Tenderheart

For some children, a wounded bird is cause for poking and prodding– science experiments without the science– or at least guided science. Children do learn about the interior workings of the body, life… death… from observing wounded animals and, occasionally, inflecting a modicum of insult to injury to the injured. Yet this child had a marshmallow heart that  immediately led her to create an impromptu animal rescue center in the backyard.  Not a few times, a flailing robin or sparrow was carried tenderly into the house to be viewed by the mother and for ministration, but little to be done for the bundle of feathers in her little hand which was, alas, finally, taken to the backyard for burial. Tiny headstones occasionally commemorated the Glorious Dead of feathered foundlings.

It was on just one such day, wounded bird carefully in tow, that the five year-old met the Birdlady.

“I just wanted to take care of the bird, mommy.” The child sobbed when she came in the door of the meandering house that the family lived in, chubby fingers achingly empty of her little patient.

The Birdlady, the neighborhood character, who gathered birds the way some people gather flowers or knicknacks on the shelf, drove a car that seemed to tilt as it waddled down the street that she used to crate her rescuees to and fro (which certainly appalled some of the healthier friends of the weak and weary she taxiid). She viewed herself as “The Protectorate” of birdlife in Denver and with fervor of a missionary, she cared for her charges, duck and green heron alike.

Further inquiry led mother and child down the wandering path of understanding– She’d taken her recent rescue to the Birdlady because she wanted to know what she could do to help it. Unhappy with the little one’s inept attempt at following her footsteps, the Birdlady had taken the wounded warbler and sent the child away a few harsh words. The rescuer was no doubt right that the bird needed to be cared for by someone who knew what she was doing, the mother explained to the youngster. If the bird can be helped, then someone who knows what they’re doing is the one who you should give them to– she should not try and do it herself.

Some moments passed and the mother hoped the child had let the memory of the wounded sparrow in her wake and was off on another adventure of childhood after she left the kitchen and wandered back outside. But this was not the way of the child.

Apparently, concern for the bird overtaking her hurt at the rebuke, she caught up with the Birdlady again and asked her how the little seed-eater was doing. Having gotten her protective reaction out of her system, the Birdlady’s mood lightened and she invited the child to come and help her care for the little bird until it was healthy enough to give wing to flight.

From that day on, the Birdlady became a friend to the child, teaching her to love and care for the winged creatures in her care and it was a sad day for the child when the Birdlady moved and took her bird rescue with her.

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