My husband and I don’t argue about many of the usual shared-life debates. Not the toilet seat; he believes that a grown man should have full command of both his aim and splash so that working with a raised seat would only be an embarrassment. We don’t argue about the dishwasher; we are both master arrangers on both the treble and bass clefts and I politely cough or sneeze when, in the middle of the composition, he opens the door and adds another glass or plate to the chorus. And the toothpaste? Well, I’m a recovering middle-squeezer -- he hung on with me through the worst of my withdrawals -- but we’re both quite committed to recapping.
And we love movies. All kinds of movies. The only debate of our movie life is that there is so little time and so many films that some discerning choice has to be made about which film at which time. Almost every weeknight we watch 20 minutes of a film with the kids before reading and bedtime, piecing together a full, pre-bedtime story by week’s end. On the weekends, we’ll take in a whole movie in two evenings and sometimes, we’ll even go to a real theatre with popcorn and cupholders and stain-hiding geometric-printed carpet and watch an entire film, start to finish. Well, almost.
A film is not finished, or rather, I have not finished a film, if the credits haven’t rolled. Husband knows how I feel about this, he knows what I need, but he forgets. In the theatre he’s on his feet, gathering popcorn bags and finding my purse while I slink further down in my seat, feeling him process the scene before him: story over, popcorn bag empty, what is Lisa looking at? And then he remembers and, all the real-man-Gods-bless-him, he sits back down and waits.
But at home, where we see most of our movies and where the audio-visual resources are under all-male management, I have to be vigilant. I have to anticipate the precise moment that the film will be perceived as “over” by the rest of my family so that I can jump in front of the clicker before it quiets the screen and instead of the closing-credits’ soundtrack, I hear, “brush teeth, boys!” The unbelievable truth is that only some DVDs allow errant husbands and forgiving wives to scene-select the final credits, but far too many do not.
Yes, Mr. Holland’s Opus may have been schlockier than I’d even remembered, but I’m still going to need confirmation that the principal of the school for the deaf was indeed played by the actress Beth Maitland, better known as Traci Abbott on the soap-opera-of-my-youth, The Young and the Restless. Miriam Margolyes as Harry Potter’s Professor Sprout? Well, I first saw her back in 1991 as the giggly, manipulated patron of Derek Jacobi’s psychic-antiquarian Franklyn Madson in Dead Again. And was that a tune from The Pogues, right there at the end of Grosse Pointe Blank? Geoffrey Rush’s voice as Nigel the seagull in Finding Nemo? Why, yes it was! Ah, my world makes sense now.
But it isn't this devotion to who’s-who minutiae that keeps me on the edge of my seat.
I don’t know what a key grip is or what a foley editor does or what it means to be in charge of flocking. What I do know, is that it takes the creativity and care of a whole lot of people to make a movie, even a small, relatively low-budget film, and the movie people are so proud of their work, take such ownership of their contributions, that they put their names on it. And this is what I love, admire, feel the need to respect and honor by reading or at least watching, the names of all those individuals -- from the gal who was Assistant to Mr. Hoffman to the name of the catering company -- who did something, who made something, who perhaps have mamas or daddies or neighbors or friends or children who are lucky enough to have loved-ones who, at the end of the day, put their names on their days’ work.
I see all those names, all those jobs and I think, what if we all did that? Sure, some of us write treatment plans or software programs or music or academic articles and sometimes, we sign our names to our work. But what about our bread -- who baked it? Or our car -- who built it? What about the median on the highway -- who are the folks who keep it clean and trim? What about that tube of toothpaste, perfectly flattened from the bottom up -- who squeezed it? What if we valued, what if we knew, the kind of work and care and people that make possible all the other creations in our lives. What if there were so much pride and care in all that we ourselves send out into the world that we couldn’t imagine sending it out without our names attached to it.
You can put my name on it.
Baked by . . .
Built by . . .
Maintained by . . .
Squeezed by . . .
Parented by . . .
Loved by . . .
That’s a list of credits I want to see.
It was a Tuesday, around noon. Windy, warm, alternately sunny and cloudy; a spring day floating away on cliches. And then I saw something on the ground. And then I saw Daisy, ferocious-feline huntress, stalking the something on the ground. And then, in an impressive flurry of middle-aged mind mathematics, I understood that the baby bluebirds were trying to fledge.
Mama Bluebird, Papa Bluebird and Aunt Lisa were hysterical. Mom and Dad Bluebird were actually doing something constructive, diving and cursing at Daisy, while my barefoot-self screeched and screamed and yelled for one of my own offspring to bring me some shoes.
The youngest, a 9-year-old, appeared with his mother’s gym shoes, shooed Daisy away, scooped up the unsuspecting baby bird and asked what else he could do. I was just about to wrangle the scene with overwhelming parental efficiency and wisdom but hadn’t yet managed to untie the double knots on my sneakers. By the time I was shod, my youngest had found two other fledglings, haplessly hopping – not a hint of their future-flying selves to be seen – across the rocky backyard.
Mama and Papa were still quite upset so we made the impulsive decision to pop the baby birds back into their nest box. We exiled our 3 kitties to the garage, corralled our flock of usually free-ranging chickens into the run, and for three days we watched the bluebird box.
In the meantime, I fretted that we’d done the wrong thing. I Googled for hours (somewhat reassuring). I texted my husband (very reassuring). I called the local wild bird experts (totally reassuring). I chided myself that Mom and Dad Bluebird could raise their babies however they wanted and who were we to tell them that their children weren’t ready to leave the nest?
But by late afternoon of that first day, Mom and Dad reappeared. They took up their posts on a branch 30 feet above the nest box. They brought in food and brought out dirty diapers (fecal sacs, no kidding!) They tried to tempt the babies back outside; I can just imagine the conversation:
She: You go talk to them.
He: Me? They won’t listen to me.
Baby 1: I’m not going back out there.
Baby 2: No way, did you hear that crazy woman?
Baby 3: And that cat! Yeah, we should just stay here and order take-out.
And so it went for 3 days. On Friday morning, we only saw mom and dad flutter about at first light. By mid-morning, all was quiet and we knew they’d gone. We released the kitties back out into the world – all fiercely asleep on the porch by noon – and opened the chicken run so Roo and the girls could go about their foraging in the woods.
We think maybe the bird babies prematurely tried to fledge on that Tuesday– that’s what the Cornell bird website calls it, “premature fledging” -- perhaps because of our histrionic spring weather this year or too much chicken activity in the yard or maybe just the daring bravado of the young. It doesn’t matter. We got to witness certain and caring parents as they sent their babies out into the world, going boldly and confidently into all that it might hold.