© 2008 Karen Van Fossan
A birdhouse changed me. Months ago, I paced the sidewalks of Bismarck, rehearsing the reasons to leave this place. And then I saw it. Up there, hanging from an evergreen. Made by loving hands, no doubt about that. The walls, maybe, were pieces of a long-ago barn. The roof, almost thatched, sloped to keep the snow from piling up, come winter. And you could peek inside, that was the thing. As if the hands that made this house, the hands that hung this house, were ready to love whoever might move in.
Then came today. Jasmine, honorary coyote, loves a blizzard. So we walked those same sidewalks, Jasmine stretching the leash to its furthest reaches, me doting behind. And there it was. The birdhouse. I peeked up, up. A creature had built a nest in there. And what was nestled inside? No! A squirrel?
Up ahead, I spotted someone tinkering with a snowblower, turning cranks or screws to get it to work.
"Does your squirrel have a name?" I asked.
He twisted around to face me. "No." Big smile. "I haven't given him a name."
I said, "Looks like a pretty good buddy."
He stole a glance toward the birdhouse. "Yup."
Young guy shovels the longest sidewalks you'd ever care to see: Getting there.
Guy: It's not so bad out.
Me: It's beautiful really...
Jasmine approaches the Shoveling Guy, sniffing, curious.
I nod toward Jasmine: Especially to her.
He scratches her like dog lovers do: Yep.
Then Jasmine and I head east again.
Shoveling Guy: Have a good one.
Me: You too.
Ferne's friend, Marilyn up at the nursing home, is eager to meet my mother ASAP. It started a few days ago, as we peeked out the window for signs of the rumored blizzard.
"If there's a blizzard, nobody'll come and see me," she said.
I grinned. "Someone will."
She looked at me uncertainly. "Who?"
"Oh, no. You're so cute and sweet, you'll fall over. Stay at home with your mother. She needs you."
(How I wish I could stay at home with my mother!)
Today, Marilyn asked, "How's your mother?"
"She's good," I said.
"Is she clearing away...? You know."
I clarified, "Is she shoveling the snow?"
Marilyn nodded. "Yes."
This line of questioning led me to explain, "You said you used to live in Rockford, Illinois? My mom lives in Homewood, Illinois."
"I want to meet her... I'm so fond of her daughter."
"Thank you! I'll tell her you said that. That will make her proud."
"I'm proud... I want to meet her!"
"Yep, that's a good idea."
Marilyn nodded vigorously. "I'm in love with it."