Tag Archives: Birdie

The Countdown

Birdie knew she should be counting her blessings. Naming them one by one as the old hymn suggested, but she just wasn’t in a blessing-naming mood right now. Thanksgiving holiday was coming up, and she knew she would get in the thankful mode eventually, but right now she felt downright surly. It was most likely due to dissatisfaction with herself, but it was manifesting in a sweeping scorn for everyone else. And she felt like naming the things she hated.

She hated the roll of fat that encased her stomach. She hated the articles and websites that explained how to get rid of the roll of fat that encased her stomach. She hated the people that wrote those articles. She hated the way those people looked with their svelte waistlines.

She hated their before and after pictures because it proved that they had made some progress and had moved from miserable specimens to success stories because of their gumption and perseverance. And while she was at, she despised their gumption and perseverance.

She hated their happy smiling faces as they enjoyed drinking green smoothies, eating flaxseeds, and shunning French fries. She hated them for drinking 10 gallons of purified water a day and claiming to no longer crave anything sweet now that they had cleansed their systems. She hated them for declaring, “If I can do it, so can you.”

She hated the young women who showed up for the Pilates class she had taken a chance on (just to see if she could maybe do some of that stuff that sounded so promising). Those young women with their strong legs, sculpted arms, and flat stomachs. The ones who could sit on the mat and form a “V” with their bodies, while Birdie could barely lift one leg in the air while propping herself with her hands. If she never heard the words “strong core” again, it would be too soon.

And while she was naming all the the things she detested, she had no use for people who were always looking on the bright side. Or people who were moaning about turning 60 or 50 or some age that was younger than Birdie.

It was true. There was no pleasing her. It irked her when the people around her were cheerful, and it griped her when they were gloomy

And what about those married couples who say they’d never had a fight? Never had a quarrel. Never a cross word. Did they even live in the same house together? Or were they just too bland to get crosswise of each other? Birdie didn’t believe them. Or if it was true, it meant they were just too boring for words. And she hated that, too.

Birdie hated it when other people ranted about things instead of either changing or learning to accept the inevitable. She didn’t like to hear complaining, and she didn’t like it when people used words like hate when what they really meant was irked, ticked off, aggravated, irritated, or annoyed.

So… Birdie took a breath and began counting.

Family. Friends. Home. Books. A window seat in the morning sun. Cats. A sense of humor. A cozy bed. Down comforters. A warm fire.
Her flower garden. Golden autumns. Laughter. Health. Heated car seats. Ice cubes. Ceiling fans. The comforting tick of the kitchen clock.
Gerald, who helped clean up after supper and was not a picky eater. Synonyms. Snow. The ocean, which was entirely, too far away, although that made it sound like she was complaining again, but–just saying.
The water from their well. Red-winged black birds. Sun pennies on the lake. Baby ducks in the pond.
Porch swings. Reruns of I Love Lucy. Thunder and lightning. Chicken-fried steak. Garden nurseries. Going to the movies. New shoes. A fresh haircut. Massages.
Piano and violin music. Whistling. Sleeping in. Getting up early. Going places. Staying home. Making lists. Indoor plumbing. Ferris wheels. The crescent moon.
Long summer days. Long winter evenings. Hot water from the tap. Lemons. Texting. Pink and yellow.
And more. Lots more.

Birdie and the Eye Patch

 

Birdie had always wanted to be eccentric. Just a little eccentric. Not so much that her children would start looking into elder care, but enough to be interesting. The kind of eccentricity that sent the message–“I’m not in a rut. I don’t follow the crowd unless I like where the crowd is headed. And what’s more, I may not do what the crowd does once we get there. Probably won’t, as a matter of fact.”

Birdie felt she had the soul of an eccentric, but what was the point of being an eccentric if no one noticed? Just thinking like one didn’t always get you the kind of attention that a sincere eccentric wanted. You had to look like one so people would see you. Then if you were actually doing or saying something eccentric, it wouldn’t be wasted. Birdie knew for a fact that you could be eccentric all day long, and if nobody knew about it, you might just as well be normal, average, commonplace, humdrum. Sort of like that tree that fell in the forest when no one was there to hear it. What difference did it make whether it made any noise or not?

“What could she do,” Birdie thought, “to stake her claim to eccentricity?” People, in general, were doing such crazy things, that it was hard for an eccentric who was just starting out to make any real, visible mark. Furthermore, it was a fine line to walk. She didn’t want to be pointed at–just noticed with a bit of positive interest. Maybe even avoided by those whom she wished to be avoided by.

Not having had much practice at being overtly eccentric, she wanted a baby-steps approach because she feared things could go terribly wrong. You could inadvertently cross a line and be labeled a “nut”.

A parrot on her shoulder? A jeweled eye patch? No, that seemed more like a pirate, although, pirates were decidedly eccentric. A silver handled walking stick? A t-shirt that said “I’m eccentric”?

Maybe she’d just choose something simple but distinctive–like telling the truth—and the jeweled eye patch.

 

 

Birdie and the Friendly Skies

Before getting on an airplane, Birdie always prayed. She prayed for protection, that the plane would get to its destination without any mishaps, and that she wouldn’t have to sit next to anyone who had B. O., smelled like cigarettes, was obnoxious, or was wearing too much cologne. She figured if she was a better Christian, she would pray to sit next to someone to whom she could witness, but all her hardened heart desired was to have an empty seat next to her or failing that, to have it filled with someone who didn’t invade too much of her personal space.

She still remembered that flight from St. Louis to Denver, when she was trapped in the window seat, her one-year-old son on her lap, with a loquacious drunk stuffed in the seat next to her. As he drank his 9:00 A.M. screwdriver, he complimented Birdie on how well behaved her baby was, admitting that he didn’t have any kids “that he knew of. Ha! Ha!”

“Thank goodness no one is strapped with that burden,” thought Birdie, as she was smiling like an idiot and thanking him for the compliment. Wouldn’t want to be impolite to the drunk.

He had just come from a wedding reception that had lasted all night and was feeling expansive and philosophic, which she had to admit was better than being an angry drunk. It was just that a drunk of any kind, in the close confines of coach seating, was never pleasant.

As he downed his second screwdriver–“Have to get my morning orange juice, ha, ha.”–he began regaling Birdie with his philosophy of life. It turned out to be a Kenny Rogers song. “You gotta know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em,” he told her, nodding his head and slurring his words.

“Good advice,” thought Birdie, as she mentally finished the lyric. “Know when to walk away; know when to run.” Unfortunately, this credo was not easily adhered to when one was at 30,000 feet next to a drunk whose tray table was down and seat back reclined.

He went on to tell her that it was important to “Go for the gusto, and grab the gold ring, because you only go around once.” It seemed to Birdie as if she were going around and around. Definitely more than once, as he repeated his theme to her over and over again, wanting her to grasp the profundity of his “words to live by.”

“Even more ridiculous,” thought Birdie, “was my response.”  She had continued to nod and smile like a half-wit, pretending to be interested, maybe even indicating that she agreed. She was saddled with this compulsion to be polite regardless of the circumstances. Didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Didn’t want to make anyone feel awkward. Don’t hang up on the telephone solicitor. Wouldn’t be courteous. Pretend you don’t see the neighbor having dinner with the attractive woman who is not his wife. Might embarrass him. Let the obtrusive drunk spew his blather all over you and your baby. It wouldn’t be nice to ignore him.

“After all, it’s nice to be nice,” thought Birdie. “But that’s about all it’s got going for it.”

Birdie and the Bad-uns

The dogs were barking again. Focused on something in the distance, they stood atop the snow bank at the edge of Birdie’s circle drive and warned away the “bad-uns”. Birdie looked out the window,  through the trees, searching for their concern–for what was motivating their protective reaction. She couldn’t see anything that would warrant the “don’t come any closer” sound they were making.

The dogs and Birdie went through this ritual almost every morning. She figured they had detected a “bad-un” way over there, beyond the pond, among the trees. Perhaps a neighbor’s dog making his morning rounds, marking territory that was clearly not his own,  and since the deep snow made it hard to pursue him, they used their “Get out of Dodge” bark. The problem for Birdie was that they kept barking long after the intruder had disappeared.

“Maybe they’re boasting, possibly flinging insults at the cowardly retreating enemy, or threatening anyone else who might be considering the same trespass,” thought Birdie. But she suspected that it was more of an “I’ve started barking and I can’t quit” kind of thing. So, Birdie would go over to the window and tap on the glass to get their attention. That would hit their reset buttons, and she would have peace for about fifteen minutes or so, until the next “bad-un” came through.

Birdie and the Golden Arches

Bringing a hidden candy bar to the movies didn’t ruffle Birdie’s conscience at all. Technically, she knew it was against the rules, but she felt justified in doing it when admission was so pricey, and the cost of candy at the concession stand would have paid for a Caribbean cruise for Gerald and herself. It gave her a bit of “civil disobedience”/”free the masses” sort of feeling when she sneaked candy into the movies. And besides, once she had seen a guy bring in a full meal from Taco Bell and eat it while waiting for the previews. She would never do anything like that. Of course, she wouldn’t.

Then came breakfast at McDonald’s on Sundays. Gerald and Birdie hadn’t started out wrong. They would both order sausage McMuffin meals and eat them while sitting in their favorite booth, enjoying the the sun that came through the only window on the east side of the restaurant. However, one Sunday, Gerald mentioned that he really liked having a pastry with his coffee, so they started trying other places like the bakery, the French cafe, and finally the college-student pizza hangout where, surprisingly, they made the most delectable sticky buns and fresh fruit croissants. Birdie and Gerald tried eating at the pizza place, but it was dark and cold, and they missed their sunny booth and cheap senior drinks with refills. So, Gerald came up with a plan. He would carry the pastries into McDonald’s and secure the sunny booth, while Birdie would order the McMuffins and senior drinks, being careful not to confess to the 16 year old taking her order, that they had brought in contraband food and were intending to eat it while enjoying discount beverages courtesy of McDonald’s. It made Birdie a little uncomfortable at first, but it all went so smoothly week after week, and whenever her conscience tried to speak up, Birdie would just give it a bite of her McMuffin.

This Sunday, after they had made their pastry run, Gerald suggested they get a burrito at Sonic. When Birdie realized that Gerald intended to continue on to McDonald’s with the pastries AND the burrito, her discomfort quotient rose to the alarm level. She was sure that her aura looked like a flashing neon sign that said, “Food Smuggler and Sneak”.

As she walked to the counter to order the drinks, she had trouble maintaining eye contact with the young order taker. She brought the drinks to their booth, grabbed a discarded Sunday newspaper, and sat across from Gerald as he began digging into his burrito. Birdie ate her croissant without looking up from the useless news articles and ads before her. The pastry lost its sweetness. She didn’t want a refill. There was no sunshine.

I’ll Have Mine With Relish

It was already 10:30 a.m., and Birdie hadn’t done anything useful yet this morning. Unless you counted going to breakfast with her friend, Averyanne. Actually, part of their conversation had been about that very thing– about what qualified as useful. Was there a universal scale on which one could weigh something to see if it was necessary or unnecessary? Was having breakfast with a friend as important and valuable as staying home and catching up on the laundry, for instance? Birdie understood that everyone was allotted so many minutes every day, and each person had to choose how they were going to spend those minutes, but what was Birdie willing to trade her time for?

Birdie had heard theories about living each day as if it were your last. It was supposed to enable you to see what was really important so you could re-align what you considered necessary. It caused you to relish the moment. “I’m all for relishing,” thought Birdie. But if you did manage to wake up tomorrow, and you hadn’t done the laundry, you were then faced with wearing dirty underwear. Birdie figured it might be a bit harder to do much relishing while wearing dirty knickers. When it probably wouldn’t matter if you wore dirty underwear to your own funeral. If it really had been your last day, that is.

The clock was ticking. Time to quit relishing and do the laundry.</a

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