Surely, I thought that life would be simple because my 13-year-old Gianni would be home this summer to assist me with Anissa, who is 4, and Amir, who is 3. Life could not be simpler, right? Almost every day he would load them in the Radio Flyer wagon and take them to Comstock Park on the Northside.
I love being on the Northside. It has such a diverse group of people. I see Somalian refugees with their beautiful headdresses and robes carrying baskets of clothes on their heads to the laundromat.
Anissa always yells, “Hi, hi, what is your name? Hey, hey why are not you talking to Anissa. She said hello.”
She also talks in third person, which adds another dynamic to her being.
The woman always looked confused and it was obvious it was because she does not speak English and Anissa speaks so fast that I sometimes look at her quizzically.
The woman one day said, “My name is Mali from Somalia.”
She stood there.
There is also another woman who always carries her items in a wheelbarrow and she seems quite content and in shape, I may add.
One of my favorites is the woman who rides a 10-speed bicycle decked out in a dress and high-heeled shoes. My ultimate favorite, though, is the guy who rides his bike with a radio/CD player on the back and every time he hits a bump, the CD player skips.
My neighbors are also really cool. I don’t have to worry about getting dressed up to put out the garbage. Sometimes I look quite crazy while outside doing various things, but this is where I live. I have owned the property for 12 years, which was a single family home and once
was the residence for my neighbor, who lives across the street with his parents and his eight siblings. He is in his sixties. He told me that when he lived in the house there were 8 children and his parents. It is a great old house over the age of 100. The house was turned into a duplex at some point in time, which allows me to have an office and much living space and still tend to my babies.
My neighbors to the right have a toddler, too, so we have one big porch as the children have claimed their porch as ours. My neighbor across the street is an artist and is painting a mural on her fence.
The Northside is my little bit of New York. I would not be as
happy living anywhere else, I believe. Everyone always smiles and says hello. Those who walk by say that they love our landscaping, which I must admit myself is quite beautiful. I need to have something to piddle with when my fingers are not hitting the keyboard. My mother, Kay, has come twice this year and worked magic on Michigan soil. She has a harder time with the clay soil in Georgia.
My daughter, Anissa, gets very offended when people do not say hello to her (as noted with Mali). I have to often times restrain her from hugging people. Amir I have to restrain from digging in the dirt. He seems to find dirt anywhere he can. On any given day, unless he is inside, he will find one ounce of dirt and will be covered with it.
Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich becomes a facepainting session.
I am grateful, though, that he likes to take a bath.
On this day, I was happy to get them out of the house. It was a deadline-day Tuesday and it was crunch time. I heard the pitter-patter of footsteps to the office entrance.
I checked my clock and thought, “They have not been gone long enough. What has happened?”
Before I could even get out of my chair, I heard Anissa screaming frantically, “Mama, Mama come here!”
I opened the door thinking that someone had surely lost a limb, an eye or even worse.
Anissa was standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips, breathing hard and batting her eyelashes with major attitude. She said, “We found a … there’s a … and … we had to walk home.” What ever she
was talking about had her in a tizzy and she was not happy about it.
Amir quickly followed up with some additional comments, while showing me his finger, that were not even translatable with the “Guide to Understanding Baby-Talk Babble.”
I looked to Gianni for guidance, who was looking like he discovered a gold piece in the dirt under the tree that you had to get to by following a long-lost treasure map. His mouth was open but he wasn’t saying anything.
“What is going on?” I asked Gianni, who was looking at me like I had 3 heads with 10 antennas.
He pointed to the wagon and said, “A baby bird fell into the wagon.”
Inside the wagon was a baby bird surrounded by ice cream wrappers, a pine cone and some grass. It was a toddler baby bird, but still not old enough to fly.
I thought to myself, “Why me today? I have to send the paper over tomorrow and now I have a baby bird in my care! I have three children to take care of and still have to check a manual for that.”
The bird was cute, though. Its mouth was open, pecking at everything including fingers, which was the reason why Amir was holding his finger out excitedly while babbling.
The bird was obviously hungry. Of course, it was dry outside and there were no worms to be found. We overturned every rock and stone. We found plenty of crickets, rolly bugs, spiders and two frogs, but no worms. I frantically went from neighbor to neighbor and wondered if I could wait until my neighbor, who used to live on a farm, came home.
I could not, so I soaked a piece of bread in water and began to feed the bird. We all stared into the Radio Flyer as my novice hands trembled, because I was now responsible for the life of a baby bird, who Anissa named Princess.
In a matter of 30 seconds after beginning to feed the bird, I became keenly aware that birds carry diseases.
“Who touched the bird? Did anyone touch the bird?” I screamed. I washed everyone’s hands with bacterial soap. I cleaned their nails and everything. I could not remember if the West Nile virus was only carried by living birds or dead birds. I was taking no chances.
While I washed hands, Princess turned her/his head into her/his feathers to take a nap.
I started to make phone calls to pet stores to inquire about what I should do for the bird. No one could tell me. I even called Ingham County Animal Control and they could not help me. They told me to put the bird back where it was found. I thought deeply and decided to call Lansing Parks and Recreation’s Fenner Nature Center. They came to the rescue and gave me the name of a woman who I could call who volunteers for the Capital Area Wildlife Association. I was relieved.
I saw that my neighbor was home and I ran to her for assistance. She gave me a can of cat food and an eyedropper to feed the bird with. I called Carolyn, the bird lady, and told her that a bird had fallen out of a tree and into my children’s wagon.
Carolyn asked me to explain what the bird looked like. I told her that the bird had a little mask and yellow on the tips of his tail.
“Oh, that sounds like a Cedarwax,” she said.
“Oh,” I replied. I thought to myself, “Can you please come and get the bird? My children have grown attached to it and I feel like a zoo keeper over here with my little dropper!”
She told me to scoop the bird out of the wagon and put him/her in a shoe box. I asked if it was all right that I fed her cat food. It was so ironic that I was keeping Princess alive by feeding him/her the food of one of a bird’s natural enemies. She said that it was providing the bird with protein, so it was fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. One more day with Princess.
I started thinking about how much time I had spent calling all of these people to make sure that Princess was in the right hands. My husband, Frank, was looking at all of us like we were crazy.
We made arrangements to meet each other at Kroger in Holt. I did some deliveries. It was a totally bad week. We were down to one car while the other was getting fixed. It was taxing.
We finally make it to Kroger and all of the children are in the back seat and it is time for our final goodbyes.
Of course, Anissa’s eyes filled with tears and she started to cry deeply and said, “Goooood Byyyyyye Princess, we are going to miss you.” I wanted to give her an Oscar Award because she was making me feel guilty. What was I going to do with Princess!?
Anissa continued to cry about and said, “We will never find another bird as beautiful and nice as Princess.”
Carolyn took the bird and drove away. Anissa began to cry louder. I was smart, though. I pulled out the last straw in an attempt to stop her from crying, a pack of Skittles. She smiled even though the tears continued to flow and said, “Can I have all the green ones?”
I stood in the parking lot and picked out all the green ones for her while the other two stared at me with the “What about us?” face. I split up the rest of the pack and drove out the driveway.
Every time I think about the Radio Flyer, it brings a whole new meaning to wagons. My family even walked to the store and filled it with food. It has come in handy and has been more than worth the money. With snow around the corner, I realize that we won’t be able to use it anymore.
By the way, Anissa has not mentioned the bird since we dropped her off to Carolyn in the Kroger parking lot. I am sure though that one day she will bring up her experience at the park with Princess the baby bird. I wonder what event will trigger the memory. I will let you know.
Rina N. Risper
P.S. For all of the mother’s out there who do not cook a lot or feed their children fruits and vegetables, you are setting up your children for disaster. In order for us to keep our children healthy, we need to make sure that they eat right. More men are cooking today and that is great but please don’t rely on him to cook all the time. This advice goes the other way too. Unhealthy bodies start with unhealthy food. Some unhealthy attitudes toward foods stem from childhood. Give them a fruit instead of a cookie.