During the time I was pregnant with Noêl, my 4th child, we were living in Colorado (1995). My daughter Natasia was 10 years old at that time. We had made an acquaintance with a woman named Sherry in the town which we lived and as a way of getting to know us better, she would think of my children and what some of their needs may be and try to meet them. Often times she had various things to do that my boys were able to help her with and projects for Natasia concerning artwork. One day she came by with a small box and there was a ‘project’ contained within that would touch our entire family; this was yet to be revealed to me as I discovered the contents of the little box.
My initial reaction to what was inside was not good. She had picked up a little bird that had fallen from its nest long before it was due to be a fledgling. In her caring and compassionate nature, wanting to help and save this bird, she had no time to care for it herself. So, she thought of Natasia. I am not sure why she thought of my daughter, but she introduced Natasia to the task and showed her the bird before even consulting with me. I was irritated to say the very least. Our living arrangements were not conducive to keeping pets and we already had a dog that was finding it difficult to get along in a tiny space with 5 humans. The last thing I wanted was the responsibility of another life, not to mention I was still coming to grips with the fact I was bringing a new life into a chaotic situation. With a deep sigh of frustration, I agreed to let the bird stay and the care for it would be the responsibility of Natasia and her brothers.
She named the bird Isaiah; I think because we were studying the book of Isaiah in the bible at the time, but now the bird was a ‘he’ as far as we were concerned. I did not expect the little guy to make it through the night. He could not have been more than 2 or 3 days old. Baby birds need their mothers. We had no way to keep him warm and didn’t even know what to feed him. This bird was blessed from the beginning because in the years that followed, whenever we would try to raise a little wild bird, it always came to failure.
Natasia packed the little box with nesting material and did her best to keep him warm. We soaked bread in milk and began to feed him the bits of sodden food. He managed to eat it and be satisfied. After the first couple of days, he grew stronger and began to thrive. We were very surprised. He would perch on a finger and look around and open his mouth to be fed. You guessed it…he started to ‘grow’ on us, even me. He was cheerful and trusting and we all took an interest in the little bird. Seeing he was going to survive, we had the boys search out a more natural diet for him which included worms and bugs. We would dip the worms (just pieces at first) into some water and he would eat them right up. He shared the table with us and would eat off of his own little plate. If we had beans and rice, so would he. If we had spaghetti, so would Isaiah. He was fast becoming a beloved little part of our family.
We lived near a golf course and one evening we were out walking with Isaiah on our shoulders when he decided to test his wings. To our surprise, he fluttered up into a tree. It was a juniper and Nick quickly tried to get up the tree to catch him. As Nick came closer, the bird hopped up higher into the inner branches, making it difficult to get to him. He finally climbed too high for us to reach him and we thought this was the end of the matter. With broken hearts, we reluctantly left him in the tree, realizing that this day would have eventually come. We went back home and spent the night thinking of poor Isaiah, wondering if he would survive, feeling guilty for turning a tame, domesticated bird into the wild. We prayed he would be ok.
The next morning, the children went back to the same place to see if there was any sign of him. To our amazement, not only was he in the same tree, but he had actually made his way down to the lower branches as if to say, “I am sorry!! It was just a joke. Why did you leave me here all night?” With jubilation, the children reclaimed their pet and came back home to share the news. We were very happy to have him back. This crazy little bird continued to light up our days, reminding us of how God cares for his own. He happily sang and tweeted to us, going from finger to finger, he would ride on a shoulder, sit on your head…he even picked the food out of your teeth when held up to your mouth (the boys had fun doing this after a meal!)
One day we were at the park downtown and sitting at the picnic tables. Isaiah was with us, eating and entertaining us. He was getting bigger now and wanting to fly. We had been clipping his wing feathers to keep him on the ground but this time we were really in a wide open place and he took a notion to fly up. He went as high as the telephone pole and after coaxing him for a bit to come down, he literally flew out of our sight. We were more accepting of this behavior as he was older now and we knew someday he must do his own thing. We decided that this was the day he must have seen fit to ‘spread his wings’ and fly. We left the picnic table area and went for a walk around the pond, all but forgetting about Isaiah. We were determined to release him to his freedom when the time was right. Apparently….it still was not yet time!
We returned to the table area on our way back to the car only to find the little bird perched on the shoulder of a complete stranger, drinking Coca-Cola from a bottle cap! Imagine the surprise of this fellow when a wild bird (what HE thought was a wild bird) came flying down from the tree tops and perched on his shoulder and starts sipping his drink? Too funny! As we raced toward him, the children called his name. The fellow was asking, “Is this your bird, man??” He was incredulous and amused. We were thrilled again to have him back.
By now, we decided he wanted to stay with us, so we invested in a cage. Actually, I believe it was given to us by friends of ours who used to have a bird. In fact, we had asked these very same friends to ‘bird sit’ for us while we were to take a trip south to Arizona for an unknown period of time. Seeing that they did not have the love and attachment to Isaiah that we had along with the fact that we did not know exactly when we would return, (we ended up staying for 40 days) we thought it best to take him with us. I had made a cute little cover for his cage; it was during this time that I was also learning how to sew. Here was this wild bird, (we never could identify exactly what kind of bird he was, the closest we came to identifying him was what looked like a grey vireo, but we were not entirely sure) kept in a cute little cage just as tame as a kitten. Every day, life with Isaiah was a new picture of love and faith and learning to trust our provider for what we had need of. The circumstances we were enduring as a family were very similar to the need that Isaiah had when he first came to us.
I knew it was a bad sign when on the way to AZ, we had stopped on the side of the road to adjust ourselves and in repacking our belongings, the cover to his cage was left behind. I took it as a warning that we were about to lose some kind of covering ourselves. We were, in fact, wandering from our appointed place and seeking relocation in a place where we did not belong and it took 40 days of trials for me to get it through my heart and head that I had no part with AZ and the ones there that I still clung to. But I was about to learn a very special lesson.
There was an elderly lady that my mother (whom we stayed with and then nearby for a time) looked in on regularly. She lived alone and had a beloved bird of her own. I cannot remember the exact details, but I think she had just lost her bird to death. She had a huge cage in her livingroom where he had lived and she was all set up to keep a bird very comfortably. It was put on our hearts to give Isaiah to this woman in hopes that she would have a new companion and our beloved Isaiah would have a permanent home. We were still travelling the country trying to figure out what we were supposed to be doing and where we were to do it. It was not easy for my daughter or any of us to let him go, but we knew it was the right thing to do. At first the old woman did not think she could take him, not wanting us to suffer loss, but we convinced her that it was what we really wanted and needed to do. This was one of the most sacrificial things I have ever seen a ten year old do. It was very difficult for Natasia, but I know she did it of her own free will. Chuck and I were very thankful that her desire was for Isaiah and the woman above her own.
We missed Isaiah very much in the first days after he was gone, but we comforted ourselves in knowing he was bringing joy to a lonely woman when we were all so full being in a growing family. The time we had with him is such a special, bitter/sweet memory, I thought it worthy of sharing. Natasia and I discussed it this morning so we could bring it fresh to our minds and we laughed and giggled in recalling all of the details. This also led us to another special and unique pet, Natasia’s very first cat, Brownie. I am hoping she will write about her. Brownie was just as special as Isaiah!