"Mommy, look! It's yellow! He's here to see me!" At the age of three or four, our youngest son loved to watch the birds that would gather at our bird feeder just outside the kitchen bay window. Its back drop is our beautiful service berry tree that is big enough to claim its space on the landscape, with its several slender trunks; elegant enough to look like a ballerina in a full lacy skirt, with its dainty white blossoms in the springtime. Many species of birds are attracted to the feeder, which is protected by the tree and other shrubs. The one, very special, little bird with whom our son felt a kinship was a tiny, vibrant yellow finch that would surprise us every now and then with a spontaneous visit. My son's amazement toward "his" bird lasted for several summers.
Yellow would flit by the window, his tiny wings flapping wildly, and alight on a stick size branch of the tree. He would drop down quickly to the tarnished copper bird bath and peck at the water nervously with his pointy black beak. Unless the perch at the bird feeder was vacant, he would not take a chance to congregate with other aviary visitors. Only when no others were in sight would Yellow grab a seed or two before flitting away just as suddenly as he had appeared. I have no way of knowing if the yellow finch that frequented our garden was the same bird each time; but the exuberance in my little boy's voice convinced my inner child to believe that it was Yellow, coming around to say 'hello' to him alone. Both of us would feel a moment of joy whenever his little buddy popped onto the bird scene beyond our kitchen window.
Earlier this summer, a yellow finch flew by in all its flapping glory. "Alex, Yellow is here!" I exclaimed to our now almost-13-year-old son. Without barely looking up from his iPod, he smirked and, in his newly found preteen aloofness, responded, "Oh. Yeah." If my heart were a balloon, it would have burst open and deflated with a bang, followed by a dead silence. For a moment, I had forgotten that Yellow was a childhood fancy of his, no longer part of his adolescent concrete brain. I had reverted back to our Mommy and Child banter that filled so many of our days for so many years. To say that I felt crushed would not be an exaggeration; to say that I miss those sweet musings that we shared would be completely honest; to say that my mind will learn to comprehend what my heart cannot grasp just yet — my son growing up — would not be untrue.
Being a parent requires a measure of mental and emotion regression, to be able to meet the child wherever he/she is at any phase of growth; to be able to empathize, to understand, and to appreciate what he is experiencing in his young world. The irony happens when he has crossed over into maturity before the parent is ready to switch back into adult mode, in order to meet the adolescent in that new phase. With multiple children, a parent is bouncing into and out of the different parenting roles and personalities as needed; that is, if parenting is taken seriously and recognized as a true art form. I can speak firsthand from the viewpoint of this type of parenting style. Constant adjustment must become a refined skill in order to succeed in this arena.
And so, at least for awhile, maybe for a long while, I shall still feel a moment of inner joy when I see Yellow appear on our tree and shrubbery. I will be gently holding in my heart the sweet memory of my precious little boy who loved the yellow finch and claimed him as a personal friend. I will feel the awakening of my own inner child who will help me to keep the memory pressed permanently in my heart and etched clearly in my mind. It is more than a memory, though. It is a gift to me, a priceless memoir, from Alex's childhood that I can keep forever. Yellow and I will cherish the memory together.