Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Memory Age 7: Nan and Pop Attwood's strawberry patch

Nan this chair makes me itchy” I say as I climb to stand on the green fiber glass bench. It used to be a seat in an old school bus, there are still brackets on the bottom where thick bolts secured it to the floor.

“Well don’t sit there maid” She says. She stops for a moment, thinking. “Come here, I’ll show you something.”

I jump off the bench onto the grass. It is more moss than grass, and I feel my sneakers sink into the soft, green ground, water soaking into the worn leather making my socks wet.

I follow my grandmother into the garden she has grown in front of the cabin, beds of strawberries, cabbage, peas and carrots stretching down to meet the bog.

One time I had tried to pick a cabbage. My Pop, busily cutting the green leafy heads from the stalks, insisted that I couldn’t pull it out of the ground, and that it must be cut at the stalk. I pulled hard. My small hands slipped from around the shiny curved leaves and I tumble backwards into the strawberry patch, squishing ripe berries against my bum. I jumped up and ran into the cabin, blaming Pop for my tumble.

Nan starts telling me about how she had been looking to see if the strawberries in the thicker part of the berry patch were getting ripe. How she had parted the leaves and was combing through the plants to find the larger berries underneath.

“Well I was reachin’ towards this plant and a bird flew right up into me face! Flappin’ he’s wings, what a fright I got!” She picks up a stick and gently prods about the plants, standing as far back as the stick will allow. After a short time she decides it is safe, drops the stick at her side and steps forward, gingerly parting the plants with her aged hands.

“Come see…” she says turning back to me.

I have nearly lost interest in her story. I’ve been watching my baby brother clumsily making his way towards us through the strawberry patch in that half-walk half-run toddlers do that makes them look like they will fall if they are to stop short. I am irked at him, because I am only seven years old, and don’t understand why he just can’t walk the right way, and he is squishing ripe berries under his dirty white and blue velcro sneakers.

I crouch next to Nan to see what is there, expecting to see a particularly large berry. I am shocked to see a small deep nest made of twigs, moss and mud, with three tiny birds lying amongst the remnants of broken speckled eggshells.

Nan its baby birds!” I say. I reach towards them and lightly touch the small brown bodies. The skin is thin and nearly translucent with a very sparse covering of feathers as fine and downy as baby hair. Two of them are sleeping, their eyes blue under thin eyelids. I pull my hand back at the unexpected warmth of the tiny bodies. The third bird is wriggling about, trying to find a way to sit upright. His small liquid black eyes look like droplets of paint.

By now my brother has made his way to us and is squealing in delight, clapping and gesturing grandly with his chubby hands as he remarks in broken toddler speech about “Birdies in tees, not on da gownd.”

“They’re some ugly hey?” my Nan remarks, then adds “but I s’pose they’ve got a cuteness to them, where they’re so small.”

My brother reaches out with drool coated fingers to try and touch the waif like creatures. I’m afraid he’ll try and grab one, crush its fragile bones in his merriment.

“Don’t!” I snap. He jumps at the sound of my voice, hand stopping just above the nest. The bright eyes baby makes a miniscule screeching sound and opens his beak wide, so wide the little bird face disappears under the gaping beak. You could probably see right into his stomach if you had a flashlight, I think to myself.

My brother wiggles his fingers above the waiting beak and the baby screeches louder. I’m irritated by him and hiss “Give it up Danny, you’re teasin’, he thinks you’ve got a worm for him.” I smack his hand away and he pulls it against his body, holding the offended limb in his chubby hand, his lip curls slightly and he begins to whimper.

“Be good to him Krissy, he’s just a little baby himself, and he’s not hurtin’.” Nan says. She pats his straw colored hair and shushes him to stop pouting, telling him she’ll get him a tin of root beer if he’ll be a big boy and not cry.

They wander off in the direction of the cabin and I listen as his sniffling moves away from me. I remain starring at the birds, examining every feature of the nest and the babies who live there until my seven year old mind has soaked up all it can about this phenomenon in the strawberry patch. I wander off to explore other wonders that the woods around the cabin have to offer.

The next weekend I asked my grandmother about the birds.

“Only one left. Crows or the squirrels must have got the rest of the poor little buggers. I sees the mudder flying down there but I s’pose she goes lookin’ for food and that’s when they gets them.”

I go out to see the one remaining bird. He is no bigger, but is now covered in soft brown down. He is asleep in the bottom of the nest and looks even smaller surrounded by the nothingness where his siblings used to be. His tiny chest rises and fall with is quick breathing. I feel sad for him. He doesn’t have much of a chance. His siblings have been stolen away and he is not strong enough to fight or get away from other hungry creatures that might happen upon his ill placed cradle.

By the next morning he is gone too.

For the next few weeks I throw rocks at every crow and squirrel that I see. Each one is personally responsible in my mind for stealing away my tiny baby birds.

The crows fly up to perch in power lines and caw down at me in protest. I caw angrily back at them, hoping that maybe I am saying “You are a bad, mean crow” in crow language.

The squirrels bound away and chirp snidely from the camouflage of the trees. I try to throw handfuls of pebbles up into the trees at them, but I’m not good at throwing and they plummet back down upon me like hard rain.


Anonymous said...

nice story

Jaime Hurley said...

-This is a lovely story Kristy.

Aunt Judy said...


You are such a talented story-writer and I can just see Mom there with you and Danny now. Brings back such good memories!!