Tossing Nuts Out the Window (Making Friends With Crows #11)

(photo courtesy Jayne, nature55)

While driving my 11-year-old to her before-school chorus class, I spy a solitary crow atop a telephone pole.  I keep a bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts in the car so that if we see any crows while we’re out, I can do my whistle (a melodic “yoo-hoo” between the teeth) and toss out a couple nuts. 

But when I roll down my window, my daughter gasps, “Oh, mom.” 

“What?” I look over at her and smile.  “It’s part of my charm, right?”

Whatever.” 

“Don’t whatever me. It’s sort of fun, right?”

“It’s just funny.” 

I wonder when she learned to speak in italics.  

*

When I get home, I find my 5-year-old sprawled on the rug in front of the heater.  She still thinks I’m charming so I sit down beside her and ask, “What do you think about me feeding the crows?’

She doesn’t hesitate: “Crazy.”

“What do you mean, crazy?”

“It’s just unusual.” (Yes, that’s the actual word she used. I’m not making this up.) “You buy peanuts for the crows when our family could eat those peanuts. You should buy food for our family.”

“But you can eat the peanuts if you want,”  I tell her, feeling ashamed.  And ashamed for feeling ashamed; I bite my tongue and try to act like an adult:  “I understand what you mean, though: I should always feed our family first.  But what if I told you I feel like those crows are part of our family?”  (This statement is not exactly true. I don’t feel duty-bound to feed the crows, but I ask because I’m curious to hear her answer.)  

“A family lives in a house.”

“So we should only feed the people in our house?”

“Yes. That’s our family. Not crows.”

“But what about Plum [our cat] and Piccolo [our fish]? Should we feed them?”

“They’re our family, too.”

“So it’s not crazy to feed the cat and the fish, but it is crazy to feed the crows.”

“The crows are not in our house.”

“What about homeless people?  Shouldn’t we feed them?”

“Of course.” She looks at me like I’m a total nut or, more precisely, like she’s been saddled with the chore of assisting some stunted, drooling, and vaguely criminal moron. “But you can’t feed everybody. If you do, you won’t have any food left for your babies.”

Who can argue? Okay, I probably am crazy. For attempting a debate with a 5-year-old, which is like arguing with Buddha. 

*

I suppose it is inevitable and even healthy that my girls sometimes think I’m nuts. It’s part of the separation process that began before the doctor cut the cord and will continue until, well, until I die, if I’m lucky. These days, they assert their individuality like rabid hyenas. The 5-year-old will only wear summer dresses and sandals, even if it’s freezing cold.  She brings me two dresses, tells me to pick my favorite, and puts the other one on.  The 11-year-old disagrees with everything I say, even before I’m done speaking– it doesn’t matter, the answer is no.  By choosing what they like (and don’t like), they are shaping themselves. Will they be coffee people or tea people, city or country people, cat, dog, or people people? The other day we were listening to an entomologist speak on NPR’s Science Friday– or I was listening and my big girl was rolling her eyes and hyperventilating since I wouldn’t change the station– anyway, the program ended with the phrase, “Bee people are a special breed,” to which she quipped, “Well, I’m definitely not a bee person, and I’m never going to breed with one, either.”  So just because I am a crow person (or a “crazy crow lady” as big girl likes to say) doesn’t mean they have to like crows too, and in fact probably guarantees that they won’t.  

But by challenging my once-real authority, the girls bring up a good question, one I haven’t paused to consider. I have written about how to make friends with crows, but I haven’t stopped to consider why.  Here’s my list so far.

Why Make Friends With a Crow?

* Crows are my neighbors; it’s just neighborly.

* As a city-dweller, I get fewer chances to experience nature. This is one way for me to feel connected to the natural world.

* Crows don’t need me– unlike the kids, the cat, the fish, the house, and the garden, they can do for themselves, thankyouverymuch. For me, they make the ideal hobby.

* They are fascinating creatures: extremely intelligent, curious, adaptable, aloof, mysterious, and visually striking.  There’s so much to learn.

* My kids are learning a lot, too (vicariously, against their wishes).  Part of what they’re learning is that it’s okay for mom to be intensely interested in something outside the house.

*  Everything is weird to a kid.  But in a few years maybe, just maybe, it will be cool.

*
*
Come on, don’t leave me out here in weirdo-land all by my lonesome.  Did anyone ever think you were crazy for liking something?  What are some of your more “interesting” interests?  
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About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

34 comments

  1. Please stop writing – I’m not getting to bed early enough and I’m on a mission to tame all the tortoises on The Island.

    My husband has told our offspring to not pay too much attention to me when I burst into song on our walks – ‘she’s crazy’ he winks at them and makes that sign with the circular motion index finger next to his temple. I don’t mind, maybe it’ll shake them loose sooner and they’ll actually ask to go to boarding school.

    Also, it gives them a sense of being part of another faction in the family – it’s important to belong in some way to most of the familial rifts. That way we’re all double agents for each of our own separate cerebral countries. It’ll make Christmas much more personal in 20 years time.

    Seriously, stop writing so well or post some rubbish that I don’t feel compelled to read! Can’t wait until I’m done trawling through your archives so that I can pick up a real book again.

    • Aha! Another excellent reason to befriend crows– to nudge your children out of the nest! I will have to add that one to the list– and I love that bit about being a “double agent for each of our own separate cerebral countries.” Sometimes, I forget what side I’m on. (Goodnight and thank you for stopping by!)

      • I absolutely love that line about the double agent-ness too. Yes. The thing that maybe kids don’t get — at least, I didn’t understand this until fairly recently — is that we are ALL weird. I went through my adolescence thinking that there was some standard of normal (a broad category to be sure, but I did think it existed) and everyone fit into it EXCEPT my parents. And since I didn’t want others to perceive me as weird in the way I perceived my parents as weird, I was going to align myself with the normal side of things.

        But then again, what’s charming idiosyncracy in someone else is a horrible threat in one’s parents. I’m afraid this eye-rolling and italics-speaking is probably part of the parental territory… I still feel that way about my own mother, very often. I tell people about her and they think she sounds fabulous, which she is, but I’m still struggling to keep my distance as much as possible. If it’s any consolation, the strength of my struggle is directly related to the strength of our bond. I fight so hard against her because I’m afraid that if I didn’t, she’d absorb me right up and I’d never be my own person again.

        • What is it about childhood that requires conformity? I wonder if that’s a universal or regional truth. That’s a nice thought– that strength of bond is connected to struggle. I’ll try to remember that.

  2. After a really REALLY horrible day, featuring the deaths of not one but TWO of our guinea pigs, I am thankful to your post, recommended by a friend – at least I smiled before calling it A DAY. BTW I don’t think you’re crazy to feed the crows. Makes perfect sense to me (daughter of two entomologists…)

  3. I love crows, wish I was one some days. Maybe someone would throw me a peanut…

  4. elma

    There is no more beautiful and more real reasons to be friends with the crows as you mentioned. They are a gift to us and hopefully you are there to show that we too can human beings can be a gift for them!
    One day I was driving on winding roads in the mountains of Reunion Island and in a turn two birds flying by Becotte ran into my windshield. I stopped as soon as I was distraught at the thought of having killed and my friend was amused at my reaction. There were no dead birds around me and I was somewhat reassured. This image is always in my head when I’m driving and I see the birds.
    Last Sunday I was in the car of a friend and her 11 year old girl was behind and she screamed to her mother: attention! because there were birds on the road and I think your daughters would do the same despite their apparent disinterest.
    Thanks to you I improve my vocabulary every day.

  5. The holiday dinners my mother would make when I was very young included at least two kinds of cake and my favorite vegetable, green beans. She cooked the green beans in maybe a cup of water flavored with butter.

    After one dinner, a slice of cake (chocolate, I think) got accidentally plunked down onto my dinner plate and into a green pool of green bean juice. I wasn’t a complainer, so I said nothing and ate it. I realized I liked it.

    On the next holiday, I held up my dinner plate for cake and she said, oh no, there’s stuff on that one and she’d use a fresh dessert plate. I said no, plunk it down.

    That’s the way I eat cake now, if there happens to have been a vegetable preceeding it. You can’t imagine how many of my fellow diners have been grossed out by seeing this.

    I also like klezmer music.

    • Cake in veggie juice? Well, I like veg in cake (like pumpkin or carrot or zucchini) so I’d try it. I think you ought to write the recipe for that so we can all try it.
      Klezmer! OOh, that makes me want to throw on some scarves and some heavy boots and dance like a gypsy.

  6. blackwatertown

    Sounds like you have formidable children.
    Anyway – better to be thought of as crazy rather than boring.
    Crows though… not necessarily good luck apparently – a bit like magpies http://blackwatertown.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/angry-birds-v-lucky-birds/
    Good pic.

  7. Great story. Crows fascinate me too.

    Not long ago I asked my kids (teenagers) if they would mind if I stopped to pick up a dead crow that was on the gravel – I wanted to sketch/photograph it – of course they thought it was a disgusting idea. Perhaps, but I still feel like it was a missed opportunity…

  8. I think this leapt to the top of all my favorite Girl in the Hat posts. The cross-examination is priceless.

    I have an awful habit of looking all around a person’s face when we have a conversation. I like to watch people’s mouths move, and their teeth. I like to see the growth patterns around their hairlines, the wrinkles around their eyes. I try very hard not to do this but sometimes I forget, and my eyes wander. . . .

  9. Crows – the ideal hobby. What a great idea

  10. I can’t find the like button ! I Like.

  11. I think our kids want us to be the coolest parents ever, which I think a lot of us are in a tie for, but they also want us to just be totally, blandly mainstream at times too. Depending on their mood, maybe? Or who sees them with us?
    I don’t know if it’s an interest as such, but I fan-dry all my shirts and jeans, because I can’t stand them shrinking the tiniest bit from when I buy them. People say I’m crazy, to just buy my jeans a little big, but I ask them “How big am I supposed to buy them? What is the magic number? One size too big? 2 and a half sizes? I buy them the right size and never put them in the dryer and they always fit and it doesn’t feel like my waist (or neck) is being strangled.

    At a picnic, I’ll move the biggest potato chips out of the way, eat the little crummy (crumby?) ones first, and save the nice big whole ones for the last bites.

    • Oh, Kevin. This just made me giggle. I eat the small ones first, because they taste better. I’m an eat-the-good-stuff-first-because-you-might-die-halfway-through-and-never-get-to-finish kind of person. BTW, I think that the modern jeans are pre-washed so they don’t shrink at all.

  12. Oh, and it’s cool–right at this moment, part of the top of your site reads, at first glance, as “What I’m working on about me”. Accidentally interesting concept, I’d say. I’m working on my rush to judgement and my lack of maturity and my lack of ambition and my fear of the future.

    • That is weird, isn’t it? Maybe I should change it. Because I’m not even working on me, peripherally. The recent layout change was so exhausting, I can hardly lift a finger. I’m working on my layout and my big idea that’s making me read everyday instead of write and apparently doing everything but work on my actual writing and it’s starting to make me feel crazy and itchy and the kids keep having vacations and I can’t focus very hard on anything except what to cook next and what’s going on with the freaking laundry.
      Or maybe it is me, only disguised as other people? Maybe that’s how to frame it.

  13. John

    Because I was in the room for part of that conversation and you captured it so well…I am still crying with laughter.

    The real legacy will be when we are no longer in their lives, they will see a crow and feel your presence. Not everyone can create such a strong lasting personal association for their memory to live on in the minds of their children.

    The kids are going to think you are following them around everywhere.

  14. I am living in my first house. After years of being a military wife, this is our first house. I started out feeding the squirrels, whom I have always adored (those tiny hand-like feet!) then I discovered we have chipmunks, then I fell in love with the crows. There are seven. When I see them flying up the street to my front yard because they have seen me put food out, I love it. They make me feel like I am flying where they are flying.

    My 16-year old thinks I am weird for feeding them. My cats like watching them as much as I do. I baby talk to those crows when I am throwing food for them and they are in the tree waiting for me to go inside so they can eat. I hope one day they don’t feel the need to wait for me to go inside.

    • Aren’t they wonderful? I agree== when I look outside my window and see those crows out there, I feel connected to the outside and I like my home even better.

      It’s been years, though, and my crows still don’t want to get too close. The closest I get is if I’m in my car with the window rolled down. They’ll plop down fairly close then. They feel safer if I’m in the car. I think this skittishness is part of the reason crows will out-survive us all.

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