We admitted we were powerless…


I drop my toys in the den and leap up, bare feet slapping hardwood and thudding across carpets in the big house on my way to the picture window in the dining room that looks out over the backyard.

There he is, waving his arms, yelling PG-rated slander, slamming the door of his Volvo over and over again. My silver haired granddaddy, who so handsomely plays 18 holes at 75 years old, so nobly blesses family meals in that deep voice, so diligently keeps a book going at the breakfast nook and the bedside table.

He’s out there coming undone with anger about the starlings, and my sister and I watch the tantrum unfold from the picture window, enthralled by the annual loss of control.

It happens each year. The masses of drab little birds descend, raising their shrill voices, voiding themselves any and everywhere, especially on that red Volvo. They linger in our Georgia town for a week or so, congregating in the pecan trees, and my grandfather, the wretched warrior, goes out again each morning until they depart. He flaps his arms right back at them for the satisfaction of watching the swirling wave of little avian bodies rise and fall away to another yard. Temper beyond lost, he acts a fool with complete seriousness.

Now I’m grown and he’s gone. I live in a condo with a carport, safe from yard maintenance and bird shit. My little boy is in a stage, fussing for me, then my husband, then me again. Is it teeth? Is it a growth spurt? Is this the new reality? I’m supposed to know what he needs, but I’m so out of sync.

One day he poops through the diaper in his crib, then again in our bed. Later I get the call from desperate dad to come home from a meeting—baby won’t take the bottle—and arrive to find that he’s refusing the breast as well. The smile on my face is somewhere between grin and grimace and I say horrible things in a sing-song voice as he whines and squirms. We try a nap. A dance. A song. A book. I rub the side of my breast, the beginnings of a plugged duct. I’m fighting tears. I call my husband, “I can’t do this anymore! I don’t know what to do, but this isn’t working! I’m going to have to quit my job!” And of course, at the faint sound of Daddy’s voice over the phone, baby begins to smile, then giggle. I put him down on the bed and muffle my screams in a pillow.

Phone call over, the crying starts again.

Desperate to stop the nonstop fuss, I strap him into the carrier kicking and screaming. We step out the door and he is finally, finally calm. After a few hundred feet of gritted teeth and fantasies of running away from home, I’m finally, finally calm too. We turn into the woods behind the cul-de-sac and head up the access road when I see them, the wave of birds cresting over the hill, falling into the trees. And now this fickle little maniac watches with eyes wide, faintly humming along with the cacophony of chirps and shrieks as the starlings swirl up and away again.

Diffusing lavender and bergamot


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