My mom has always been a bird lover as was her dad before her. Grampa encouraged us to learn to identify as many birds as we could. He had his little Jenny Wren and he would lift me up to put four raisin quarters on the porch of her house. And then we would wait. She would always return to find our gift and trill her thanks. He also lured the hummingbirds in to his feeders. I did not know these tiny magicians existed but for those feeders. And sometimes there were orioles that would stop and peck at the orange halves out on the boathouse deck.
I didn't think much about this, until I pointed out a bird one day and my friend looked at me like I was crazy. That was when I realized how very much I had learned when it seemed like anything but. To her bird was a generic name that encompassed them all. Whereas to me bird was a word that meant nothing.
My mama tried to get the wrens to move in like her dad had, but they wanted nothing to do with us despite the identical housing. I think this made my mom sad. But there were hosts of others that flocked the feeders. Sparrows, chickadees, titmice, finches of all kinds, cardinals and jays. Sometimes there would be an owl stop in to let us know he was about. There were woodpeckers large and small and for a while there was our pet crow.
But the single bird I associate with her is the mockingbird. She would leave it raisins on the picture window sill and it learned to find them there, even learned that tapping the window would garner these tasty treats. It would come winging out of the woods with its looping flight and stop in Betty's weeping cherry before proceeding to the window and the raisins. In return, he would perch atop the telephone pole and sing his repertoire for her - a win-win situation.
When my nieces, Tori and Becca, were small perhaps 6 and 4 they thought Oma had magic. She made one of those flying things come closer where their experience had been that they fly away. They were entranced by the mockingbird and would kneel on the couch to watch it less than an arm's length away. And they loved it when he pecked at the window to remind them it was treat time.
Oma showed them how to quarter the raisins and leave them on the sill. She taught them to wait. She taught them that this is not just any bird, but a mockingbird. And not just any mockingbird, this was a specific mockingbird she called Mocker.
I was reminded of this last week as I sat with her in Memory Care. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a repeated flash of dark, or wing. I started paying attention and recognized the activity of nest building, the constant back and forth. I kept watch for who was building above the door to the garden. Medium size. Longish tail. But it was the tell-tale flash of white that gave me its name - mockingbird. Of course it's a mockingbird. They follow her everywhere.
Still, I have never known a mockingbird to nest in the eaves or so close to a door. As if it wants to be as close to her as possible. I hope it doesn't mean she's going somewhere I can't follow. And part of me wants exactly that.