Wanda, my octogenarian neighbor, spent some time in the hospital this fall. While there, she adopted the finches of her nonagenarian roommate. The poor woman’s fear was that relatives would set them loose, and her darlings wouldn’t survive cold autumn nights, let alone winter. So Wanda took them off her hands.
But Wanda had her own troubles, including finding someone to care for them when she’s under the weather. (Her daughter-in-law suffers from ornithophobia, the fear of birds.) As much as she loved the birdsong, she started asking people if they’d “adopt” the finches.
If just so happens that one of my new colleagues, who works with impaired children, keeps plants and animals in her room. The children especially love taking care of the fish and birds. Sometimes they responded to the animals more freely than to other people.
Sadly, the male finch died.
I told Wanda about it, and I told my colleague about Wanda’s birds. Long story short: The children gladly adopted the pair, who ended up getting along very well with the widowed finch.
Then, over Thanksgiving weekend, the birds died during a power outage that lasted long enough for the temperature to plummet. The children were very upset.
I didn’t tell Wanda.
But I did deliver her a special package just before Christmas.
Even after the birds died, the children put together a “thank you” note addressed “To the Nice Lady”. They didn’t tell her the birds’ fate; they only told her how much they enjoyed her gift. They included a present for her, too: a mechanical bird that sings, so she wouldn’t miss the finches.
For some reason, their gift reminds me of the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.