A Bird Attack on Halloween

Written on 10/31/14

It’s Halloween.  Charlee is off trick-or-treating with her friend.  She is Mario, her friend is Luigi. DSC_0021 They are too cute, and too excited about all the candy waiting to be collected.  (My dentist is excited too.)  I am sitting at the end of our long driveway, watching Alex skateboard.  It has been a long time since we have been able to do this.  We used to set up makeshift photo shoots – I have thousands of images capturing him mid-flight, mid-ollie, mid-crash-and-burn.  My ‘NO BLOOD’ rule has been in place since day one, and I am thankful that it has been adhered to more often than not.  (Thank you God, I know you had something to do with that!)  

Tonight was one of those magical nostalgic nights to remember… I could feel it.  

{The clock is ticking, and before I know it, Alex will be off living his life out of this home.  I am cherishing every moment I can.}  

Although he was working up a sweat skateboarding, I was freezing… a blazing fire remedied that.  (Love my beat-up fire pit. :))

It never ceases to amaze me the tricks Alex can do with a piece of wood.  Yes, there are plenty of skateboarders – but to see my son, balance, flip, flop, fl-ollie – and still walk away intact – is daunting.  I can’t even walk up the stairs without wobbling… he definitely gets his balance from Frank.  0820110940

Trick-or-treater’s came and went, but not without getting a specially delivered piece of candy from Alex.  It was dinner and a show, or more accurately – a candy treat and a skateboarding trick.  He valeted the bowl to the end of the driveway so each ghost and goblin could take their pick.  Parents were just as enthralled – clearly in awe of his speed and balance capabilities.  

I warmed myself by the fire, mesmerized by the twilight, until a blue jay landed on the fence.  Alex pointed it out, “There’s another blue jay.  They are so blue.  There are so many this year?! Why are there so many?” 

I had no answer, he was right.  There are a lot of blue jays lately.  Not exactly the nicest sounding birds… and they always look so pissed off.  Their beautifully colored markings – so crisp blue and white – stood out sharply on the weathered stockade fence.  Like ornaments, they come to decorate our yard. 

Without fail blue jays always flash me back to one specific day.  I started to tell the story to Alex – again – and he reminded me – again – that he had heard the tale. Cutting me off, “Mom, you told me this before…”  (Rotten kid.  Don’t you know you’re supposed to entertain the ol’ folks when they impart their tales from long ago?)

No worries. I’m feeling the need to write… whoever wants to know the story, they can read it…. hell, Alex can pass it on to his kids and make them read and re-read so he can garner sympathy for all the times he had to endure….

At the end of our driveway, many years ago, a giant oak tree once stood.  There was one between our driveway and the neighbor’s, and one on the other side of the neighbors – which was directly adjacent to ours.  They were taken down once they grew too big, (as if there is such a thing) making it difficult to navigate in and out of the driveway.  It’s sad to see the old mammoth trees go – as soon as a sidewalk is upheaved, their fate is doomed, they are transformed into wood chips or firewood.  

For so long they stood their ground, like towering guards lining the streets.  Some extended across the roadways – holding outstretched branches, as if connecting hands for a game of London Bridges.  They formed an arched canopy over our neighborhood, which is sorely missed. 

I must have been around 7 years old.  I say this because I can remember Barbara, my blondie of a sister, who still had hair so blond it was near transparent.  Her blue blue eyes, only offset by her big toothy grin.  She wore shorts – I remember her bare knobby knees – and a bold plaid blue, black and white button down, short sleeved shirt.  I was pulling her in our new Radio Flyer red wagon and she was loving it. 

Even with legs stretched straight, she fit entirely in the wagon.  Every time I started to pull, wisps of her hair would flutter in the breeze.  Giggling, she held tight to the wooden side-rails.  

We walked back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the house.  It was Spring – I remember because the trees were so green – and because on one of the passes, heading towards our house – just passing the big oak in front of the neighbors driveway – we must have startled a blue jay’s nest.  Out of nowhere came one angry, determined jay.  He made a god-awful racket as he tried to warn us.  Apparently his efforts weren’t yielding the desired results, so he began kamikaze flybys.  Closer and closer.  Louder and louder.  

We watched in awe as this bird made his mission known… scaring us away.

I flailed my free arm to scare him back, but that did nothing.  Barbara ducked into the protection of those wooden rails.  The decision to run was made – all while dragging a squealing sibling.  “Duck Barbara!”  Her eyes now wide blue saucers, she wasn’t sure if she should laugh or scream.

The blue jay didn’t stop chasing us, even across our front lawn – and let me tell you, sprinting – while dragging a loaded wagon across grass – was a feat.  I dropped the handle, still waving my arms in the air, and now at Barbara to hurry, “Come on, get out of the wagon!”   Struggling to climb her little body over those protective rails, which now felt more like a prison.  

We survived – though the experience is forever etched in my mind.  Every time I see, or even hear, one of those birds, I remember that Spring day – the blond hair – the plaid shirt – the blue saucer eyes and the blue jay.

My theory is, you haven’t lived unless you’ve been attacked by a bird.  And, thanks to Frank, I’ve had that experience two times in my life.  

Years ago – before kids – Frank and I decided to go canoeing on the Peconic River.  As with every water adventure, there is a mandatory briefing to ensure the safest and best experience – where to go, what to see, what to do, what not to do....

Take the bend to the left – the river will fork – go right – then it will open to a large bay – in the bay stay away from the swan nesting areas… Well, that’s about where Frank’s attention stopped.  Swan nesting area?!  Hmmmm.

Life jackets on, we were ready to set sail.  I must say, Frank shines in paddling.  He has great upper body strength, I can literally just sit there like Queen of the Nile.  Hence, he always man’s the back of the boat – stronger paddlers typically sit in the back to steer.  We drifted along, enjoying the backyards of many a waterfront home, until the fork opened into the bay.  

This is where Frank shifted from his meandering pace, into a race against time – as in the amount of time it would take for me to start yelling at him for heading towards the swan nesting area.  “Frank they said NOT to go to the nesting area.  Frank you are heading in the wrong direction.  Frank!”

He knew what he was doing.  I was at his mercy.  (What mercy?!)

I tried to back paddle.  I tried to steer the boat, as if I could from the front seat, much less against his power.  I tried to turn my body to give him the ‘reasoning-are-you-kidding-me?!?’ eyes.  Nope… He was a man on a mission.  

We were about 2/3rd’s of the way into the bay, when a swan lifted from along the shoreline.  Frank pointed it out, though it was unmissable against the blue waters and green marsh grass. DSC_0180 It was magnificent.  Flying close to the water, its reflection rippled from the slipstream stirred by its wings.  The closer it got, the more majestic.  That is until we realized the closer it got – it was heading for us!  Straight for us!!  Once obvious, it was as if a torpedo had been fired and we were waiting for the hit.  We were literal sitting ducks.  I twisted my torso to glare at Frank, giving him the most urgent do-something-now!-eyes.  “Frank!?!”  (as if he could do anything…)  Turning back to the situation at hand, just in time to see the swan lift barely enough to cover our canoe.  I screamed, folding my body in half to fit into the canoe.  All I could see was the underbelly of the beast – beating its giant wings all around us.  From a side glance – a very quick side glance, because I was protecting my face – I could see webbed feet struggling to stomp us.  I was waiting to get sh*t on, but that didn’t happen.  Though I could have used a new pair of underwear for my own issues. 

Frank was not able to contort himself into the protection of the canoe walls.  (The man has no flexibility.) (Serves him right…)  He took the brunt of the winged beating.  Using his oar, he protected his face and warded off the tipping of our vessel.  (I would have helped the swam pummel him had we flipped.)

I couldn’t help but scream, “AHHH! FRANK!” from between my knee’s.  (Yes my head was between themthey were serving to protect my ears – – and in the perfect position should I decide to take my fathers “Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye” advice.  At the moment, either option fit the bill.)  (And speaking of bill – holy cow, swans have big bills!  I was thankful it didn’t bite.)  

My screams echoed from the canoe basin, amplified as if I had a bullhorn.  Even Frank let out a yell.  (FYI not a confidence builder during this rock-the-boat moment.)

If I had to describe what it was like, I would say it was basically the most intimidating pillow fight ever – only we had nothing to strike back with.  We just bobbed in the bay, an open target for this pissed papa.  His feathers were sorely ruffled – ruffled around our heads, around our canoe and floating beside us in the water.

Another ‘my theory’ – Seeing that many feathers is never a good thing.  I flashed to another memory.  That of a pillow fight that took place years ago on a Youth Group trip.  The older kids started beating each other with pillows.  There was a lot of running, a lot of laughing, and suddenly a LOT of feathers.  One of the feather pillows broke open.  I have never seen so many feathers in my life.  The air looked like we were encased in a shaken snow globe – it was almost concerning to breathe.  The waist high wave of downy fluff headed for me as I watched from my bedroom doorway.  An order to ‘close your door!’ was shouted in my direction – which I was more than happy to oblige.  I have no idea how they managed to collect and clean it all…. 

There was also the time I was driving to school.  I was traveling on the Northern State Parkway, which is graced with several gorgeous stone bridges.  Just as I drove under one, a flock of pigeons flew from the rafters.  I hit the brakes, but there was nowhere for me to go – there was nowhere for the pigeons to go.  I hoped I didn’t hit any, but when I looked in my rear view mirror the tell-tale sign was there.  A giant poof of tail feathers – and every other type of feather – floated in a big twirling cloud.

Yeah..Seeing that many feathers is never a good thing.

Unless your Frank.  He got a kick out of seeing the tell-tale signs of what just happened.  Picking up stray feathers, in and around the canoe, he laughed – happy as can be.  OYE!  My darling man needs an intense amount of adrenaline to move into action or even feel alive.  (Seriously, sometimes I think he is dead man walking…)  

We survived the swan nesting area, and were able to get back to the task of paddling – though the adventure was far from over.  There came a point in the trip where we would have to make a decision.  Get out of the canoe and carry it across the street, setting it back in the water on the other side of the road?  Or…… take the alternate route – aka Shoot the tube.  

Shoot the tube?  Funny you should ask.  (Yes, this was included in the initial briefing.) (….it came after the ‘stay away from the nesting area.’)  

Well, what do YOU think we did?

The ‘tube’ consisted of a giant drainage pipe, which allowed water from the bay to travel under the roadway to the river on the other side.  If the road was not in place, it would have been a pretty little water fall.  But the road was there… and the pipe was there… and Frank was steering… and I was screaming… and yes, we shot the tube.  Once again, my voice echoed back at me, bouncing from the walls of the tube.  Once again, I found safety in the belly of the canoe.  I laid my body on the floor, like a human ballast, praying for stability.  We hit the other side with a splash.  (Seriously, Dennis-the-Menace has nothing on Frank…)

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  A slow meander back to the docks.  Poor Frank was bored……

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