Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, June 5, 2008

For the Birds

"The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I was eleven I was given two birds for my birthday, one male green and one blue female budgie. Their names were immediately designated as Buddy and Holly in recognition of their superb musical talents.
That in itself caused some people to be startled. My aunt visited often in those early days with her small son, who loved the novelty of my pet birds; whenever he returned to his home the tiny child would astonish his neighbours by chattering about Buddy Holly. His listeners could not imagine how a two or three year old child might know about the ill-fated singer.
One day not long after I got the birds, my brother and I were home alone when a fellow knocked on our door. He was there to read the electricity meter inside the house.
As he was making his notes he caught sight of the birds.
I told him excitedly about them and what their names were. After a quick perusal he said solemnly,
"I know birds. You've got two males there."
My brother and I were adamant that we knew the man who had sold them; he was a friend of the family and I had asked for a boy and a girl and named them accordingly. He would neither have made a mistake or cheated us.
"Definitely," said our visitor. "You won't be able to breed them."
I had childishly looked forward to generations of baby birds and was completely devastated. I gather the man was sorry he had told us, and he went on his way regretfully.
The birds lived for eleven more years, dying within six months of each other after a long and hearty life and shortly before I left home to go to the United States.
In 2006 I had to return to Ireland- for more than a very long year as it turned out- to prepare paperwork to rejoin my Spouse.
The birds had been a pleasant part of the household for so long that their absence was still palpable, especially given that I had been living away from home for most of the time they had been gone and I had not really lived at that house without them.
One afternoon through an open window I caught voices outside; my cousin was speaking to a fellow in a van by the side of the road.
"I pass by this house every day. I never stop but I always remember two children in there, and they had budgies that I told them were both male. I'll never forget it."
Fifteen years later, there was our former meter-reader reminiscing about a brief event in which he delivered some bad news- something which he had thought about for a decade and a half every time he drove past the house. And I, who ought not to have been at home in those circumstances was there to hear it.
Naturally I went outside and introduced myself and the man was quite taken aback in the first place that I would remember the incident, and in the second that I might be there at all just as I had been all those years before.
When I think of that fitting and evenly-concluded encounter, I wonder too if somewhere out there, a group of now-elderly women are getting together and remembering a prodigious child they used to know who was familiar with Buddy Holly.
I think that two birds never travelled so far and so long.


polona said...

gosh, such coincidences are truly amazing!
great story.

tangobaby said...

That child was probably more wise and aware than most of the adults nearby (except for Mater).

How satisfying to have a resolution to the tale, even though it took far too long.

Anonymous said...

A great story and well told by the writer. Very entertaining. Coincidences in life have always amazed me. Thanks for sharing this neat tale with us.


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, thanks so much. I hardly thought that guy would still remember and I'm glad I met him again.

Tangobaby, Mater thanks you for your compliment ;)
It was a resolution, wasn't it- though nothing was the same by the time it came around.

Steve, thank you very much. I'm glad you liked it.

hele said...

What a beautiful story, its rustling made my brain dance with new neurons.

Jaime said...

Oh this is such a beautiful story.

I don't believe things just happen randomly by chance...I truly think that things happen for a reason, even if it takes that many years for the whole story to come together.

I'm sure that man found great comfort in you after all this time.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hele, what a marvellous thing to say. You are so poetic :)

Jaime, I'd like to think he thought the same, that the story ended when we met again! Everything is connected, I think, and we shouldn't be surprised when coincidences happen. The world is too small for things to happen otherwise.

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