Friday, August 10, 2012

Gifts abound (alternately titled - I think I might cry too much)

Yesterday, I was given a gift.

Gram-E came over for her usual 5pm visit with the children.  On a typical evening, she reads to the children while I finish dinner, reads to them while they eat dinner, and then reads to them up until the second she has to wedge herself out of the front door through the books, hugs, kisses and "don't go!"s that follow all of that reading (what can I say, my kids love a good book.  Or ten.)  

Gram-E puts up with a lot sometimes.

Yesterday began a bit differently.  As 5pm approached, I realized that our must-do weekly Costco run had become a must-do-NOW run (apples, bananas, and grapes bought in bulk disappear seemingly overnight in this house) and in desperation asked if she minded if I step out as quickly as possible to hit our favorite big box store.  I anticipated an after-work nightmare crowd, but Costco was surprisingly quiet and I breezed in and out in record time (considering my previous record of 30 minutes included two children under 5, it sounds less impressive now that I think about it).

The ability to do this simple errand sans kids and sans crowd was in itself a gift--truly.  It is, as they say, the little things that make life easier and happier.

But the real gift came during the 7 minute car ride home.  Without Frances and George in the backseat (did I mention I ran the errand alone?), I was able to tune into my favorite, favorite news show "All Things Considered" (rivaled only by my other favorite news show "Morning Edition") on NPR--another gift.  I calculate that since stopping my career, I've listened to about an hour and a half cumulative of NPR these last 18 months.  So any chance I get, I crank up my radio to 88.9, sit back, and let my mind absorb as much information as it can until the next coveted alone time.  Yesterday, I happened to catch an entire news story (again, an anomaly these days).  It wasn't about strife in the Middle East, the upcoming 2012 presidential race, or even the current Olympic games--all newsworthy and important events, but mercifully taken up during the first 45 minutes of the program.  Instead it was a story about a small, beautiful bird that lives in New England--the loon.

The story narrator, a writer who spends her summers in a cabin on the edge of Acadia National Park, described spending this particular summer watching a pair of loons nest and breed in the cove outside her office window.  Loons, she said, are exceedingly private birds and to have two within eyesight on a near daily basis is "a great honor."  As is typical to this type of bird, her loons bore two tiny, black, fuzzy chicks who spent the first weeks of their lives perched on the back of one of the parents.  She watched them care, feed, protect and teach the little chicks, who had now become teenage loons and on the eve of leaving their parents' safe nest.

While I loved listening to the parental roles of these exceptional birds, my favorite part of the story was the writer's description of the bird calls.  Loons, she explained, are never alone; even when they are out of sight from their soul mate, they are not out of call range.  "Where are youuu;" "I am hereeee" is how the author describes their calls, back and forth to each other throughout the day.  And at night, loons serenade each other and the world around them.  Their calls become songs, almost aria-like in length and pitch.  As the five-minute story came to a close and the loons' calls faded in the background, I realized tears were streaming down my face and landing squarely on the steering wheel.

I have no idea why I cried.  Maybe it was the nighttime sound of a place I have longed to visit (Acadia National Park - I've even purchased a guidebook for that elusive vacation that may be several years down the road).  Maybe it was that I have a special, sappy place in my heart for all things animal related--I want to protect them as though they were my own children, I fiercely admire their gumption in continuing to raise young in an environment that us humans have made increasingly difficult, and I wonder what it must be like to be a parent in such an unsure situation (of course, maybe I am).  Maybe it was because as much as I admire the "wild" in wild animals, I also find myself personifying them; imagining Will and me calling to each other in the night, ensuring the safety of our chicks and our better half.  

In the end, though, I realized that my tears were those of gratitude--my 7 minute drive home yielded enough alone time that I was able to hear a story about something I knew nothing about--water birds in Maine.  And now, I know a little bit more.  My brain, my heart, my interests were all reignited again and the kids (at least not directly) had nothing to do with it.  My love of learning hasn't disappeared; it's just been in hibernation and at times difficult to wake up in a life revolving around giving, doing, and teaching--and that excites me.  Preschool excites me.  And apparently, loons excite me.  (And yes, the irony is not lost on me that I cried over a story featuring a loon when at least half of you reading this are probably thinking, "holy heck, this girl is looney tunes herself.").

For those of you interested in hearing the actual story, click here.  I can almost guarantee you will not cry (because, dear friends, none of you are as crazy as I am).  But you will be amazed at the bird calls and may even stoke a little learning fire inside your belly, too.  At least, I hope you will.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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