Saturday, June 29, 2013

Small Miracles



Every summer when I was a child, a gray catbird made her nest in the lilac bush that grew near the house. In the early evenings after dinner, my mother would sit on a lounge chair on the screened porch with a book and a tall glass of lemonade and she and the catbird would carry on a conversation.

Belonging to the mockingbird family, gray catbirds make a variety of sounds; the most distinctive is a sharp, catlike meow, easily imitated. For several minutes, Mama and the catbird would amuse themselves by meowing to one another. Finally the bird would break into a complicated song and my mother would give up, laughing.

I've since then associated catbirds with my mother. After Mama's death on a chilly October day, long after all the songbirds had departed, I sat in the yard of my childhood home, thinking of her, missing her. A persistent sound made me look up and there on the nearly leafless lilac bush sat a lone catbird. She called out several times before taking flight. "Mama?" I called after the bird, but there was no answer.

A few years ago, on Mother's Day, I was idly lounging on my board swing, reliving the wonderful day I'd just spent with my daughter and her new little family when a catbird flew to the branch just in front of me and began to sing. I simply sat and stared as the bird serenaded me. Then with a harsh meow it flew off into the underbrush. "Mama?" I called after it? There was no answer, but it seemed possible.

Tonight I was reading in my screened tent when I heard a catbird. She was perched on the top of the far clothesline pole. Meow, she screeched, over and over. "What?" I asked her? She hopped to the near pole, still calling. "Meow," I called back. "Is that you, Mama?"

The little bird became agitated. She flew to the side of the tent and clung to the pole. She dropped to the ground and peered in at me. She flew to the lilac bush that grows near the front door of my cottage, calling the whole time. Finally she darted into the small maple behind the tent and sang her mockingbird song, a string of rapidly ascending and descending notes. I gave up, laughing. Do I still think it's Mama? You bet!


photo by robinsegg at http://www.allaboutbirds.org

8 comments:

Barbara Shallue said...

You have such a beautiful way of telling a story. I've never seen a catbird, but I hope to one day, and I'll think of you and your mama!

Brian Miller said...

smiles. just checking in on you...what a very cool thing...i would not be surprised...very cool story pauline...

Out on the prairie said...

Very nice, I love their song.I marvel when I listen to them singing out their heart. My father always said he would come back as a bluejay so i always love it when greeted by this bird.

Pranavam Ravikumar a.k.a. Kochuravi said...

:-) Loved it. The beautiful moments and your love through out the write.. Good wishes!

Tabor said...

Yes, nature touches our hearts and who knows what familiar spirits reside there?

Molly said...

What a lovely story Pauline! I often hear similar stories of people feeling that someone they loved is contacting them....but I am sad to say when my parents died it seemed like a door closed, a final curtain dropped. There's still time though....I think you have to have a special ear for it.

Gary said...

Wow! And, why not? I love stories like this that remind us that once we are connected we are forever dancing around one another in one form or another.

Sitting on the porch with a glass of lemonade and a book and laughing at a catbird is a lovely image.

Pauline said...

Barbara - thanks :) No catbirds in Texas? You can hear one here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/gray_catbird/id

Brian - it makes me happy to think it's my mother, so I do :)

OOTP - it's comforting isn't it?

Thanks for stopping by, Pranavam

Tabor - exactly!

Molly - I'm sorry you never felt your parents around you again. Perhaps you will some day...

Gary - love the thought you expressed here - I agree, we ARE always dancing around each other in different forms.