For “You have got to be ****ing kidding me” Moms everywhere.
On our special day.
I love Mother’s Day. My own mother is one of the most beautiful souls I know. I come from a long line of amazing women who love their families very well. My husband and children always make me feel so special on Mother’s Day. I love seeing my newsfeeds filled with pictures of Mamas being honored by their families with cute hand-written cards, breakfast in bed, flowers, and the smiles of their sweet children filling all of our hearts to bursting.
I can remember one of my earlier Mother’s Days, sitting on my grandmother’s front porch trying desperately to get my kids to take one – just one – decent picture with me where they were looking at the camera and not picking their nose, biting their brother, or eating dirt. I begged and bribed – they ate no less than four packs of fruit snacks each – and it all ended in tears, mostly mine, because I just wanted that ONE picture. C’mon, mamas… you know you’ve been there. For every one perfect moment we have to show the world, there are no less than fifty moments of total chaos. Today, on the day we celebrate Moms everywhere, I give you a story of total chaos, from which there was no coming back, and a Mother’s Day I will never forget.
For the record, on this particular Mother’s Day weekend, my husband was away for work as he often is, so it was just me, the kids and the dogs… and this baby bird.
The previous owners of our home planted two trees in the backyard, both as Mother’s Day gifts. One was just outside the kitchen window – a Bradford Pear tree – that the little barn swallow birds loved to nest in. About a week before Mother’s Day, we had a pretty decent thunderstorm that knocked one of the baby birds from the nest. My 10 year old daughter Izzy found the little one and was so worried for it. All I could think was how completely heartbroken she would be when this little bird didn’t make it. She was determined – she googled what you could feed baby birds, woke up early before school to feed and care for it, and after three days, the little bird was still with us. As the weekend neared, I started to feel a trickle of dread. We were leaving town for the weekend to go visit my mom for Mother’s Day and there was no way I was taking that bird with us. Izzy and her older brother Samuel read online that baby birds could eat blueberries, so they cut some into small pieces and put several in the box, along with grass and a flower (why not), and closed the box. The kids put some holes in the top of the box to allow airflow and put the box in the flower bed around the base of the tree.
We headed out on Friday afternoon and spent the weekend with my mom as planned and Izzy didn’t talk much about her bird back home. I had no less than five nightmares about what we might come home to. When I really thought about it (always a mistake) an animal of any decent size that wanted to get into that box probably could. We lived on about two acres and our property backed up to farmland and some woods. We had seen coyote, foxes, skunks, raccoons, not to mention the neighbors’ cats that roamed about. In all honesty, I hoped that if something got into that box, they wouldn’t leave evidence of a blood bath and we could go on believing the bird got out and flew away on its own. When we hit the road on Sunday, the questions began:
“Mom, do you think the bird has had enough to eat?”
“Mom, what if the mama bird came back?”
“Mom, what if the bird couldn’t get to the blueberries?
“Mom, what if it was too cold?”
“Mom, you don’t think other animals would get the bird, do you?”
Eventually, I caved and told her that I hoped the bird would be OK, but that we had to be prepared and accept there was a possibility that it hadn’t made it through the weekend. She was a little quieter after that, but then reassured herself that everything would be fine. I hoped she was right but the closer we got the more I feared the worst.
We have two dogs, Lucy and Maggie, both rescues and both mutts. Lucy is the oldest and definitely the alpha. We were told she was a German Shepherd mix, but our vet thinks she is more Rhodesian Ridgeback, also known as African Lion Dogs, which are hunting dogs. Lucy is the sweetest dog, very protective of her people, extremely smart, and with obvious hunting tendencies. Maggie is a shepherd mix – Blue Heeler, Australian Shepherd, Cattle dog, etc. – and she is definitely the watcher. From a young age we noticed that when we were in the backyard playing, she would always mark the perimeter of our space and sit and watch us. If any of us left that space, she would follow until we came back, then she would sit and watch some more. Maggie is bigger than Lucy, but doesn’t have an ounce of aggressive instinct in her body.
Lucy spent every spring under that Bradford Pear tree, barking and jumping at the birds. Ironically, and this is important, we nicknamed Lucy ‘Bird’ after she proudly dropped a dead bird on the back porch for me when she was a puppy. Lucy had knee surgery in March so she wasn’t chasing anything that spring. We boarded the dogs with our vet while we were gone, as I was still concerned about Lucy having too much excitement and receiving the appropriate care for her still healing knee. We picked them up from the vet on our way home and loaded them into the back of the car, leashed and squished in with the kids and suitcases, and headed home to find out the fate of our baby bird.
“HE MADE IT!”
The minute we pulled into the driveway, Izzy was out of the car like a shot. I panicked a little, because I wanted to check the box first (just in case), but the dogs were losing it to get out. Samuel got out of the passenger side and opened the back door to grab Lucy’s leash while I grabbed Maggie from the other side. I was just telling him we needed to take the dogs inside and telling Izzy to wait for me when the fastest five seconds of our lives happened.
It’s important to note a few things: Samuel and I each had a dog on a leash on opposite sides of the car. I was closest to the house while he had the car between himself and Lucy, and the house, so I couldn’t get to either of them without rounding the car. Samuel was taking Lucy to the grass, further away from me and the house, to go potty. Lucy weighs about sixty-five pounds and Samuel, at the time, was probably close to ninety pounds. Maggie weighs about eighty-five pounds.
I had my eyes on Izzy, who hadn’t complied with my request to wait for me to check the bird. In two breaths, she shouted, “HE MADE IT!! HE MADE IT!!!” and then let loose a blood curdling scream as she lifted the flap of the box and this -very much alive bird – began flapping and jumping madly. I have seriously never seen a bird create so much movement. Izzy still has a hold of the box – mid scream – and there is grass and feathers flying everywhere. As I am making my mom-hero move to save Izzy from this mad baby bird, Maggie plops all eighty five pounds of herself at my feet, so that I must leap over her ‘assume-the-possum-position’ form, and I see a blur of brown out of the corner of my eye and notice that neither of Samuel’s feet are on the ground. He has lost the battle of holding Lucy’s leash and is breaking his fall into the grass.
Izzy’s next scream is accompanied by her involuntarily shaking the box as I am calling desperately for the dog, whose protective and hunting instincts have been simultaneously and irrevocably activated. In what can only be described as an impressive display of prowess, Lucy leapt from the driveway up the stone ledge to the grass at the exact same time as that damn bird made it’s escape, jumping clear of the box, having been given a boost by Izzy’s shaking it. Dog and bird are both airborne as we all watch in abject horror as the bird is caught mid air, a foot in front of Izzy’s face, by Lucy’s waiting jaws. All movement ceased and for a second it was dead quiet while the dog turned away from Izzy with the bird – who has surely died of a heart attack – in her mouth. The next second Izzy let loose an ear shattering, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!” and I can still see the horror in her eyes when she turned them on me and said what all Moms love to hear in moments of absolute chaos:
“MOM!!! PLEASE!!! SAVE IT! SAVE IT! SAVE IIIIIITTTTTTT!!!!”
Having reached the stone ledge, I put myself between Izzy and Lucy and said, “Drop. It.” Miraculously, she did. That dog has never given up a tennis ball without a fight, but in this moment, she dropped the lifeless body of this bird into the grass and plopped onto her butt next to it… and I swear to God, she smiled. At this point, Samuel had regained his feet and had Maggie’s leash. This, as all you moms know, is the moment when we give orders. (To Samuel) “Get her inside. Izzy, go with Samuel. Now. Lucy stay. Maggie… did she pee???” There were a few protests, demands to know if the bird was alive, to which I just couldn’t respond because the only words in my head were (say it with me mamas), “You have got to be ****ing kidding me!”
The bird was, in fact, very dead. Oddly enough, it wasn’t bloody and hadn’t been torn to bits, so I’m fairly certain it really did die of a heart attack. Izzy was obviously devastated and demanded a funeral with full honors. The next hour was spent wiping tears and digging a damn hole to bury the damn bird. Izzy was reassured that Lucy only meant to protect her and didn’t mean the bird any harm. Samuel unloaded the car and kept his snickers hidden from his sister. Apparently, from his vantage point, it was all pretty funny to see go down. Lucy proved once and for all that her knee was, in fact, good as new, and that she is, in fact, a skilled and deadly hunter. Maggie has never really recovered. She is still easily spooked. My favorite part of that day was the much-anticipated call from my husband:
“Hey babe. How was the day?”
“You. Are. Not. Going to believe this…”
To all the Moms out there, I hope your day has been extra special and full of perfect moments with your families. If it hasn’t, we’ve all been there. Motherhood is full of all the things: elation, frustration, and (sometimes) horror.
May you always find the humor in the moments of chaos. May you always know that you are enough.
Happy Mother’s Day.