Three years ago, as I was about to enter a local grocery store with my daughter, she exclaimed, “Look, it’s a baby sparrow!” “Oh no,” I said, “It’s fallen out of the nest-I think it’s dead.” But just then it lifted its ugly little head on its scrawny little neck. “No, it’s alive, we have to save it.”
I looked closer. It was purplish-red from lying on the hot sidewalk. “Oh, honey, I think its a goner,” I said. “Doesn’t the Bible say Jesus marks the sparrow’s fall?” my daughter asked. She had me there.
We took her home and I gave her some water with an eyedropper, then kind of covered up what I thought would soon be her corpse with a washcloth. Four hours later she was squawking for something to eat. Thus began the invasion of Pootube, which is what I named her, since she was basically a big open mouth on one end and poo coming out the other. She demanded food about every 20 minutes.
She grew fast and soon had feathers, at which point she began flying out of her box and landing on me while I worked. “Whatcha doing?” she wanted to know. I fixed her up a spare room, papers lining the whole floor and branches up against the wall so she could learn to fly well enough to release. When she got lonely she chirped for me and when I came in the room, she flew over and landed on my arm. I taught her to eat seeds from the ground instead of just opening her mouth. I must have looked absurd sitting on the floor, showing her to peck at seeds. I developed immense respect for mother birds.
I eventually opened the window and she flew outside and back into her room at will. One day, inevitably, she did not come back. I admit I had a rather literal case of empty nest syndrome, but let’s face it, I reminded myself, we are not really successful until our kids no longer need us.
The neighbor ten houses down said Pootube took up residence near her bird feeder and appeared to be thriving.
About one month after she left, while walking down the street, Pootube flew to me and landed on my shoulder. I have had various honors in my lifetime, but I was apparently unimpressed, since I can’t remember why.
I will always, however, remember the wonder of that one-one little bird, light as a leaf, looking into my eyes with her little shiny eyes as if to say, “I remember you.”