Friday, September 28, 2007


“This smells delicious!” Cadences chirps, ladling a small pile of sweet potatoes onto her plate. She reaches for the butternut squash adding a dollop beside the potatoes. It is an official announcement that autumn has arrived. A hint of crisp and dry in the air always sends me fleeing the grill and firing up the oven, roasting meats and boiling root vegetables.

Mashed potatoes, peas, stuffing and gravy make their way around the table as Cadence delights in the menu change; little piles of this and that placed in a circle around her plate. “I’m going to have a little of everything,” she announces, “except for that.” She points in the direction of the roasted chicken lying crisp and spread eagle on a platter.

“You don’t want any chicken?” I ask.

“Vegetarian.” She answers. “Mom, I’m taking this thing seriously.”

“Okay,” I tell her, “but we are going to have to start you on protein shakes or something because cheese and yogurt aren’t’ enough.”

“Fine,” she answers, “As long as an animal doesn’t have to die.” She stares briefly at the victim on the platter.

Cadence’s attempt at the vegetarian life style has waxed and waned over the last six months but is picking up strength and conviction. I think about her passion this summer when she discovered the displaced Monk Parakeet colonies. Driving through a nearby shoreline city, I pointed out the nests on the top of the utility poles on the road along the water; massive sea grass nests like hairy heads on the poles, collectively housing thousands of birds.

“They have been in the area more than twenty years,” I explained, “Some think it started when a truck accident released birds that were in transport to a pet store. They are tropical birds, but somehow have adapted to our northern environment.” This news of underdog survival tugged at the very heart of Cadence, who clamored for more information and a closer look.

I parked the car and we stood beneath a nest on the sidewalk. The small noisy green parrots popped their heads out and cocked them sideways, inquiring as to our purpose. Cousins to her beloved pet bird, Cadence was captivated by them and squawked to them in their native tongue. We watched as one landed on the wire with a large piece of dried sea grass, carefully weaving it into the nest. Cadence fluttered and chirped loudly and I shooshed her, knowing the human residents did not share her enthusiasm. I explained about the power outages and the nuisance the birds posed to the people and utility companies.

“But it’s not their fault that they were brought here! They probably have to work hard just to say alive!” She defended. I continued that while this is true, the utility companies had decided that they needed to remove them. We talked about euthanization and how they came during the night, taking the nests when the birds were sleeping. Cadence was outraged.

“Why can’t they take the nest and drive it to the rain forest back where they belong?” She pleaded; a simple and logical solution.

“I guess because relocation would cost more than euthanization.” I told her as her mouth dropped wide and her eyebrows arched.

“So it’s all about money?” She squealed, pulsing with injustice. “There must be a way to solve this. There must be other people who want to help.” I explained that lots of animal lovers are upset, but so far it has not changed anything.

“We have to do something!” She demanded. She was not deterred by the idea that one voice or a few were not enough. “I need to find a way to build human perches next to the bird’s nests. Then I can get other animal lovers like me to sit there so people will pay attention. We can make signs that say “Relocation, not…what was that word?”

“Euthanization.” I told her, wondering how long it will be until she is spearheading rallies for real.

“Cadence, do you want a leg?” Her father asks from the head of the table, carving the defencless chicken lying before him, oblivious to our conversation.

“Vegetarian.” She answers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


They say you can’t fool Mother Nature.

You can’t please her either, apparently. I have been in direct combat with the mighty matriarch for nearly three months and she is ruthless! Even bad parents let the kids win once and a while.

Two and a half years ago, the big mama started messing with me. She started poking at me a bit by changing the way my eyes focused. An eye exam early that year scored me 20/20 and I smugly thought I escaped the “old eye” thing my peers in their 40’s complained about; the thing that causes them to hold books a yard from their face or whip out little spectacles muttering about not being able to see a thing.

On my 44th birthday, I settled by the pool with a book and realized I could not read the print on the back cover. Glancing first over both shoulders, I slowly moved the book farther from me, inch at a time until POOF; I could read it! Damn it! I had not dodged the bullet after all.

It was right around that time that she started really pushing me. Little by little, my bathroom scale crept upward, indicating that I inadvertently found an extra pound or two; Water weight probably. No problem. I knew exactly how to handle the crisis. I simply needed to return to the way of eating that allowed me to be the thinnest I'd ever been after my third child was born. High protein, low carbs and I'd knock off ten pounds in a week.

I put the tried and true plan into action and the scale lowered, then bounced up then lowered until it resembled the wavering of the needle on a roulette wheel, settling of course on the higher number. Mother Nature, it seems, had changed the rules.

The slow and steady weight gain continued over two years; up a little, level off, up a little, level off, landing me at a number that I am sure I weighed at full term sixteen years ago, while carrying an extra human in my body.

Three months ago, I declared war. Stricter diet, tape up my bad knee and hit the pavement; two miles a day, rain or shine. Surely I would find success by raising my metabolism with exercise. On the third day, I hopped on the scale feeling healthy and driven and…nothing. In fact, I was up two pounds. Water weight probably. I would not give up. In spite of knee pain and swelling, I worked on my walking; long stride, arm pumping, deep breathing 15 minute miles. At the end of the first week, I hopped eagerly onto the scale and…nothing. I continued my efforts for a month with no progress.

“Perhaps,” my own mother offered in an attempt to comfort me, “You’re just getting your 'grown-up' body.” She is, by the grace of God, still alive and my determination fueled. I upped the walk to three miles, 45 minutes, to no avail. Furious with the results, I decided perhaps I just needed a little boost. I broke down and purchased the latest over-the-counter diet pills; the ones that don’t let fat be absorbed by your intestines.

No Cheating!” Mother Nature insisted, after three days of stomach cramping and making sure not to wander more than 10 feet from the bathroom. “Play by the rules.” She chided as she slapped three more pounds to the scale.

It was time to put on the boxing gloves. Four miles, one hour, every day. After three weeks at four miles, I hopped on the scale to find…what’s this? Three quarters of a pound? Maybe seven eighths even? Oh hell, round it up and take the credit… I lost a pound! It was only a drop in the bucket but a start that renewed my determination. I scrambled into my knee brace and slipped on my pants, ready to push it to five miles!

My husband walked by the bathroom and paused, taking in my topless attire and then said “Honey, I’m really impressed by what you are doing.” His face softened and he said in earnest, “I can tell you’re losing weight, too, because your right boob is smaller.”

By the grace of God and a will power I did not know I possessed, he too, is still alive, although deeply examining the error of his ways. Once satisfied that I had sufficiently chastised his stupidity, I sat with the realization that the only perk enjoyed from gaining weight, moving from an A cup to a B, was being taken back. This is the reward for my efforts? This is the breakthrough I was waiting for? The only good that has come of all this work is that I have managed to shrink one boob? Take the boobs back and leave me the rest? What good are buns of steel if they are covered in padding?

I laced up my sneakers with a vengeance. Mother Nature had upped the ante and I refuse to lose this race. Five miles here I come; see you at the finish line Mama.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


“I’ll pick you up after school. What time do you have to be at work?” I ask my sixteen-year-old, examining the day’s schedule in my mind.

“Say that again?” he responds.

“I’ll pick you up after school. What time do you have to be at work?” I ask again.

“One more time,” he says, “just the second part.”

I look over to see his eyebrows raise and lower, dimple holing its position.

“What?” He says, “I just like the way it sounds….have to be at work…ahhh. That’s right… I’m a working man. Oh yes! Responsible and employed.” He rattles on, head sauntering from side to side above his shoulders.

“You’re still training,” I remind him.

“True, true…” he nods, “but I’m such a good scanner, I’m thinking of asking for a raise.”

I shake my head, wondering how much of his Jim Carey side comes through behind the cash register. “Slow down there cowboy,” I tell him, “Better finish training first.”

“Let me give you a sample of my work,” he says, pretending I have just approached the counter. “Good afternoon, did you find everything you needed? Scan, scan, scan….and your total is….how would you like to pay for that?” He asks grinning. “Then, after they pay, I say Thank you for shopping at YOU SAVE pharmacy and please come again,” he says, open palm moving in a half circle wave.

“Do you say that to everyone?” I ask, suppressing a snicker.

“Indeed,” he answers, “unless it’s a really hot girl and then I say, Have a good night now.” he says, hands at his hips like pistols pointing forward, dimple flashing, crooked smile raised on one side.

“Sometimes if I’m bored, I ask if they would like to become a YOU SAVE member.” he says, face switched to serious. “I don’t really know if there is such a program, but it’s ok, they always say no.”

“But what if they say yes?” I ask.

"I say, Me too," he answers, nodding his slightly tipped head. "Me too."

I wonder to myself how long he will continue as a YOU SAVE Associate.


Apologies to David Letterman and Carrie Link, but the countdown format seemed most appropriate….

The top five ways to know that your life has spun crazy out of control:

5…when you take three steps back from the poster board sized, color-coded calendar plotting the schedule for the family of five and realize that it could double as a colorful, mosaic wall hanging.

4…when you drive through the pharmacy and the woman in the window asks the last name and you hesitate, drawing a brief, but frightening blank.

3…when your middle child walks in the door at 6:30 covered in mud and scrapes from his soccer game and you didn’t even realize that he wasn’t home in the first place.

2…when you are secretly pleased that the trailer full of cows has blocked your car while dropping off your kid's projects to enter in the fair, which will make it impossible for you to make it back to the 7:00 Back to School Night in your daughter’s classroom and you SOS the hubby to say that he is on his own with this one…lingering to pet the goats instead.

1…when guilt overtakes you for not admitting that there are two sessions of Back to School Night and you cave at your daughter’s Academy Award, last child performance of “But I cleaned my desk and left you a note” so you wash the goat slobber off your hands, throw on some lipstick and race to the class, slip into her desk chair in the nick of time, feel around in your purse for a pen, and as you begin to write her a note, realize what is in your hand is a tampon that came loose from its wrapper.

You all have done that before…

Haven’t you???

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Back to School Night is a twelve year running annual ritual that conjures up all sorts of sensations. Sounds and smells, most especially the smells, send me back to my own school days. When my first born ventured off on the big yellow bus for the first time, Back to School Night was like getting to know him from a different angle. His new world, separate from mine, was filled with mystery. Cubbies with his belongings stuffed wildly in haphazard fashion, drawings of his family and the world as he saw it and collections of his “work” allowed me a peek into the window of his day that did not include me.

Needless to say, with my first born now a high school junior, Back to School Night has evolved dramatically. After a warm up by the new principal in the auditorium, I follow my son’s schedule: eight periods broken down into 10 minute sessions with two minutes to move between classes. A swarming school of adults, swimming rapidly through the waters of days gone by with maps and room numbers, attempt a mini version of their child’s experience. By now, three quarters of these parents are known to me, but little time for socializing as we maneuver the school, still searching for a peek into the window of our offspring’s world. The intensity of high school has been raised to a new, high tech level that makes it easier and more difficult at the same time.

My youngest is in her last year of elementary school. It is this school that I know best, as I have had a student here for twelve years. I know almost every brick of the building as well as every teacher, specialist and administrator. Part of me feels very much ‘done’ with room parent, book fairs and field trip chaperones. I have chaired more than my share of committees, events and talent shows. The other part of me is sad to be coming to the end of this chapter.

But it is the middle Back to School Night where I am most intrigued. Eighth grade is a special balance of independence and nurture. The format is similar to the high school; principal lecture followed by the Team 8-1 teachers displaying their power point presentations to illustrate their programs. Hallways swimming with parents attempting to maneuver the corridors in two minutes to follow eight ten minute periods. But sitting in these classrooms, I am energized. I listen to the verbal syllabus and my fingers begin twitching; wishing I had a freshly cracked notebook and pencil.

How much I would love to sit through these classes, relearning about our country and its history, about our constitution, about the planets. I am tingling in sixth period reading class at the thought of working through the classics and by a teacher who is conducting a book club atmosphere with food and drinks and conversation for her budding adult class. I am giddy by the time I am in English, sitting before a teacher who aims to teach grammar by making it come alive, and at the same time, rekindling the tools of understanding the Latin roots to be able to figure out any word.

There is a passion among these teachers that somehow blends the adult expectations and responsibilities of high school, with that maternal nurture embodied in elementary school. Fledglings on the edge of the nest, students can aim to soar in any direction they choose; the sky’s the limit.

As Back to School Night comes to an end, I think what a thrill it would be to do eighth grade over again; a fresh notebook, a sharp pencil and hindsight. Do-over… Team 8-1 please… I wonder if my eighth grader would mind.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Continued from previous post...

Jotting the phone number on a scrap of paper, I hustle Cadence to the car and flip open my phone. It has been nearly five months since that sad day and Cadence’s words flood through my mind as I dial the number. “You can’t put a price on love… it’s not about a bird, It’s about this bird… we were meant to be together…we have a connection.”

I keep my voice ‘poker-face calm’ as I make the inquiry, nodding excitedly to Cadence while she rubs her hands together; sparkle in her eyes. This is indeed the Sky from the New Pet Store purchased in March. The woman on the other end tells me that they need to sell their house and Sky will not fit into their new plans. I tell her I will speak to my husband and call back, asking her name as I ready my pen. The world squeezes smaller as I write, making the friendly connection; she is a school administrator that I know from town.

Several days later, Cadence buckles herself into the back seat of Dad’s car on a mission of destiny. I am happy to let this be their moment, knowing my husband craves the hero stance to wipe away his twinges of guilt. They return two hours later with a plan.

Saturday morning, Cadence hauls her beloved old toys to the curb, while Dad posts the Tag Sale signs. She is careful in arranging her display, falling victim to the call of a few dolls and animals who say they are not quite ready to leave.

She works the customers like a pro; “I notice this one caught your daughter’s eye…” she smiles, flashing her dimple, “If you press right here she talks.” Cadence demonstrates while the young child beside her nods, eyes wide with hope. “I guess two dollars would be fine. Now for this one you will have to pay full price,” she tells the woman looking down at her, as she holds a My Little Pony in her hands, “but you get this one free…they are a pair and they’re meant to be together.” Her words ring in my ears as she adds little by little to her money box, raising nearly half the cost through her efforts; meant to be together.

The day arrives when it is time to bring destiny home. The sky is blue that morning and Cadences dresses the same. She sits with a clip board and writes a numbered list of questions, leaving lines to place the answers or painstakingly making yes and no check boxes.

Sky is more beautiful than I remembered; her long tail feathers formerly chewed off by hostile roommates are now re-grown and regal. The family that loved her for six months spent large quantities of time and money, sending us home with a massive cage, bags of toys and goodies and a sweet bird who knows how to step up, give kisses and is working on “Hello.” Cadence is not the least bit deterred when filling out her clipboard by the elaborate routine that this bird had grown accustomed to.

She prefers fresh fruit in the morning: favorites are fresh pineapple and apples.

She likes fresh vegetables in the evening: prefers broccoli or green beans, lightly steamed.

She showers every other day on a special plastic perch with suction cups holding to the shower wall. Simply point the water to hit the wall above her and she spreads her wings, taking an elaborate tail feather-shaking, head twisting fifteen minute spa treatment.

And, to avoid getting a chill, she is accustomed to the blow dryer afterward; low setting held 6-9 inches so as not to be too hot.

Cadence is thrilled.

Sky adjusts quickly to her new home and family members. Inquisitive and funny, she hops onto our cockatiels cage and works diligently on the door to set her neighbor free. She delights in dropping food items onto the dog’s head and cocks hers to one side watching him eat. He waits patiently, wagging his stubby brown tail while she runs back to her dish to decide what to feed him next. She loves to climb onto Cadence’s head, arranging her hair with her claws and beak.

I look at them and they are beautiful to watch. I remind Cadence that these birds live 30-50 years and that she will likely still have Sky when she marries. “I’ll just tell my husband, take a wife…get a bird free!” She says.

Birds of a feather they are.

It is about love and connection.
It is about a bond and a destiny.
It is simply, meant to be.

Friday, September 21, 2007


April rolls to May rolls to June like the quick spin of a rolodex. Spring takes on breakneck speed with soccer games, dance recitals, band concerts and end of the year activities. There is little time to ponder anything other than checking off the events on the schedule and the end of June feels like busting through the finish line banner, breathless and ready for rest and recharging.

Every June is like this. Every June leaves my children and me ready for big time down time. There is great stress lifted in our new routine of eating late, retiring late and sleeping late. Summer, summer, summer; a welcome guest!


The word conj ours up such delicious images of out door fun: swimming, barbeques, picnics and friends. When I was growing up, summer meant no schedule. It meant rustling up friends and making our own adventure. It meant swimming in the pool in the back yard and shark rides on my father’s back. It meant a week at some day camp making crafts and learning about nature. It meant easy.

We lived in a neighborhood full of kids and had a pool in our back yard. My mother did not work and so going with the flow was easy. My best friend had a horse and we rode everywhere together. We’d walk back and forth to each others houses, sleeping at one or the other and we were inseparable.

My memories of summer are warm.

Summer is the one thing, as a parent, I cannot seem to get right.

It’s the one little part of parenting that sixteen years of experience has not helped me to improve on. In the throws of the spring race while other parents are scheduling their children for camps, I am resistant to schedules of any kind and do not sign my kids up for anything. We will relax, spend time together and explore other opportunities. It never fails to be poor planning on my part to think this way.

In the past, when I did sign them up for camps, work opportunities for me dwindled, causing me to spend money I didn’t have and left me providing taxi service for kids I’d rather be spending time with. Lesson learned, I vowed no camps for us the following summer. Of course work came fast and furious and I spent a fortune on babysitters leaving my kids home with no social opportunities.

No matter what method I attempted, summer has not cooperated. This summer is no exception. I planned a couple of weeks to do nothing and then a three week trip to North Carolina to visit grandparents. A shift in the market has left work scarce for me and our trip needs to be cancelled. This is not a problem for my boys, who are more than happy to amuse themselves around town with friends, but Cadence’s summer is dull to say the least.

In July, work picks up and I do not have much time for her. She is wonderful about finding things to do: messy little science experiments in the kitchen, rediscovering old toys, making a shoulder high spider web across her entire bedroom with yarn and yes…watching TV. It’s the watching TV that pains me. She is happy to lose herself in a world of someone else’s fun. I encourage her to call friends to come over to play while I click away at the computer. She dials through the list, only to find they are all on vacation or at camp. I race through the list of camps, calling each one for a chance opening to no avail.

I stop working everyday in the late afternoon and scoop her up to go to the beach. She plays joyfully in the tide pools, rescuing little fish that found themselves in shallow puddles as the tide receded. She is happy with the crabs and snails and on luckier days, she stumbles upon a friend. She communes with the seagulls and names almost every one in the flock. As always, she bonds closely with the underdog and makes certain that “Old Fella” and “One Leg” get their fair share of animal crackers. The afternoon brings some reprieve to the seemingly endless alone time she is spending.

I feel such guilt thinking about what she will write upon her return to school; On my summer vacation, I watched TV. I ask her to think of something special that she wants to do or to buy for being so patient with the situation. After a great deal of thought, she proposes a guinea pig. Dreading the idea but dripping with guilt, I say “Sure…as soon as I get paid.”

Several days later, my phone rings during an inspection and I check the message when I am back to my car. It is Cadence using her most grown-up, eight-year-old business voice. She reminds me using words like "possibly discuss" and "consider" that I promised the dreaded rodent. I commit to an exploratory research trip at the end of the day.

“Lets first go to Pepper’s pet store to check out what they have, and then we’ll drive over to The New Pet Store,” I tell her, hoping that Pepper’s will have a better deal. We trudge up the dusty wooden steps to the small animal section. They have three guinea pigs, two bunnies, white mice and gerbils.

“Hmmm,” she says, “I thought they would be cuter.”

As we are leaving Pepper’s, we pass the bulletin board where people post pet related flyers. A picture catches my eye and I freeze; it is a Blue-Ringed Parakeet.

Moving… Must Sell…Best Offer…named Sky.

What are the chances?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


“Oh Mommy LOOK!” Cadence scurries past the glass-fronted aquariums and cages to the bird perch. She is fluttering with excitement as a long awaited promise to visit the new pet store is fulfilled. The building is massive and the staff comprised of animal-loving college kids in maroon colored shirts.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO TOUCH THE ANIMALS, PLEASE ASK FOR ASSISTANCE, read the signs posted at every station, but Cadence is not much for reading and reaches in to the birds. I glance at the young staffer to my right and she nods permission. The perch is dotted with noisy, colorful birds of all kinds: rainbow colored Macaws, white Cockatoos, green, orange and purple Parrots and an African Gray. Feisty green and orange Conures take to bullying a quiet bird and Cadence climbs up onto the low brick wall that surrounds the perch to intervene. She scolds the bullies and holds her finger under the belly of the gentle victim. The quiet bird steps lightly onto her finger.

“Oh Mommy she’s beautiful!” she says, bringing the bird close. The bird is the color of the sky on a perfect summer day; round soft head with black eyes and a smooth triangular red beak. She is truly beautiful. I read the signs on the wall to find out what she is and discover that she is an Indian Blue-Ringed Parakeet, appropriately named Sky. “Hello Sky.” Cadence coos and brings the bird close in front of her face. Sky tips her head as if understanding and then walks up Cadence’s arm to find a comfortable spot on her shoulder. They sit cheek to cheek in conversation, as I remind my daughter that we are only here to visit.

An hour has passed and it is time to leave. “Good-bye Sky, I’ll see you tomorrow.” Cadence whispers placing the bird back on the perch. She walks to the car wearing a sweet, satisfied smile. “I saved her from those bullies, Mom. I think she appreciated it. We really made a connection.” she smiles up at me reaching for my hand.

“You sure did.” I squeeze her hand, my own heart feeling the longing in hers.

“Can we come back to see her tomorrow?”

“We’ll see.”

The following day, begging and pleading win me over as we pass the pet store on the way home from dance class and we find ourselves visiting again. “I know I can’t have her Mom, but I saved her from the bullies and we have a bond. I promised to visit.” Cadence walks, almost skipping through the double glass doors.

Past the hamsters and the lizards, past the Guinea Pigs and the rabbits, Cadence swoops in the direction of the bird perch to Sky. Seconds later they are cheek to cheek in quiet conversation.

Inside of me, a dichotomy of voice banters loudly. Please oh please…I’ll take care of her…I’ll do anything, please! My animal-loving inner child is quickly silenced by the practical adult who says, I told you… we only came to visit. We have enough pets and this is too expensive! I allow only the adult to speak outwardly, as Cadence voices my child. “Just a visit,” I remind her, “it’s too expensive.”

Our visits continue following dance classes for the next several weeks; Cadence’s knowledge and attachment growing. One Sunday after church, Brad is craving ‘family time’ and offers the February afternoon to anyone’s suggestion. “Please Daddy, come to see Sky! You will just love her!” The boys are eager to look at lizards and snakes so it is settled.

We hold puppies and pet chinchillas but the main attraction remains the summer blue bird who sits quietly on Cadence’s shoulder. Shoppers stop to admire the bird and Cadence tells them all that she has learned, sounding as if she works in the store. Later at home, she approaches her father, the snap-trap mouse hunter whose love for animals is little, but whose love of this little girl is immeasurable.

“Daddy, I know it’s not my birthday or Christmas or anything, but I will give up all my presents for the rest of the year, birthday and Christmas and everything, and I’ll sell all my old toys to help pay for her Daddy.”

There is a pause.

Not a “NO,” but a pause and a pause means possibility.

Then there is an “If…” and an “IF” is almost a “YES”!

Cadence scurries to her room and begins to pull toys from her shelf to sell at her “tag sale.” The pile of discarded toys grows, along with her determination to bring her new friend home.

Realizing that I am married to a practical man, I decide to research the possibility of locating a Blue Ring Parakeet for less money, knowing that a good deal could be the straw that might very well break him. I discover that another local pet store has two Indian Blue Rings, a little bit younger and a good bit cheaper, so I bring Cadence in to look. The visit is short, her face blank and she is not interested in holding the birds. “Don’t you at least want to hold one to see if you like him? They cost less money so Dad might be more willing to say yes.” She shakes her head no and asks to leave the store.

She is quiet in the back seat of the car, taking her time to let her heart guide her voice. “This is not about any bird, Mom. This is about a special bird. It is about Sky.” She looks down at her hands, twisting her fingers, searching for a way to make me understand. Head up, voice shaky and eyes glistening, “I know these birds are cheaper, but you can’t put a price on Love. We have a connection.” she says in a strong voice squeezing hard at the water in her eyes.

In our subsequent visits to the pet store, she tells the staff and shoppers that her Daddy is going to buy Sky for her when his tax check comes. I gently remind her that he has not actually said yes, and that someone could buy Sky at any time before the tax check comes and she would have to understand. It was secretly the hope of her father that this very scenario would play out and he would be off the hook.

Finally, one Monday evening in early March, Cadence’s persistence wears down her father’s resistance and he consents to putting a deposit on Sky. “Please Mom, can we go right now??” It is 7:30 pm and surely the store would be closed, so I agree to go early in the morning. Cadence is all wiggles and dimples at bedtime, unable to contain her excitement. It has been two month of wishing, hoping, pleading and praying and she doesn’t know how she can stand to wait one more night! I tuck her in with assurance that she will soar in the sky in her dreams this night.

The following morning I am greeted by a staff member who recognizes me right away, as we have spent a ridiculous amount of time here. I tell them I am here to fill out the contract and to put a deposit on Sky. They tell me to wait at the desk and my stomach tightens as I see one staffer speak to another and then vanish. I walk quickly back to the bird perch and am instantly relieved to see Sky among the feathered array. I return to the desk to finalize my daughter’s dream.

“I’m afraid I have bad news…” the manager of the store stands before me. “Someone came in last and bought the bird.”

“Are you sure… Because I just saw Sky in the back.” I ask, unable to believe this could be true.

“Yes ma’am, I’m sorry. They’re not coming for the bird until later today but they paid for it already.” He looked down to avoid my eyes.

“I can’t believe this.” my mind was racing, “My husband finally said yes last night… she’s so excited. I have showed her other Blue Rings that were actually cheaper, but she only wants this one. She said you can’t put a price on love.” I looked desperately at the maroon shirt before me.

“Could it have been your husband that came in and paid for it?” He asked, hope in his eyes. “It was just before closed at 9:00.”

“No.” I answered, thinking back to 7:30 when we assumed the store was closed. Timing is everything. “Who bought her?” I asked, hoping there was still a way to work this out. “Is there any way I could call to see if they would consider a different bird?” I asked him.

“I’m sorry.” he answered and I saw that he really was. “I can’t do that.”

I left the store with my stomach swirling and thought about the weeks of hoping and loving that I would have to look in the eye at the end of the school day.

If we had gone at 7:30…

If we hadn’t said yes at all…

The bus pulled up at the usual time and Cadence came hopping off full of joy. “I’m ready!” She chirped. “Can we go see Sky? Did you tell her that we are buying her? Did you make the deposit?” she asks, flinging her backpack the floor.

I paused and Cadence knew that this time, the pause did not mean possibility. “Honey, sit down for a minute. I have to tell you something.” I said.

She stood rigid before me. “Someone bought Sky.” She said flatly, her eyes filled with horror.

“I’m so sorry.” I said, feeling like I was announcing a death. “I went to the store and she was still there but someone had paid for her already and they’re picking her up today.” She stood motionless for a long moment.

“I need to go say good-bye.” she said through quivering lips, eyes wet with loss. I explained that Sky could be gone already and that if she was still there, saying good-by might be very sad and very difficult and perhaps we should just let her go.

“I need to say good-bye and tell her I love her and explain what happened. I need to tell her this is not what I wanted. We have a connection” She said with a small but certain voice that was succumbing to a sob.

She walked solemnly through the store to the perch where Sky sat with the rowdy parrots. Without speaking, she placed her on her shoulder and sat on the brick wall. She walked in circles and sat again, attempting to explain to her friend that this was not how she wanted it to be. She rolled her lips together and squeezed hard at the tears now forming in her eyes. A shopper stopped with her husband to pet a parrot. “I think something is wrong with that little girl,” she told the staffer, “she looks scared.”

“She’s fine.” I stepped in, “She’s just saying good-bye.” I gave a brief synopsis laced with guilt and sadness, as I watched the painful scene. The young staffers, now invested in the drama, agreed to give me the high sign when the new owner arrived. In what was probably an hour, although it seemed like seconds, the nod came, alerting me that he was there. I began to tell Cadence that the time had come to say a final good-bye and the staffer shook her head and asked me if it would be OK for Cadence to meet the man herself. She said she wanted Cadence to see that Sky was going to a good home, but I think she held hope that the man would melt with the tears of a little girl. I watched from the distance as Cadence bolstered herself, shoulders back and hands trembling.

I could not hear the conversation, but later learned that the staffer introduced Cadence as the little girl who came to say Good-bye to Sky. Cadence stood bravely before the tall man with gray hair, trying to keep the tears from spilling. He did not speak to directly to her, but quietly agreed to take the bird last after collecting his supplies.

It is a quiet ride home. Cadence stared out the window, knowing the first great sadness of her eight years. The manager told me that they were going to be getting featherless baby Blue Rings in April and that if we purchased one, Cadence could be part of the hand feeding. I offer the news as consolation; her silence speaks volumes.

We make several visits to see the babies when they arrive, but nothing tugs her heart strings. Finally, she admits that this is not about getting a bird, it was about that bird.

I recognize my offers of a baby bird are an effort are to ‘fix’ the problem; to mend her broken heart; to smooth her rumpled feathers. I am surprised at her honesty and her truth to self; not settling for the consolation prize.

This was not about acquiring a new pet for the sake of having one.

It was about love and connection.
It was about a bond and a destiny.
Now, it is about a bittersweet memory.