Friday, September 19, 2008


The sound woke me from my deep and needed slumber and I tried to sift it into a recognizable category. It sounded like a yelp, but not. It sounded like a croak or a bark, but different. Unable to make the sound familiar from my pillow, I pushed myself to the window to find the source. As soon as I saw her, I knew the sound by name; loss.

The wooded areas around our property bring nature up-close and personal. In the spring, two of the wild turkeys from the local flock became mothers. They split off from the group and wandered solo, each followed by six or eight fuzzy little replicas. With an open field beside us, old barns and wooded land behind, there seems no logical reason for them to strut across the asphalt to wander behind the houses on the other side of the road, and yet, cross they do.

One early morning as I returned from dropping a child off at school, I stopped just before my driveway as Mama Turkey stood on the curb preparing to cross. She hesitated there, her fuzzy crew huddled behind her. I waited as she took her first step into the road and I looked ahead for oncoming cars. I was startled, as was Mama Turkey, by the sound of a horn and I saw the big black Mercedes with tinted windows behind me; short tempered man gesturing “Move already!” with his hands. I frantically pointed to the turkeys so he would understand, but he pulled out to pass me with speedy annoyance and I cringed and closed my eyes. Mama Turkey stopped; her fuzzy crew like a shadow and turned back to where she had come from.

As summer passed, the number of babies dwindled. The two mothers banned together, each with one remaining baby and the foursome spent most of their time in the field beside our home. The babies, now strong and sturdy, were almost half the size of their mothers. Through my window, I watched as Mom and baby pecked through the grass in the morning dew, the other mother walking head high, calling her grieving sound in the field.

The day before, we passed something dead on the roadside and I worried that it was our cat. I turned my car to make another pass and saw that it was a baby turkey. The two mothers and remaining baby were wandering there on the other side of the stone wall. I wondered if they knew the sad sight on the other side of the wall, or if they were simply looking for the missing baby. Hearing her calls in the still of morning was heartbreaking.

The mothers and young one have now rejoined the flock; big male standing proudly on the hill flapping his enormous wings reigns over the twelve. Each morning, my turkeys wander through the yard and into the field as if they know that they belong. I can see them from my office window and am moved from my seat every once in a while as I see them heading for the road. Walking up the curb, I head them off saying “What have I told you about the street?” shooing them back to safety.
Early this morning, Trevor walked into my office to say “Bye Mom,” and strode out to the bus stop. I told him to have a nice day and opened my office door. My flock was across the street heading towards us down a long driveway, Big Daddy nearing the curb. I stepped outside with Trevor, who looked at me in my pajamas and glanced down the road looking for the bus. “Mom, go back in.” He said, eyes wide with the horror that I may be seen by the bus.

“But the turkeys…” I began.

“I’ll cross them. Just go back in.” He said, walking slowly toward the street. Five had crossed and more about to step into the road, Trevor drives them back until the cars pass. Once the road is clear, he gives them space and four more make their way across.

The bus squeals to a stop and the remaining three hop into the brush. As the bus lumbers away, the three stick their heads out; Mama and baby are among them. Cadence and I rush out to watch for cars and Cadence skips down the curb once all are safely crossed, herding them like an old pro deep into the field.

I don’t know why the turkeys cross the road. Perhaps it really is just to get to the other side.

I don’t know why I feel responsible for them; running up the street in my PJs, risking being seen by passing cars as I stand in the road talking them back from the curb.

I do know that I will keep crossing them, silly as that may be, even if the neighbors are talking.
Thinking of ordering a road sign...

Friday, September 05, 2008


Cadence bounces off the bus, long silky hair fluttering behind her like a flag in the wind. She looks similar to the girl I used to greet last year from the elementary school bus, but she is one hour earlier, several inches taller and sporting a purse over her shoulder. Each day she rummages through her wardrobe, layering old, outdated pieces with the few new additions; accessorizing to complete a package she feels wonderful to be wrapped in.

“Hey!” She says, sparkle in her voice. It is the third day of fifth grade and she seems to be getting the hang of things. “I had a greeaaat day! Madeline and I are great friends again and we traded shoes for almost the whole day! I remembered I had some of my own money, a five, so I bought ice cream at lunch. Oh, and I have lunch money on my debit card,” She says, throwing her backpack to the ground and making a bee line for the kitchen.

I remind her that we have not sent in money to her account and that she has no balance on her card yet. “Actually,” she says, “I had three dollars and some change after I bought the ice cream and the lady asked if I wanted money back or did I want it on my card and I thought ‘just put it on my card.” She said, sounding like an experienced shopper. And I found out that one of the two boys I have a crush on likes me, too! “Oh, and I made a great new friend!”

“Wow.” I say. “Sounds like a great day! What’s your new friend’s name? I ask, not ready to address the ice cream and crushes. Cadence shrugs her shoulders, opening the refrigerator door.

“How were your classes? Did you learn anything new?” I ask.

“Well,” she begins, grabbing a water bottle from the refrigerator and sitting down on a stool, “I learned that in middle school, you’re judged by the friends you have, what you wear and by your snacks.”

“Your snacks?” I say, as this is the one I have never heard about.

“Yeah, like you’re cool if you have cool snacks like pudding, mini coffee cakes, yodels, stuff like that. Could you buy that stuff instead of the healthy stuff? Granola and yogurt and the stuff I bring is lame.” She says, moving toward the television.

“No TV!" I tell her. "Let’s look to see what you have for homework first.” I nag, as she rolls her eyes and grabs her back pack.

Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, Computer, Health, Spanish, Band and Chorus; big binder and folders organized, planner filled in. We seem off to a good start.

“I see you have spelling, reading, social studies and math homework.” I tell her, thinking she is in way over her head and trying to help her to prioritize.

“Where is your math book?”

“Uhh, it’s in my locker. I forgot it.” She says, tapping her pencil nervously.

We talk about strategies to help her remember what to pack at the fast and furious locker visit before buses.

“You’ll need to explain to your teacher tomorrow. What is your math teacher’s name?” I ask.

“Ummm… I don’t think she told us yet.” Cadence says, rolling her pencil back and forth.

Most definitely over her head.

She tackles the spelling homework and I urge her to move on to social studies.

“What are you studying in social studies?” I ask.

“Dead people.” She answers.

“Dead people?” I ask.

“Yeah. I guess they were all famous, but they’re all dead now.” She answers as I grab the syllabus, my eyes scanning the topics for the year: French and Indian War, American Civil War, Industrial Revolution…. she is right; all dead.

“What is that written on your hand?” I ask, noticing the green permanent marker.

“I ‘heart’ R.” She answers. “You know, that cute boy Riley from camp? He’s in my class. I put a note in his locker” She says, doodling on the “dead people” list. Riley is in over his head, I think.

It is the third day of school and we have nameless new friends and teachers, lame snacks, notes in Riley’s locker, but no books from Cadence’s.

At least she has all of the important things figured out!

The rest will follow...won't it?

Re-thinking home schooling.