For the birds

bird seedI spent this past weekend in my hometown, Greenville, South Carolina, to help my mom with some errands and chores around the house. Yesterday she asked me to help her put together an elaborate bird feeder, which isn’t as intuitive as one may think. (The directions were about as helpful as the instructions IKEA provided for my dresser.)

But we were successful, and as I poured the bird seed into the feeder, Mom asked, “Do you remember that summer my bird seed disappeared from the utility room?”

I do remember that summer. My little brother and I ate about five pounds of that bird seed.

Mom sent Ryan and me to Zoo Camp that year and we fed the elephant, washed the giant tortoise and learned that we eat many of the same foods as our animal friends. To illustrate this point, our zoo camp counselor gave us pieces of bread smeared with peanut butter and topped with bird seed. What did this mean to my 7-year-old mind? People eat bird seed sandwiches all the time.

So for the rest of the summer, Ryan and I would spread peanut butter onto our Wonderbread, head outside to the utility room, grab a handful of bird seed from the shelf — amid the potting soil and fertilizer — and then drop the seed onto our sandwich. Voila! Lunch!

Of course, one day Mom went to refill the bird feeder and discovered that most of the seed was missing. She speculated it was the doing of a possum or raccoon, but we had to confess that it was us. To this day I remember Mom’s reaction: “If you were meant to eat that, I’d keep it in the kitchen — not next to the lawnmower!”

Twenty years later, Mom now stores the bird seed in the kitchen — along with a note that reads, “DO NOT EAT.”

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