Three days before Christmas, Jeff called me from work. "Did you get my email?" he asked.
"Nooooo," I said slowly, wondering just what was in that email and wishing I had taken the time to hop online and check email a few minutes previously, rather than doing something productive like dishes or laundry.
"Well..." and then it kind of came out in a rush. "There's a lady here with a bird, and she's giving it away, and do you want it?" Or something like that. I was still trying to make sense of the fact that Jeff was asking me if I wanted a bird, so maybe I missed some of his words. Of course, I didn't want a bird!
Stunned, I asked what could arguably be the dumbest question of the year, "Is it an inside bird?"
"There's no such thing as an outside bird," he replied; and rather than arguing the validity of his answer, I let it go because his point was clear. There was a bird, in a cage, at the barbershop, for free...and it was likely coming home with Jeff.
Growing up, I never had a bird; and probably as a result of that, I never wanted one. To me, they were bothersome creatures who made a mess on the floor around their cage by scattering birdseed and feathers as far as they could fling them--which usually was a considerable distance. Besides, I like my birds out in nature where they can fly free and clear and I can occasionally catch glimpses of them. I don't have to feed or clean up after those kinds of birds.
Jeff, on the other hand, had had birds before and--to my surprise--had actually liked them (who would do that?). I suppose I should have known that it was only a matter of time until a bird showed up in our household, but I really was clueless. I thought he knew how I felt: all I ever wanted was a collie, right? and now that we have Jed, I'm good in the pet department. We don't need any other creature around here that has a heart that beats (except for someone in the human department...there's always room for more of those). ;-)
For the next few hours, from the time of Jeff's phone call until he walked in the door after work, I was a wreck on the inside. I was hoping--oh, how I was hoping!--that Jeff had detected my true feelings and had come to the decision that we really should NOT have a bird now. But deep down, I knew that was wishful thinking. The door into the garage would open, Jeff would walk in; and rather than being the happy occasion that it usually is, it would be terrible because he would be holding a birdcage and the boys--to whom I had not so much as breathed a word of this--would come running and be so excited to have a bird, and I'd be standing there wanting to chuck the poor bird out the window--cage and all.
What's worse, Jeff and I were supposed to have a date that evening. A date! I didn't want to go on a date with Jeff! I'd have to talk to him! And look at him! And ride in the car with him! And sit at the same table and eat with him without the distraction of little people to fill the void! It would have been much easier to stay at home and ignore him the whole evening.
Time passed, as it always does, and the dreaded moment came. It was as I expected: Jeff arrived with the bird. Oh great, what do I do now?
Not wanting to ruin the moment for the boys--who were understandably pretty excited to have a new pet--I didn't say much but stayed in the kitchen and furiously scrubbed some dishes; but before too long, Jeff sensed my mood (it didn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure that one out!) and came into the kitchen to kindly ask, "Is something wrong?"
Let me tell you something: I tend to be a huge conflict avoider. I HATE, with everything within me, the thought of getting into a fight with Jeff. But even I couldn't avoid that conflict and pretend that everything was fine. So we talked about it, and really all that I remember saying to Jeff is that I just felt like I had no voice. Like the decision had been made even before he talked to me, and that what I thought mattered not at all.
I forget what he said--something profound, I'm sure; but I do remember that Josiah was very aware of what was going on, and he came into the kitchen (I was still hiding out there; I must have had A LOT of dishes to wash) a little while later and said something like, "I'm sorry about the bird." I was grateful for his compassion and sensitive, loving heart (even though it didn't change the fact that we still had a bird in the house!).
Jeff was trying to figure out where to hang the cage and was asking me what I thought (which was good of him, of course), but I did NOT want to be involved and had NO input to give him. As far as I was concerned, the best place for the bird was anywhere but in our house, so I didn't care one iota if he hung it to the left or the right of the Christmas tree or by the front door or closer to the kitchen or anywhere! He would have to figure that one out on his own.
In the gap of time between Jeff coming home from work and us leaving on our date, Jeff and Josiah ran an errand together; and Jeff told me later that Josiah asked him, "What do married people do when they're mad at each other?" He hasn't seen too many conflicts between Jeff and I, so the situation at hand and the tension in the air made a big impression on him.
Evening came, our babysitter showed up, and Jeff and I headed out on our date. And you know the funny thing? That was EXACTLY what we needed. I'm sure God arranged it that way so that the incident happened on a Saturday when we were going to have uninterrupted time together that very evening and could discuss our feelings immediately. I'm such a stuffer when it comes to that kind of thing, so I think God helped me out by setting it up that we HAD to talk about it.
I don't really remember what we said though.
Whatever it was, it was enough to reestablish our deep love and respect for each other--and even more, our friendship. Whatever it was, it made me feel more like a treasured wife and less like a mud-smeared doormat that had just been walked all over. Whatever it was, it was good.
And that's how we came to have a bird. This lovebird. This girl lovebird. :)
I'm just going to whisper this, so lean in close.
I like her.
Shhhhhhh. Don't tell anybody. Especially don't tell Jeff; if he knew, I might never live this one down. ;-)
The fact is, Heather is a cheerful addition to the household. Although her chirps are astonishingly loud sometimes, they don't bother me at all. (Except for when I'm leaning down near her cage to get something out of the desk drawer or picking pine needles up off the floor or some such activity, and I forget she's there, and then she lets out a shrill chirp, and it scares me half to death, and I nearly keel over in surprise. You know, times like that.) ;-)
The fact is, it's been fun to watch her. I'm learning some of her habits--like how she always sleeps at the top of the cage in a certain corner at night. I don't often take the time to sit and observe her; but when I do, I actually find it pleasurable--and so does Tobin. He, being the chief animal lover in our family, routinely climbs up on a chair so he can peer into her cage and watch her. For Tobin's sake, if for nothing else, I'm glad we have Heather.
The fact is, she hasn't created nearly as much of a mess as I thought she would. Her cage is the best I've ever seen (NOT that I've done much studying of bird cages before) because it has some clear plastic at the bottom that extends up the sides a ways and holds in the food and--ahem--other debris that collects in the bottom of the cage. Whoever designed it did it smartly.
The fact is, Jeff has faithfully done all of the care for her and hasn't expected me to do a thing. (Which is a good thing because all the friendly feelings I've developed for her might suddenly evaporate if I had to clean up her poop tray. Just sayin'--as they say.) ;-)
The fact is, even though he said his name was "Jeff Fisher," I obviously married Old MacDonald; and he's simply, animal by animal, creating his own little farm here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He must have a sticky note on the back of his shirt that says not "kick me," but "give me animals." Anybody who has any critter they want to offload just pulls into the barbershop, brings the animal down the steps, and puts it into Jeff's willing hands. I might as well change my name to Mrs. MacDonald and get on the bandwagon. Wonder if I have an old pair of overalls around here somewhere... :) (But I do draw the line at snakes. No way, nohow, we are never, ever, EVER going to have a snake as a pet. I know how to KILL those bad boys, so a pet snake wouldn't last long.) ;-)
The fact is, what I thought was SO bad has actually, amazingly turned out to be good.
I guess I'm not right every time. :)
As I think back over the events of that day, I ask myself, "What was the big deal anyway? Shouldn't I be used to Jeff's...I mean, Old MacDonald's actions by now? After 15 and a half years of marriage, it shouldn't rock the boat too much for him to bring home one little ol' bird, right?"
To that, all I can say is this: