Just when I was thinking that I might not have the best husband in the world.
(Background: he is balking at recovering some twenty-year-old furniture. Some chairs that are tattered to ribbons. Shredded from age and shedding their nether parts every time they are touched. Sofa pillows so stained from some unidentifiable substance – animal? vegetable? mineral? that we should probably call in a hazmat team. Yet he is immovable: “They’ll just get faded again anyway”/ “the cats will scratch them just like they did the last ones”/”no one ever sits there anyway”)
So, I stomped my feet and stalked off to calm down (the alternative was to seize any blunt object in the room and do bloody battle and then we’d have some real stains on the furniture). I was in my office, sulking, thinking he might not be perfect after all (a shock, truly, after thirty-six years) and then he comes roaring in, calling my name. I am hopeful! A change of heart? New chairs on the horizon?
No. He was distraught, and not about furniture. It had been one of our less favorite signs of spring. A huge thump against the window, a bird slamming into the glass with such force that you could feel the vibration. Sometimes it is a hawk, occasionally a songbird; this time it was one of the acorn woodpeckers that carouse in our palm trees. Spring invariably renders the neighborhood birds temporarily insane and a few of them pay heavy consequences. Each year the rites of spring sadly include a few losses – a nest perched too precariously or too accessible to predators; a sparrow too curious about the inside of the chicken coop and can’t find its way out, and on this day, a woodpecker that crashes into our window at mach speed.
We rushed out to the bushes below the window and there he lay, completely still. “Is he dead?” I asked. “No, you can see his eye is blinking”. So beautiful close up, the crimson head, the obsidian beak.
And then I watched my husband, who five minutes before had NOT been my favorite person in the world, gently cradle the fallen bird and fashion a little nest of safety for him to lay in in the bushes, in the faint hope that he might just be stunned. He stood over the bird, fretting earnestly over its prospects. And I was dangerously close to forgiving him for the furniture debacle.
An hour later, we went back outside to check on the little guy. We approached the bushes with a sense of dread. We could see that he had not moved. My implacable, unrelenting, stubborn, furniture-allergic husband bent gently over the bird and in that moment, two things happened: first, my grudge against him dissolved. Who could stay angry at a man who cares so tenderly for a fallen creature? And secondly, just as he reached again for the woodpecker, it started suddenly, jerked its head and in an instant, flapped its wings and flew to the top of a nearby palm tree.
We shared a moment of giddy joy. We felt ridiculously triumphant over a tiny event in nature at which we were no more than bystanders. But a bird flew, and our spirits soared. Crisis averted. Marriage saved.
If this was fiction, my husband would then have looked at me and said “Let’s go buy some new furniture.” Regrettably, that’s not what happened. But we did go out to lunch. Two old people, like two shabby old chairs – faded and worn and tattered but somehow, apparently, just not replaceable.