My Nana died last November. She died the day before my son’s birthdays. She loved birthdays. So I’m thinking it was her way of letting them have their day. She was quite ill at the time. It was bittersweet to witness her passing.
She was rather particular about certain things. We always used the good china for holidays, church on Sunday’s, we always brushed our teeth before breakfast (yuck), and she always gave us three kisses goodnight when we slept over, “Good night” kiss, “sleep tight” kiss, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite” kiss, and “I’ll see you in the morning.” She loved ice cream, and we often found ourselves at Friendly’s for chicken fingers with french fries and ice cream. I’m sure our parents loved that.
Every time we went anywhere she got french fries. Not for herself, I mean, she’d have a few, but then she’d tuck the rest of them into a napkin and place them in her purse. Yes all types of oily and if they were mine covered in ketchup. She would bring home any type of carb left on the table anytime we ate wrapped in a napkin, “For the birds” she would mumble as she carefully placed them in her BIG purse that seemed to have never-ending supplies of tissues, tic-tac’s (orange, white or green), and yes old french fries. Even if we were on vacation in New Hampshire, she’d still take the fries. Then she’d save them and bring them home at the end of the week. Weird. I know.
Every morning she always threw seed and old french fries out to her birds. Her deep backyard would fill up with birds of all kinds; the majority being big black crows though, and they would chow down. I had to hand it to her, she built a large and loyal following. But seriously, some times we would be at super nice restaurants and she’d still tuck all the leftover bread and fries and potatoes into her purse. Kind of embarrassing. People didn’t know it was for the birds, it could have just been her idea of a doggy bag.
We all kind of tolerated it even though we would roll our eyes and pretend it wasn’t happening. Especially when she’d reach over and not even ask if we were done with our fries. She would just assume we hadn’t touched them in the last two minutes, I’d look down, and they’d be gone.
Fast forward twenty something years. My wife had a bird feeder. It broke. But again, she had built a loyal following. So she continued to put seed out on the lawn. Then a few times I’ve noticed that I have almost involuntarily thrown out some leftover carb products. Then today we were at a nearby orchard that sells doughnuts. Jackson handed me a half eaten doughnut. Without even thinking I wrapped it in a napkin and stuck it into my purse.
We drove home and I went outside with them. I went through my purse to find my phone and found the doughnut. It was this moment like, shit, am I really going to do this? Am I really going to go outside with the half eaten doughnut and feed the damn birds? I’m totally not that kind of person. Not because I don’t like birds or anything, but simply because for so many years we thought my Nana was a little kooky for doing it.
Well as I type this I am watching a collection of big crows eating the pieces of doughnut I threw out there today. And it’s with some pride and warmth I feel connected to that kooky part of my Nana, and with some embarrassment I admit to the world that I did indeed and probably will again, save food for the birds. I mean it’s better than letting it go to waste…right? I can imagine the look on her face today as she watched over me as I threw the doughnut out onto the lawn. A smug smile and perhaps a chuckle with a nod of approval.
My boys at some point will likely be old enough to roll their eyes at me and tell me to not do that in public some day when we are at a nice restaurant. I’ll just smile at them as I tuck some fries or potato into a napkin and stick it in my purse for the birds.
They won’t remember my Nana, but they will know her.
In these uncertain times and after a week of treasonous statements and unrest, it is these small moments that remind me some things won’t change. We can still have love and family even while we as members of the LGBT community live in fear of what’s to come.