A bird in the hand
Adventures in homeownership, volume 218. On a recent Saturday, my brother-in-law came by to help with our yard sale (which went well — though I’m not eager to schlep our random stuff into the grass again anytime soon). After foot traffic slowed down, we loaded up what would go to charity and hauled the rest back inside. Eric and I began debating lunch locations while my husband got cleaned up.
Mexican? Burgers? Thai? A quick sandwich? The serious issues of our times, friends.
My 1-year-old was in his high chair eating a pureed “lunch” himself when I heard a strange . . . tapping sound.
Like Aunt Bethany in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” the eccentric but sweet older relative who first notices a squirrel in the family Christmas tree, I heard an odd noise coming from the living room. Nothing seemed amiss — until I noticed a fluttering near the fireplace. In the fireplace, actually. This structure has been problematic since we moved in. It’s not a light-a-fire, sweep-the-chimney sort of fireplace: more like a showpiece. Something that looks pretty at the holidays, but is otherwise a nuisance. Even the log inside is fake.
When we bought our home two years ago, a neighbor mentioned he’d once helped the previous owner with a bee problem in a living room alcove. Being the new kids on the block and all, we listened to this story with interest . . . but not concern.
Until that first spring rolled around.
By March, the bees were swarming fast and furious through a gap in the siding — into what was, Spencer soon discovered, an extremely large hive. He tried to show me grainy cell phone pictures, but I was already hunting for my suitcase and passport.
As longtime readers might recall, I’m terribly bug-phobic. I nearly screamed when a colleague jumped quickly from his desk chair, assuming a spider had shimmied down his spine. (He’d dropped part of a muffin.) When Spencer and I once found bees swarming around a ceiling fan, I nearly tossed our freshly-cut house keys into the bushes. Just chalk it up to a loss and move on, you know?
I’m a ridiculous wimp. But wimps don’t usually get stung.
Two-month-old Oliver had only been home a few weeks when honey dripping from an overhead light made bee removal a priority: one that took over the living room. With our newborn in a bassinet, Spencer, his dad and a friend set to work transporting the massive hive. Ollie had to learn to tune out the dull pulse of power tools right away. Anyone who knows Spencer — a do-it-yourselfer to his core — would expect nothing less.
While innocuous honey bees had taken up residence above the fireplace, hornets commandeered the lower part — and were getting inside through a gap in a fireplace grate. Not going to lie to you: I don’t know the particulars. As Spencer described the scope of the situation, I went to my happy place . . . a sun-drenched tropical island where bugs are banned. (Books and baked goods are, of course, mandatory.)
Time, patience and beekeeper suits allowed the guys to rid us of the bees, and I thought I’d seen the end of our fireplace troubles. A bird will change all that.
I noticed it first: a little wren or sparrow, maybe. Probably small enough to fit in my hand — though I wasn’t about to lose a finger finding out.
“There’s a bird!” I screamed. “A bird in the fireplace!”
My brother-in-law, relaxing on the sofa, was nonplussed. “Huh,” he said. “How about that.”
I stared at the panicked little fella while continuing to feed Oliver, who munched on his Puffs without a concern in his baby world.
My husband stepped into the upstairs hall. “Spencer,” I shouted, not able to keep the edge from my voice. “Spencer, we have a situation!
“It’s not the baby,” I quickly corrected. “It’s a . . . bird.”
After assessing the problem, Eric and Spencer worked out a plan to get our feathered friend out of the enclosed glass. But that plan didn’t work. After many attempts at cracking open the door just enough to capture it, Mr. Wren-Sparrow saw an opening and flew the coop. Literally.
The bird immediately went for a large window in the kitchen — directly behind Oliver and me. I saw it whizzing toward us and ducked, screaming, as Eric and Spencer hurried behind to capture it with gloved hands. Mr. Wren-Sparrow was safely released back outside, where I hope he quickly reunited with his birdie family.
I’m sure he dominated the dinner conversation at the nest that evening.
We all have our stories to tell . . .