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Volume xviii, Issue 17 ~ Apri 29 to May 5, 2010

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Bay Reflections

All the Girls Are Heroes

Any day that ends with a bluebird rescue is not all bad.

One tired mother rose to the occasion, too

by Janice Lynch Schuster

For years now, Alyson has asked me to write one of my personal essays about her, and this is it. I preface it with a warning to her, my youngest daughter and a middle child, that the story I have to tell about her is even more moving when set in the context of a series of recent family problems and stressors.

In April, I found myself making difficult decisions regarding treatment for a child with a chronic condition. Then my 19-year-old, Conor, failed to yield on a left turn and steered into the path of an oncoming vehicle; both drivers were relatively uninjured, but their cars were totaled.

So it seemed par for the course on Saturday morning when I wound up with seven-year-old Ian at the Minute Clinic, trying to figure out what to do about a cough that left him breathless and tearful. The nurse diagnosed bronchitis, prescribed antibiotics and sent us home. Saturday night, I was at Nighttime Pediatrics with Conor, where another nurse prescribed painkillers for his back injuries and cough syrup for his cold. Rolling into the driveway at 7:30, I was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to go inside, climb into my bed and cry.

Instead, as I parked the car, Alyson and her gaggle of girlfriends raced to the door. They were carrying a Xerox box and shouting that I needed to get them to the animal sanctuary near our house, stat. I left the engine running.

“What kind of bird, and why do I need to take it?”

“Let me tell you about the rescue of the injured bluebird,” Alyson said. “Also known as Little Stinky Toes.”

Aly and her friends, Alanna, Alex and Callie, had been walking to a convenience store when they spotted a bluebird, on its back, on the side of the road. They scooped it up and found a box to put it in, only to lose the bird when it rolled out and landed in a storm drain.

Two of the girls raced home and grabbed a lacrosse stick, a crab net, a rake and a roll of duct tape. The other two stood watch over the storm drain. A crowd of small children gathered.

The girls fashioned a long pole by duct-taping everything together. They fished around the storm drain until they trapped the bird, then lifted him 10 feet back to street level and quickly put him back in the box, this time setting a lid on it.

They walked back to one house, bird and small children in tow, but the parents refused to drive to the sanctuary. They called another mom, who suggested that they let nature take her course and leave the injured bird to its fate. They walked another mile back to my house, where my husband also declined to intervene. Just then, I arrived.

They clambered into the car and we drove to the animal sanctuary, a small facility run by an elderly schoolbus driver and his wife. We have often driven past the pond where emus, llamas and other exotic creatures make a home. The driver pointed us to the house; his wife came out, scooped up the bird and told the girls that she would get it dried off, cleaned up and splinted.

When the girls got back in the car, Alyson announced that they were all heroes. The other girls agreed that they felt proud of themselves (despite having landed the bird in the storm drain to begin with). “We saved a life!” they exclaimed.

Meanwhile, back in the driver’s seat, I told myself that any day that ends with a bluebird rescue is not, in fact, all bad. In the midst of the difficult days my children and I face, I write this to remind us to look to such moments and acts of grace … the beauty of the creatures and things that surround us … our ability to rise to many different occasions … to fashion tools out of whatever we can find … to rescue something, even something as small and seemingly inconsequential as a bluebird.?


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