Short Story I Wrote

My late mother in-law, Margaret, was an avid birdwatcher. She was president of the Audubon Society. She is the only reason I have spent time hanging out with birdwatchers. They are an interesting bunch.
Margaret held an annual bird count at our family house on the Chesapeake Bay. She invited a bunch of her Audubon Society friends to the bird count. I think it has to do with tracking migratory patterns.
Now, I don’t understand how that works. You spot an eagle, and you write down “one eagle”. Then, a little while later you spot another eagle. How do you know it’s not the same eagle?
If I had participated in the bird count, my bird count log might read, “A Flock of Seagulls, who, for the record, were not a great band.”The next birding experience was at my in-laws mountain house. My husband and I are sitting on the porch. Around twenty or thirty cars pull into the driveway. It’s a big crowd of birdwatchers. They are carrying highfalutin’ binoculars, cameras and tripods. They march up the mountain and stand there very quietly for at least an hour, waiting to see a golden-winged warbler. They get an A+ for patience. They come down the mountain. An enthusiastic guy says, “Wow! Now I can cross golden-winged warbler off the list!”
I’m thinking that if a bird provides that much satisfaction to someone, they are gold for life.
I mean, I enjoy birds very much, but I don’t know enough about them to write down the species I see, except for cardinals, blue jays, crows, seagulls and bald eagles. That would be the extent of my list. And, maybe, “it was big and several shades of brown – who knows?”
One time, Margaret invited a bunch of her birding friends to her mountain house. The birders said, “Margaret, come here and check out this snake.”
Margaret says, “All I see is that log over there.” They say, “That’s the snake.” It was a timber rattlesnake. After that incident, I decided I hate the mountain house.
Those same birders attended Margaret’s memorial service at the mountain house after she passed away. We spread Margaret’s ashes in the flower garden. The ashes were in a heavy duty ziplock bag marked “Margaret” in bold letters with a sharpie, which may have not have been my choice for a memorial service.
During the reception, I had an in-depth conversation with Shirley, a pleasant middle-aged woman who was wearing a t-shirt that said “Tufted Titmouse” with an illustration of the bird, near her, um…
Shirley tells me she finally saved enough money to buy the eight-thousand dollar binoculars hanging around her neck. I nearly spit out my punch. I say, “Shirley, you’re kidding me. No pun intended.” Shirley goes on to tell me about all of the birds she has seen. I win points for my dutiful attention during the thirty-some minute conversation.
Meanwhile, the other guests are roaming the deck, and, every so often someone will say something like, “Pileated woodpecker! Eleven o’clock.”Then the binoculars all go up in harmony. A guy pulls out a mini notepad from the pocket of his shirt, and writes something down. Maybe,
“Pileated woodpecker.”Or, maybe “Missed the Pileated woodpecker, but Shirley probably spotted it with her fancy binoculars.”
After the memorial service, Margaret’s husband put the mountain house on Airbnb. The first review said, “Very nice house. Great views. Great birdwatching. However, the negative is that there was a large ziplock baggie on the kitchen counter that appeared to have someone’s ashes inside.
Not good!”
The Airbnb did not take off after that review.
I kind of miss seeing the birdwatchers. They are a very nice group of folks who love our feathered friends. And, especially during these times, I’ll take all the nice people I can get.