I’d know that noise anywhere. Somebody wants something and they’re going to beg, beg, beg until they get it. Never mind that this somebody is not one of my own kids, never mind this somebody is, in fact, a bird: the whine has a universal quality that transcends space, time, and species.
Suddenly, there’s a new crow in the neighborhood. In the redwood tree in our back yard, to be precise. I hadn’t seen Momcrow or Dadcrow for months but suspected they were up there because I’d watched them bringing material to make the nest. They disappeared while the egg was incubating or the hatchling was still too young for visitors but now they are everywhere I look, flapping and hopping-to in a flurry to introduce their little one to the world.
I remember when my babies were new. After my first, I didn’t leave the house for two weeks. I just sat there, stunned and amazed, paralyzed, forgetting to eat or bathe or breathe, just staring at her as if her sleeping face was the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen. I swear, babies have some kind of magic stuff inside them and every time they exhale, they pull you even deeper under their spell. (Scientists need to study this phenomenon. Just think of the applications!) Even now, my children are somehow able to get me to do things I would never imagine. Yes, I prepare every meal. Yes, I still sometimes wipe my four year-old’s butt. Yes, I spend a significant portion of time cleaning up their mess. Yes, they are completely capable of doing these things for themselves, but I am completely wrapped around their little fingers.
I am their love slave. (Whatever you do, don’t let them breathe on you.)
Momcrow and Dadcrow are working hard these days. If I was an expert, I’d be able to tell you precisely how a chick differs from its parent, but to me, it looks the same only slightly more rumpled. The main difference I see is behavioral, mostly in its vocalization. This baby whines, chats, begs, urges, yells, cries, and croaks a little tune when it’s bored. Momcrow and Dadcrow went off one day and that young one clung to a branch of the redwood tree and moaned (yes, moaned) incessantly for more than an hour until they returned. Since it learned to fly, the baby has tagged along with them but does not yet feed itself. The parents zoom down, grab the best two peanuts, and fly to the top of the building across the street to pick the shells off and the baby shadows every move, whining like a siren until it has a nut in its beak.
My first girl’s first word was “MORE!” and she still can’t even eat crackers unless I’m involved. My little one says that food tastes better when I feed it to her by hand. “I’m thirsty!” “I want ice cream!” “Peel me a grape!” They are like little birds who manage to chirp with their beaks open, waiting for the worm. And if I don’t come immediately, they start to repeat it: “I want ice cream, I want ice cream, I want ice cream, I want ice cream, I want ice cream….” If I had a dime for every word they say, I’d buy myself some diamond-studded earmuffs or some super-fabulous noise cancelling device designed by NASA or, since I’m playing What If, how about a trip to outer space while I’m at it? But even out past the ozone layer I’d know they wanted something (“turn up the music, turn up the music, turn up the music, turn it up, turn it up…!”) and I would have to come back down to earth to yell, “Do it yourself, for pity’s sake! You have two hands! I am NOT raising damsels in distress, so you better figure it out!”
My cursory research on crows tells me that by fall, I won’t be able to tell the parent from its young. If it is female, she will most likely leave to find her own mate and territory. Male crows sometimes hang around longer and help their parents, so I know that the solitary crow I’ve been feeding all spring is probably male, probably Momcrow and Dadcrow’s baby from last year, and I have not seen him since the chick started its racket. I am alarmed by this news and flabbergasted by the notion that soon, this brand new crow may also leave. Soon, my two little birds will fly off and make nests somewhere else.
The tick marks are creeping up the wall where they stand to be measured and I’m standing with a pen in one hand and a wad of tissue in the other wondering how the hell this happens.
To read more about the crows’s family (and mine), click here.
Check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and her book We Are Not Alone : The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Good stuff!