Monday, 7 July 2008

Anything is possible

by M in JaM
I love this photo of my father and mother, in 1931, not long before they married.

Eleven years later, on a warm December day in 1942 in Southern California, my mother held me for this family photo, as my four siblings pressed close to her. The eldest, my 9 year old sister, became a second mother to me, and later, my best friend. My eldest brother, 7 years old here, with a cast on his broken arm, did his best to keep control over the two younger brothers. But that would have been like keeping a blob of mercury square.

My older siblings provided a stimulating environment for me, always plenty to do, always plenty of telling me what to do. They knew Dad loved his Baby Girl, so, they nominated me to ask him to take us to the Saturday night movies. We knew he would struggle to stay awake in the theater after working long hours, six days a week. We also knew he loved Western movies. And so did we.

In the autumn after I turned four, all my siblings disappeared on the school bus every morning and the hours before they returned grew very long. I had no one to play with and I had no experience at entertaining myself. I rode my tricycle around the yard a few times, our dog Tippy close at my heels and wheels. He didn't like the emptiness either. It didn't take long before I wandered back into the house, looking for Mom and something to do. Tippy followed like my shadow. Mom had begun mopping and didn't appreciate fresh footprints and paw prints on the wet floor. She mopped away her irritation as I watched morosely from the kitchen door and Tippy watched glumly from the porch door. Mom glanced at me from the corner of her eyes. She understood the problem. She leaned on her mop and cocked her head to one side as she said, "Would you like to catch a bird?"

That caught my attention! I nodded and waited for her to tell me what to do.

She tiptoed across the wet kitchen floor and picked up the salt shaker from the countertop. Tiptoeing back to me, she knelt and poured a little salt into the palm of my hand. "You catch a bird by sprinkling a little salt on its tail," she said with a smile.

My fingers curled protectively around the little mound of salt in my palm. I smiled back at Mom. I trotted out onto the porch and down the front steps. Tail wagging at the rise of my spirits, Tippy followed. I discovered a bird and began creeping close. The bird flew away. It got easier to creep a little closer to a bird after Tippy grew bored and laid down in a sunny place where he could keep an eye on me. I practised creeping ever closer to each bird. The day grew hot. Yet another bird flew away. I opened my fist and checked my salt supply. I felt dismayed as I stared at the crusty clumps of salt sticking to my sweaty palm. Impossible to sprinkle those on a bird's tail! I gave up and headed back to Mom and some lunch. Tippy followed.

Thirty years later my own young daughter did catch a bird, a canary lost in an oak tree and needing a home. He sang beautifully for us. But she didn't sprinkle salt on his tail.

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