When your children are finally old enough to stay home alone after school is both a liberating and terrifying time for parents. Like most parents, my husband and I made sure that both of our children, Kinsey and Aaron, knew what to do in an emergency. They knew to go to our neighbor Dolores’ house in a severe emergency and to call their father, who only worked about five miles from our house, for anything else. So naturally, when something went wrong they called me. I worked about an hour away from home.
I shared my office with two of my friends and the phone calls I received became our regular dose of humor. Calls included the day my daughter called from the phone in the garage to tell me that her brother had locked her out of the house and wouldn’t let her back in and, on another occasion, she called to say that there had been a tornado warning on television for an area 60 miles from our house and although she had told her brother that they were not in danger, he did not believe her. When she called, he was wearing his bike helmet while trying to drag our dog down the basement stairs.
So my friends, who knew both of my kids but who had no children of their own at the time, were used to hearing me deal with the craziness that is called parenting on a regular basis – which normally led to hysterical fits of laughter from both of them. When Kinsey called one day and said, “There’s a bird in the house. Its flying around like crazy and was dive-bombing me so I went to Dolores’,” I knew where we were headed.
“Where’s your brother?” I asked.
As soon as I said it, I heard my one co-worker giggle and say to the other, “Here we go.”
“His bus didn’t come yet. So I wrote him a note and put it on the door.”
“What does the note say?” I asked.
“It says Aaron, there is a bird in the house. Don’t go in! Go to Dolores’! Jeez Mom, what did you think it’d say?”
“I don’t know. I don’t understand why you ran to the neighbors just because there is a bird in the house, go home and let it out. It’s just a bird.”
More giggles behind me.
“I’m not going back into the house. That bird can wait until your or Daddy get home, I’m scared of it. Wait, here’s Aaron,” she said.
“Put your brother on the phone.” I heard more giggles behind me.
I asked Aaron if he saw the bird, “Yes, it dive-bombed me in the kitchen, it came right at my head!”
“It dive-bombed you? Didn’t you see the note your sister left?” I asked. More giggles.
“What note?” he asked.
Kinsey yelled, “I left a note on the kitchen door telling you not to go in. What are you stupid?”
“Shut up, Kinsey,” Aaron said.
And so they began arguing back and forth like siblings do. “Knock it off! Just stop it!” I yelled into the phone as my co-workers continued giggling. “I’ll be home soon. Aaron, get your sister and go home and let the bird out of the house.”
“She said we have to go home and let the bird out of the house,” Aaron said to his sister.
“No! No, I’m not going back to the house. That thing is mean!” Kinsey said.
“Go home and open the windows and doors and chase the bird out of the house using towels or something,” I said.
To which they both again said no. After much more back and forth with me using my threatening mommy voice, and my co-workers giggling behind me, they finally reluctantly agreed that they would go home and try to shoo the bird out of the house. By the time I hung up the phone my co-workers were no longer giggling, they were full on laughing.
When I pulled into the driveway after work, there on the grass next to the driveway was a starling. It was sitting still, wings spread out to cool itself and breathing quickly. I actually felt sorry for it as Lord knows, my kids sometimes had the same effect on me.
I went into the house through the backdoor, taking off Kinsey’s warning note to her brother on my way in. Both kids came running into the kitchen to tell me that the bird had just flown out.
“Good job!” I said, “I think I saw the bird sitting in the grass by the driveway, he looked tired.”
“Was he about this big?” Aaron asked spreading his arms as far apart as he could.
I laughed and said, “No, he wasn’t that big, it was a starling.”
Aaron shook his head and said, “Then it’s not the same bird.”
His sister agreed and said, “Mom, that bird was huge! It wasn’t a starling, it was ginormous!”
I laughed and said, “Well, I don’t think there are any more pterodactyls.”
As my kids continued to tell me how big the bird was I surveyed my kitchen. The curtain rod was off of one of its hangers and the curtains hung lop-sided in the window. The colorful bottles that had been on the window sill were strewn all over the countertop and there was a dent in the toaster from where one of the bottles had hit it on the way down. Miraculously none of the bottles were broken. And there was bird crap everywhere – on the counters, the window sills, the table, the floor… maybe it was a pterodactyl.
“It looks like that bird was in here a long time. How did you get him out?” I asked.
The kids said that when they got home from Dolores’ the bird wasn’t in the kitchen anymore. They said they opened all of the windows and doors and grabbed some towels like I said, but they couldn’t find the bird. After looking all over the first floor, they went upstairs.
Kinsey said, “We could see that he had been upstairs because my blinds were messed up and there was bird poop in my room, but he wasn’t there any more.”
“We thought maybe he got out on his own,” Aaron added.
Just as they started to think they were in the clear, Aaron went to his room and there was the bird, stuck in his window blinds. He said that he called his sister and they opened the window and shooed the bird out through the open window. “He just left, right when you got home,” Aaron said.
“I told you,” I said, “I saw him sitting next to the driveway.”
“No, Mom, it wasn’t a starling!” Kinsey said again and Aaron again showed me just how big the bird was by spreading his arms as wide as they could go.
After some investigation, we found that the door of the old pot-bellied coal stove in our family room was open and figured that the
pterodactyl starling had probably entered the house by coming down the chimney and had somehow managed to push open the stove door. “See Mom?” Aaron asked, “A regular old starling couldn’t open that door. That door is heavy. It was a really big bird!”
A few weeks later as I was getting ready to leave for work, I heard a noise in the pot-bellied stove. There was something in there and I had a pretty good idea what it was and I didn’t want it to get loose in the house so I took the stove shovel and propped it up against the stove door so that it could not be pushed open from the inside. Then I wrote a note to my husband, who would be home for lunch in a few hours and could get the bird out of the stove. The note said:
There’s a pterodactyl in the coal stove.
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