Ok. Pretty much all we did was bird.
As usual, we pushed ourselves and our kid perhaps just a little too far. . .
Sunday, after a full day of birding, we decided we just couldn’t help ourselves and wanted bird Patterson Park in the late afternoon.
So we rolled into the house shortly after 3. Did the unpack, re-pack, shuffle some laundry, deal with the dogs, and throw a snack at Mac and. . .BAM! He was strapped back in his stroller and rolling to the Park by about 4:15.
Things started out well. He didn’t protest being stuffed back in the stroller and we got on a couple of warblers nearly as soon as we entered the Park. Problem was, we couldn’t readily identify one of the birds. Warblers are vexing – especially this time of year. And they don’t stay still. They flit every which way. Plus the light was less than optimal.
So as Mac sat parked in his stroller under a large oak tree, Chris and I circled straining our eyes and ears to constantly relocate the mystery bird. As you might imagine, this aspect of birding is highly unappealing to a 16-month-old.
Cue the whining. . .
I offer Mac a few small toys in an effort to placate him. No dice.
I try a few Cheerios. That was a big fat negative too.
I decided I should just march Mac towards the Boat Lake so he could check out the ducks while Chris wrestled with the id. He seemed to be having better luck keeping his bins on the bird anyway.
A few moments later, Chris signaled that he had relocated the bird and perhaps I had better take a look while he took Mac along the lake. I finally got a decent look at the mystery bird.
A few short moments later, we all reconvened over Sibley and agreed it was a blackpoll warbler. High fives all around. Another new bird for Mac!! Whom, I might mention, was ahem ”celebrating” with a dour expression he normally reserves for chicken (the kind we might be offering him for dinner).
Not content with just one new bird, and undeterred by the fact that it was getting increasingly overcast and windy, we made our way around the Boat Lake and through the Park towards the Community Garden on the far north side.
It was getting a little much for our little fellow who had spent a great part of the day strapped into something – stroller, Ergo, high chair, car seat. . .
Plus it was getting downright cold, dark and windy. As we paused to peek at a sapsucker and a few other birds near the garden, I decided to put a blanket over Mac. And that’s when I made an unsettling discovery:
Sir Oinkerston had somehow been ejected from the stroller.
He was gone.
“Oinkerston isn’t here!” I say to Chris while trying to remain calm.
“Are you sure? I put some things under the seat earlier.”
“I’m sure. Oinkerston is gone. We lost him!”
I put the blanket over Mac and we continue a short ways further towards the Pagoda but all I could think about was Sir Oinkerston, the little stuffed pig lying somewhere on the cold grass certain to meet his demise in the jowls of an unscrupulous off-leash dog.
It’s just a little stuffed animal. Mac isn’t even that attached to it.
We get to the fountain and Chris and I finally agree Mac has had enough. . .and even though we are a long ways from home, we remove him from the stroller hoping that will make him happier. He’s been a very, very good boy during this very long day.
And we’ve lost his pig.
But even as I agreed Mac should get out of the stroller, I felt a little pang in the pit of my stomach – our walk home was going to take a long time, and I had very little chance of finding Oinkerston under these conditions.
It’s just a silly little pig.
In an effort not to look completely insane, I asked Chris if he wanted to take the most direct route home.
Instead, he said he’d rather completely backtrack in an effort to find Sir Oinkerston.
I could cry.
We WILL find Oinkerston!
“Where did we realize we didn’t have him?” Chris asks.
“Not too far from the garden,” I say, maybe a little too eagerly. ”Do you want me to go ahead and look?”
We’ve all seen those true crime shows. . .when someone err thing goes missing, time is NOT on your side.
Chris insists we can all stay together. . .
But I can’t help walking ahead of Chris who is holding a toddling Mac’s hand while he stumble-walks through the uneven grass.
It’s just a toy. Mac hasn’t even missed it.
We descend Hampstead Hill retracing our steps towards the Boat Lake. My eyes strain in the waning light, looking for a small soft spot of pink lying somewhere on the ground.
We circle the Boat Lake. I’m in the lead desperately searching the boardwalk. Chris has Mac on his shoulders and is calling loudly, “Sir Oinkerston! Come here Oinkerston!”
It’s just a 3 inch tall stuffed pig. It was a party favor forchrissakes. In the realm of toys, this one is wholly unimpressive.
But what it represents is priceless.
As I walk more quickly around the east side of the Lake towards the trees where we originally spotted the warblers. . .
My mind flashes to Mac pulling Oinkerston from the depths of my Great Grandma Baker’s secretary drawer and oinking victoriously. . .
I picture Oinkerston firmly in his little grasp as we took our first airplane trip. . .
I recall Mac oinking and laughing loudly at the sight of Oinkerston during Mass. . .
I think of all the times I pull Oinkerston out of a hiding place, recklessly oinking myself just to see Mac squeal in delight. . .Squealing in delight myself at our shared joy – so simple, so effortless, so pure.
I’m so stupid. It’s just a toy. Hopefully, some child less fortunate than Mac has found it and loves it (as much as I I love it).
Please don’t let a dog get it.
Why didn’t I at least take a photo of it? I could have written something in his baby book about oinking at it in church. Ugh. Complete Mommy fail.
It’s starting to spit rain at a surly 45 degree angle as I approach the big oak where we started our walk. It’s so windy and cold. Chris and Mac are several hundred yards behind me. I scan beneath the trees. The ground is littered with yellow and brown leaves. I strain my eyes desperately looking for a glimpse of pink.
And then my heart skipped a happy beat. . .
Poking above a few yellow leaves on the ground, barely visible on the far side of the tree, I spot something small and pink!
Oinkerston’s back leg!!
I rush to him.
He’s completely unharmed. . .err. . .unmarred.
I scoop him up and turn towards the Boat Lake. Chris is showing Mac something near a small tree.
I walk towards them rapidly, victoriously waving Oinkerston firmly in my little fist.
I feel a little weepy. . .
I see Mac’s little face light up in pure joy.
And I vow I will never, ever let Sir Oinkerston go. . .