Tearful end to pursuit of innocent curiosity

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“Mom, something happened, and it’s really bad.” This is never how you want your 9-year-old to begin a conversation, especially if her eyes are pooled with tears and her voice is shaking with panic.

“What?” I say, eyeing her up and down for fresh blood or signs of severe swelling.

Her answer tumbles out between sobs and gulps for air.

“There was a nest (gasp) and I wanted to look inside it (gasp) and I accidentally hit it (gasp) and it fell off the thingy it was on (gasp) and the eggs fell out and they broke on the cement and now (gasp, gasp) I’ve killed a living thing, and it’s all my fault.”

With this horrific conclusion, she throws herself on the bleacher in front of me and heaves tears of guilt and remorse.

Until then, it had been just another of Jimmy’s soccer games. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the action on the field because I still don’t really understand much about soccer (especially the ambiguous “off sides” call).

Instead, I had been using my required attendance to catch up with a friend in the cheap seats — the bleachers set back a few feet from the sidelines (where the real soccer fans sit).

Once the “baby bird incident” occurs, however, I find myself in the midst of a teachable moment that can’t be postponed.

“Show me where you were,” I say in the most soothing voice I can produce.

Amy takes me to the adjacent soccer field, where she and the rest of the “little siblings” from her brother’s soccer team had been playing. More accurately, she takes me to the awning that covers a bench where she and her pals had discovered the ill-fated robin’s nest.

(In baseball this would be a dugout. See — I’m not a total sports ignoramus. I just don’t know soccer.)

I approach the awning where the group of children still is assessing the damage. Amy’s buddy Joe hands me the nest, in which sits a lovely — but cracked — blue robin’s egg. The second one is scattered on the cement, the remains of a tiny new bird clearly evident among the broken eggshell.

All I can say is, “Oh, my.”

I take the nest with the damaged egg in it and rest it back on the rafters of the awning where it had been meticulously built. Then I urge the rest of the children to leave the broken egg alone.

Then Amy and I take a walk.

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