Around 5-ish, summer’s sweetness calls me uphill after a day’s work outdoors and one last peek at the bees. Now, to cook dinner—cheese ravioli with venison marinara sauce and lettuce salad from our raised bed.
“Food! Glorious food!” sings in my mind.
The words and melody stuck when I first saw the musical “Oliver” in 1968 with my date, Mel Underwood. My first visit to Grand Rapids to meet his family, I sensed musicals weren’t Mel’s cup of tea.
Twenty-five years later, our second daughter Kelly sang her heart out as Oliver in a Romeo High School production of the play. After she graduated from Alma College four years later, Kelly aimed for independence and a teaching contract in California.
Two-thousand-four-hundred miles from home.
In the early years of her married life, Kelly and her husband Steve left California to work for a Christian school in Uganda.
Over 7,000 miles from our door.
I recall my flight to Kampala, Uganda in December 2010 and am glad both Kelly and I were much younger and daring back then. The only white American educator on staff, she taught reading on a campus outside Jinja Town where she and Steve lived with Amulen, my grandson-to-be.
The boy sang in his native tongue as he cooked a rolex, Ugandan for an omelet with chopped vegetables.
Food! Glorious food!
These thoughts converge with Mel’s as he rests from lawn mowing at the crest of the hill. I sit by his side on the green metal swing and observe its peeling paint. Again.
Glazed with sweat and the scent of cocoa bean mulch and chicken manure on my clothes, I do not suggest another chore to our fleeting days of fair weather.
Neither do we burden one another with the meditations of our hearts as a monarch butterfly flutters by a mother wren bursting from her yellow nesting house-a Mother’s Day gift from Kelly I promptly hung on a shepherd’s hook years ago.
We smile, watch three fledglings, perhaps four, fly from their birthplace, and dart from limb to limb. We lose sight of their wings when they hide in the wisteria vines wound around the ribs of the pergola.
We frown when the wrens warble their alert at the sight of our slinking cats. As if performing a strategic plan to confound their enemy, the birds dash from branch to branch and sing, sing, sing!
I think of Kelly two thousand miles away, her beautiful voice, and marvel at the resilience of the yellow terracotta birdhouse against the high winds on this western rise.
As if he’s reading my mind, at last the man beside me says, “We should buy another birdhouse just like that one.”
Dear Reader, perhaps I read Mel wrong fifty-three years ago. Although the musical “Oliver” may not be his cup of tea, on a bright shining day under Heaven, he’s entirely taken with fledglings and birdsong.
And I’m on the lookout for another birdhouse or two like Kelly’s gift.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.