From "Bluebirds Bring More Than Happiness; Omen of My Long Awaited Son," on 4/25/12:
I can still see their black silhouettes--bats soared overhead against the dark of the night sky. The yard beyond was illuminated by a big farm light that buzzed on a pole, though it wasn’t much of a farm anymore. Pieces had been sold off over the years to encroaching industry; plastics companies that left mounds and mounds of synthetic scraps of all shapes and colors. Bits and pieces my brother and I would collect to play with as money or food or just to inspect and toss at the fence.
We played for endless hours at my grandparent’s house. We ate small, firm green pears until our bellies ached and we climbed the graceful, swaying willow tree, with the beckoning low branches that met at its base, stretching up like a welcome hug. Except for the bats, this was the place I felt safest. It was the place I felt most loved and where all our family came to gather. Cousins, aunts, uncles and all of us, around big lace-covered tables laden with my grandmother’s delicious, aromatic cooking and colored by the loot from my grandfather’s garden.
Mornings after I slept in the room that had been my mother’s, we woke to the smell of breakfast cooking. Thin, almost rubbery pancakes were plentiful to roll around fat sausage links and dip into sticky maple syrup that dripped down my chin. We drank sugary, milky children’s tea from my grandmother’s dainty porcelain cups, dotted with exquisite painted violets. I remember many summer afternoons when my grandfather and I walked in his garden; his bare, hairless knees peeked out from his shorts as a corduroy-slippered foot pressed a pitchfork into the loamy soil, turning it to reveal clumps of sweet, round new potatoes. It was my job to fish them from the earth and carry them enfolded in my shirt to my grandmother who scrubbed them and later served them doused in salty, buttery goodness. My grandfather’s large, firm finger disappeared into the soil alongside a fat carrot that would be left submerged until it matched or exceeded in girth and length. He handed me round, firm but yielding tomatoes, still warm from the sun. I bit into them like apples, and their juices dripped down in scarlet rivers off my filthy elbow. I was covered in dirt, pink cheeked and tow headed and nothing mattered but the bees and the bounty.
I remember my grandfather’s fondness for birds—budgies—I later learned this was an English thing when I finally was able to visit my maternal grandparents’ homeland, after they both were gone. He always kept bird feeders among the forsythias in view of the front picture window, and was proud of the many varieties he attracted; cardinals, my favorite, orioles, canaries, his favorite, gold finches and every other kind and color imaginable. A firm believer in hard work and a daily nap, he would lie back on the sofa, smoke his pipe and watch the birds. Once all the smoke-rings had wasped away and the scent of the blue-tinned, apple wood tobacco had faded, he would close his eyes in the stillness, only the ticking clock and his snores disturbed the cool silence I treasured.
Perhaps that’s why bluebirds came to tell me after six long years that my son would finally be; perhaps my grandfather sent them. Two days in a row, two bluebirds came to the feeder outside my kitchen window. I knew they were a sign; an omen that everything would be OK. We had just closed our restaurant and financially our future was very uncertain. There was the work trip to Britain my husband wouldn’t have been allowed to embark on without me, but otherwise there was only uncertainty: temperature charting, endless research on endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, chiropractic visits, drastic dietary adjustments, yoga, chakra balancing, progesterone cream, cleansing and fistfuls of supplements filled my days when our teenage daughters were in school. Failure and fear filled my thoughts, until I saw those bluebirds and experienced the lush, colorful spring of London. Suddenly my chronically acidic pH was perfectly in balance, and hope was my friend. This was April. And by June, I would have cause to take a pregnancy test again; prayerful that this time would turn out better than the loss we experienced two years before.
The bluebirds weren’t the only sign my grandfather sent. When I finally gave birth to the boy I’d waited so very long to hold, my grandfather, dead at 100 years of age just the year before, came to me in a deeply vivid, drug-induced dream. Not the bent over, feeble, occasionally sound minded, but impish and twinkle-eyed nonetheless grandfather, but the Grandpa of my youth. The one who sported Elvis Costello glasses, a dapper seer-sucker suit and straw hat; all of his five-foot-four-inch frame with its great, strong farm hands the size of a man’s over six feet tall, with their “educated thumbs” that could crack walnuts and put every man in our family on his knees during the required, humbling handshake greeting.
Perhaps it was merely a memory of when I was not yet two and my baby brother was born; the hospital halls were lined with backless, vinyl, mustard-toned benches, and the hushed nurses hurried along in their skirts, white hosiery and clunky white shoes, not the scrubs and white Birkenstocks worn by my actual nurses. Someone else was with him. Man or woman, I’ll never know, because my husband woke me, thinking I was having a nightmare. But I wasn’t. I was deliriously happy to see the Grandpa of my youth, so very proud to show him my baby boy and grateful for the chance to thank him for the bluebirds.
[My brother suggested our cousin, Jeff Bond, would enjoy this as well, so I sent it his way. Enjoy it, he did, and he replied with some more memories of our Grandma Lucy Bond, as well as a wonderful description of the delightful British sense of humor "Gramps" shared with all of us, that I just had to share with all of you, with his permission. Thank you, Jeff! We were so very lucky to have them both in our lives, weren't we? And I'm lucky and grateful to have you, too.]
Now that we float in a different orbit I can tell you they were not bats...simple Chickadees...but hey...the imagination can run wild when distorted facts are placed into the mind of a child...[Rotten!!! I KNEW IT!!]
What a delight to hear from you. Bravo on the Blog about our Grandpa. I found myself walking with you and Gramps as we raided the garden and enjoyed the bounty of his labor. I will always have a special place in my heart for Grandpa and Grandma. They shaped me in so many ways. With a home as turbulent as mine, Grandma's house was a sanctuary. I spent nearly every weekend at their place. One of the many benefits of being the youngest brother was I was too young to "work" with Gramps, that was delegated to Mike and Steve. My duties were to assist Grandma with indoor chores. We would quickly clean the house and consider it sufficient. Then it was time to cook. Grandma would turn on WHFB radio (at that time they played tunes from the 40's and 50's) we would dance around and prep the food. To this very day I play jazz music and tunes from the 40's and 50's while I spend hours in the kitchen preparing pseudo gourmet dinners for guests. They all get a kick out of my music selection while working in the kitchen. I entertain my guests by sharing memories of me and Grandma working in the kitchen having so much fun. I describe Grandma as a very loving and gentle lady. She was so happy I was with her. Often stopping in the middle of our cooking to give me a hug and a kiss on the head. She would tell me she loved me and we would get back to work. If I could only tell Grandma how much that meant to me. She gave me value and I will always love her for that. I have been through a lot in my life, but losing Grandma when I was only 19 was one of the most difficult experiences I have ever endured.
[Jeff described Grampa’s sense of humor so perfectly, and the joy of cleaning with Gramma, too. She was my favorite person in the whole world, and when she died (I think I was 11), I was absolutely heartbroken, and I saw it break my mom in ways I wish I hadn’t. It’s so very hard on women to lose their mothers so early in their lives. Maybe she was the one with Grampa in the hospital, and I just woke up too soon to know. And maybe she was harder to reach because she’d been gone so much longer. I wish I knew.]
I always loved Gramps, but even more as I grew older. When I was in my teens I began spending more time with Gramps, in part because Mike and Steve were not as available as they once were and partly because I was able to help him with tasks he was simply too old to handle alone. Gramps and I quickly discovered we had the same sense of humor. I could have Gramps laughing so hard his pipe would fall out of his mouth. In turn, Gramps could drop a one liner on me that would have me laughing so hard I struggled with the simple exercise of breathing. In the summer we used to sit on the park benches downtown while Grandma shopped and Gramps and I would make up stories as people walked past. Gramps would tell me "See that guy with the brown cap on, he was my neighbor in England. He was a cobbler. He made shoes out of polished river rock. He brought them to America in hopes of making it big... never quite worked out for him". I would just die laughing. I would look at Gramps and say.."Do you see that old lady over their with the scarf wrapped around her head...well she married the cobbler with the river rock shoes...when they divorced she took over the business and wouldn't ya know it...the business still never took off. As you can see she now wonders the streets begging for alms". Gramps would crack up then say...you got it...you got the British humor. That British humor Gramps instilled in me has made many strangers my friends, has made many people laugh if only for a moment, it pulled me out of very dark places and has been a true gift. Did you ever notice in all God's creation man is the only being able to laugh. What a gift. How cool it was to have Grandma and Gramps in our lives. I could go on and on with my love and affection for them and all the Bond clan. We need to get the Bond clan back together. Grandma and Gramps would never approve of how we have drifted apart. Looks like it is up to you and I to get it back. I am up for it!
[I am up for it, too, Jeff! Thank you so much for permitting me to share your memories of two fine people. Happy Father's Day to you, and to all the wonderful dads I know, including my own. Love ya, Man!]