors will only ask Butterfly to babysit, and I will have to stay home with Cricket while she grumbles under the couch.

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Butterfly is a very good listener.

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“Do babies like duckies?”

I don’t usually get to be around babies, and I feel the loss. People talk about a biological clock, as if the pull towards having children starts and stops at a given time, but my clock has always been ticking. I never actively chose to be single or childless. There are so many people, especially nowadays, who have made those choices consciously and are satisfied and happy with their lives, but that’s not me. I would have liked to be a full time mom. I would have liked to put all of my research efforts into figuring out my own children, and all of my fight into making their lives better. I just wasn’t up to it in time.

I used to babysit as a teenager, for friends of the family, starting when their first born was only a month old. I was there for just an hour or so during the day to begin with, learning how to bottle feed him and change diapers. I babysat for him, and his younger brother, for a few years, until they got a live in babysitter to watch both kids so their Mom could go back to work. Most of what I remember about babysitting was staring into the pantry, looking for cookies. I even drank tea when I was babysitting, even though I never drank tea in real life. I was very good at reading Thomas the Tank Engine books, but less expert at the diapering business. As soon as I was told that boy babies will pee at you, I developed a face averting/arm guarding/diaper-as-pee-shield routine that slowed the whole process down.

I only did a little bit of babysitting when my brother’s first child was born, and that was me and Mom together, so she could be in charge of diapers and messier tasks, and I could teach Benjamin how to sing, and help him with his bizarre baby yoga poses. Most of the baby sitting I do now, with my brother’s four kids, is just hanging out, being an alternative to those bossy parents, and playing with trains and computers and other fun stuff. I don’t have to force them to brush their teeth, or keep them from drowning in the bath tub, thank god.

But I’d really like to have some baby time again. The incredible high of being able to make a baby smile, or just getting locked in baby eye contact for a moment, is unforgettable. Cricket also thinks she could be good at babysitting. She would be very good at keeping an eye on the baby and alerting sleepy parents to any incipient emergencies: like a dropped bottle, a stab of gas pain, a serial killer trying to get in through the window, or, you know, birds passing by.

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“Birds!!!!!!”