Adventure With A Baby Bird

When I picked Mary Ellen up at school last Friday, she approached me with the face all parents have seen—hands folded in prayer, eyes heavenward, and lips silently mouthing, “Please, please, please.”

Long story short. Her class found a baby bird on the playground and brought it into the classroom. They made a nest of shredded colored paper and cut the bottoms off two paper cups for water and bird seed. (It’s amazing to me what items can be found in a second-grade classroom.) The bird, of course, couldn’t be left in the school over the weekend.

We have a cat. We live in an area where wild animals (and the neighbor’s cat) roam our property. I told her it wouldn’t work. She explained exactly where we could locate the bird so our cat couldn’t get to it.

Well, maybe.

I know nothing about taking care of baby birds.

Mary Ellen and her mother had nursed one back to health.

I capitulated. Her teacher rejoiced.

As we took the bird, both the teacher and I reminded Mary Ellen that it might die and all we could do for it was our best. I was wondering what that might be.

After we got the baby home and sequestered from the cat, it began chirping and flapping its wings. In other words, it didn’t look injured. My theory is that it had been traumatized by twenty eight-year-olds. But it still wouldn’t eat. We got a very small straw and tried to get the bird to drink. Its beak remained firmly shut.

What’s the internet for if not for finding out how to take care of baby birds? We found a good site, which basically said put it back in the nest. Then it explained what to do if you couldn’t find the nest, so we got a berry container, a nail, and a hammer and prepared to take bird and new nest back to school (about a twenty minute drive). The site said the mother should come within two hours—two hours!—and start feeding it. If not—go to plan B.

We had no plan B.

I called Vivien Young at Wildcat Bluff, a natural habitat near our home. She gave me Stephanie’s phone number at the wildlife rehabilitation center. She asked for a picture of the bird, which Mary Ellen took and sent.

We had a baby white winged dove. It feeds differently than other birds. Stephanie told us she would need to tube feed it and asked if we could bring it to her home.


The berries went back in their container.

When we delivered it, we learned that they had another bird just like it about the same age. Mary Ellen was delighted her bird would have a friend.

I was delighted her bird hadn’t died.

Soccer Anyone?

You never know what to expect when you sign your grandchild up to play sports. Of course, as grandparents, we always attend the games. The world’s most enthusiastic fans, that’s us.

Mary Ellen isn’t yet into the highly competitive school-based sports or the clubs. We’re still at the “let’s find a volunteer coach and have fun” stage. But I was a bit surprised to get a call last week asking if I would coach soccer.

I have seen two live, competitive soccer games in my life. The first was many years ago in Dallas when the sport was just getting started professionally in the United States. Pele, who was billed as the greatest athlete in the world, played with the opposing team. I twisted a friend’s arm, got two tickets, and saw the game. Although I knew nothing about the rules, it was obvious he was better than everyone else on the field. Then in 1996, I saw the gold-medal Olympic game. A young boy sitting next to me explained why everyone was mad at the referees. I even tried to play once—for fifteen minutes—before realizing I was allergic to the grass we played on and nearly collapsing from asthma.

Back to the phone call. After I finished laughing, I told the lady on the phone, Gail, I would try to find someone. In the meantime, I told Mary Ellen that her team had no coach. She cried. I asked if it would embarrass her if I coached. (I used that term lightly.) She thought a minute, then said, “No, but I’ll need to teach you everything.”

In the meantime, I contacted her wonderful second-grade teacher whose daughter is a high school player. Since she’s around soccer fans, I thought she might know a potential volunteer. She got three or four girls to help and said, “Do you want to put the team in your name or mine.” Wow!

I called to tell Gail that the team had a coach, but a father looking for a team for his daughter had volunteered that day. I must admit I was a little disappointed. Coaching soccer might have been kind of fun—especially with some high school players there to do the real work.

Grandma’s Musings on Takis and Pokémon cards

“Grandma, I want some Takis.”

“Some what?” I’m thinking a Shopkins rival, new sports equipment, a game? (Please notice that I actually know what Shopkins are.)

No, a spicy snack food with so little nutritional value it almost doesn’t count. And I’ve discovered since succumbing to the request and buying a package that if a second-grader dislikes the crunchy little red pipes, she really needs to have her taste buds fixed.

And what’s all the stew about Pokémon cards? I collected baseball cards when I was a kid, and I’m sad to report that my mother was not as enamored with them as I was. She threw all of them in the trash—including Duke Snyder, Willie Mayes, and Yogi Berra—when I left for college. I promise not to do that with the Pokémon cards. I think they are supposed to be the basis for games, but trading seems to be the in thing.

Then there’s music. My dad co-owned a record store, which I got to work in as a teenager. I had a great collection of 45’s and was consequently invited to a lot of parties. “Bring your records.” But that was years ago, and I’ve lost touch with the pop scene. I’m trying to catch up. It’s really necessary to listen to all the new releases. Some of the lyrics are not as tame as “Rock Around the Clock.” Remember when Elvis and the Beatles were considered scandalous? Ah, the good ol’ days.

Mary Ellen is just now getting into texting—using my phone. The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was a boring day for her, so she contacted her friend while I wrote and did chores. When she left for school the next day, I decided to read the texts—don’t tell. There were over 200! I guess the advantage they have over the endless phone calls I used to make is that I actually could read them. They certainly don’t improve spelling.

Looks like I’m going to be pulled kicking and screaming back to immersion in pop culture.

When Priorities Don’t Mesh

For about thirty minutes, no sound came from behind the closed door of our seven-year-old granddaughter’s bedroom.

Standing Guard
Standing Guard

My grandmother instinct began sending warning signals.

Her papa and I had agreed to stay out after eliciting promises that it wouldn’t be forever and that she wouldn’t paint the walls.

But I couldn’t imagine what activity was taking so long. Since our house is on the market, I was sending Mary Ellen mental messages that whatever mess she was creating had better not be too difficult to clean up. She sometimes sets up a zoo with her stuffed animals or a shop with items from the toy box. She frequently makes up games or writes a play to perform. None of that should have taken so long.

Just as I started down the hall, she appeared looking a bit uncertain. “You can come in now.”

It’s always a good idea to prepare my husband for unpleasant surprises, so, on the chance that one waited for us in the bedroom, I told him to stay in the office and I would let him know when it was safe to enter.

I peeked around the door jamb and couldn’t speak. Mary Ellen looked at me expectantly, obviously hoping that I liked what I saw.

I sank to the carpet and tried to make sense of it.

The mattress from her white double bed stood on end next to the closet. The Ariel comforter and sheets still covered it, and the bed ruffle hadn’t moved. Our fifty-pound second grader had dragged a three-row rack holding pink, yellow, and green plastic tubs full of toys around the foot of the bed and across the room. She had pushed the five-drawer chest—to make room for the toy boxes—the other direction around the bed so it blocked the windows. She apparently had removed the lamp, My Little Pony castle, and stuffed animals from the dresser before she moved it and then replaced the lamp and animals. The castle, which is prime real estate, lay in pieces on the floor. I stared at it.

“I can put it back together easy.” She sat and started to work. “See?”

I turned my attention to another part of the room. She jumped up paced in a circle.

Three shelves of My Little Ponies still stood guard above the bed. I had the fleeting sense that they were dismayed. At least she hadn’t taken them down. The nightstand stood in a corner. The bed was no longer quite centered, and Beanie Babies peeked out from under it.

“Did you try to move the bed?”

“Yes.” She looked disappointed. “I needed help.”

I looked again at the mattress and chest of drawers, silently thanking the universe that she hadn’t hurt herself.

Marshmallow, the big white cat, entered and inspected the sight. His tail twitched, and his ears perked up. He meowed, using his most strident voice, and left.

Fortunately the carpet is soft. I knew I’d be there a while. “Why?”

Mary Ellen fidgeted. “The animals on the dresser scare me at night.”

“We can move them.”

She twirled. “No, I like them there.”

By that time, I knew there were more layers to peel back before the truth appeared.

“How about turning over?”

“No, I’m more comfortable facing them.”


She looked away from me. “The Kleenex box scares me.”

That was such a stretch, that I figured the truth couldn’t be far behind.

“This was a lot of work. Why did you do it, really?”

She shook her long copper hair, threw up her hands, and answered in a voice that left no doubt this was a serious matter and that she expected concurrence. “Everybody in my class has a TV in their room except me! I’m making space for it.”

Big sigh from me.

“I’ll help you put everything back. You may watch TV in the other room but not at bedtime. The rule hasn’t changed.”

Her eyes pleaded with me for just a moment before answering in a voice that dripped with resignation. “I’ll do it myself.” Then sheer determination. “I want to get strong.”

We helped–then enrolled her in basketball.