Most of my friends know all about Fannie Flamingo. For those who don't, I thought I'd tell the whole saga here. Most of what you will be reading here is found in my little pink booklet, “It’s Hard to Type with Feathers for Fingers.” I will be in and out of town for the next month or so and will probably return with new stories to tell. But, like the time we went to Europe, I will leave enough words to keep everybody occupied each Wednesday.
In the fall of 1998, our church youth group discovered a new fund-raising idea. Other churches had used it with great success but it had never been tried around these parts. You get 20 or 30 of those pink plastic flamingos, the tacky yard decorations you’ve seen but would never buy for yourself . Form 4 or 5 “flocks” and put them in various church members’ front yards. You tell the congregation ahead of time and give them a chance to purchase “insurance” against an invasion of flamingos. The people who are “flamingo-ed” must pay to have them removed and for an even greater fee, they can stipulate where the flock goes next. You can see that the kids get into our pockets coming and going. But there’s no harm done and everyone seems to enjoy the joke.
When it came our turn to have the flamingos visit, I found the birds brought me much more than a smile. They tickled my imagination in a new way and I began to write. As I wrote, I found new friends and I’ve enjoyed watching their lives unfold inside my mind. I haven’t been the same since.
Thursday, November 12, 1998
Dear First Presbyterian Friends and Youth Group :
My Flamingo Flock arrived on my lawn yesterday afternoon. Thank you to whomever sent them. We've enjoyed them so far. Even Beaven, a quiet curmudgeon, agreed that they looked kind of cute out there grazing on our lawn. And our neighbor across the street who has an elaborate Christmas display like you’ve never seen, remarked about what a sight they were.
Then it started raining.
I think it was Fannie who first knocked on our door and wanted in. She said it was cold and her feathers were starting to mat and could she please come in to dry off. I said why, of course, come right in and that she shouldn't be out there on such a horrible night like this. Just as soon as Fannie (whose given name is actually Frances, but she thinks Fannie sounds more friendly) finished toweling off here came Fred at the door.
Fred was a little more blunt. He told me that it was colder than (a profanity) out there and he sure could use a beer. Beaven brought Fred inside and let him warm himself in front of the TV.
When Francine asked to come in I couldn't very well say no. And, really, all she wanted was a little warm soup and the newspaper.
Well, by now it was getting a little crowded in the den and kitchen, not to mentioned the bedroom because Fannie had gone to bed-in our bed. But when the doorbell rang again with Farfel and Frank, we let them in, of course. We had let the others in, after all.
So, now I don't quite know what to make of your gift. Fred is on his third beer and we can't get the remote control from him. Francine has gone through everything in the fridge. And Farfel got into a fight with Frank over who gets to sleep by the window. Our house smells like wet feathers and I think you sent me the "indoors" flock by mistake.
My other problem is that I'm leaving for the middle school retreat tomorrow and I can't guaranteed what will happen with them here alone with Beaven. I can’t imagine what they will eat.
I'll try to let you know how things turn out when I get back.
The following morning I had to add a ps to the letter:
Boy, am I in trouble. I went out to get the paper this morning and found Fern sitting on our porch. Wet, cold and very heart-broken. She said she had been beating on the door all night but we didn't hear her. Fred had the TV going so loud I guess we didn't notice. Fannie helped her dry off and Francine fixed a nice warm breakfast for her. I'm not sure if she’ll ever be the same after this trauma. Frank and Farfel are now worried that there won't be enough room for them all in the house.
Hello??? They're thinking along these lines??? They seem to be taking over. I'm getting a little worried.
I can't stop now, I've got to pack for the middle school youth retreat. I'm putting Francine and Frank in charge while I'm gone, they seem to be the most responsible.
When I got home from Youthquake there was a Flamingo Update:
Maybe I didn’t need to worry. The flamingos were actually unsupervised all weekend and everything in the house looks fine. Beaven decided to go see his Dad in Mt. Pleasant. Frank went with him because they were planning to do some electrical work around the house and Frank offered to help out. Fred didn’t want to go because he had already circled the football games he planned to watch in the TV Guide. I sure hope he didn’t think he was going to invite any of his flamingo friends to come over. It doesn’t look like he did. But Francine has been spending all her time cleaning up feathers and vacuuming. She wants to help me decorate for Thanksgiving; she said my house has "possibilities."
Fannie and Fern have been talking out all Fern’s Flamingo Family of Origin Problems. Fannie thinks Fern’s chronic weepiness go beyond the night she had to sleep in the rain at my house. She thinks Fern needs therapy and said she knows a good therapist.
They said Farfel left early Saturday morning to check on landscaping ideas for our back yard. Wouldn’t that be great if he could tell me what to plant and where? But he said he was going to the Turtle Creek-Oak Lawn area and he hasn’t come home yet. I sure hope he found a warm place to stay Saturday night.
However, that did free up some sleeping space in our house. It’s a little crowded. Maybe if it doesn’t rain tonight, one or two of them could sleep in the yard. I’ll bet they had to sleep outside at everybody else’s house. Frank said he could build bunk beds. But I don’t want them to get too settled because I think they are due to move on within the week. And I KNOW the family I plan to send them to won’t let them stay inside, bunk beds or not
Monday, November 16, 1998
Flamingo Heaven on East Harvard
Farfel showed up late last night and said he has fallen in love with landscaping. Says he spent all those years standing around in people's gardens and never fully appreciated the beauty of flowers. He spent all day at Lee Park and says he has a new appreciation for pansies. He went to the nursery today and bought several plants for our yard and it really does look great. If the weather holds up I think he might stay out there and dig around all the time.
Francine spent the whole day decorating the house and I came home to a "new look." And she says she's not finished yet!! Can't wait to see what else she does. Already she has made a large table decoration out of coffee grounds and discarded banana peels. Of which we have plenty since Fannie and Fern spent the day around the kitchen table discussing Fern's future. Fannie thinks she can get her into a couple of GED classes or even Richland. But Fern isn't sure what she should study. Like Farfel, she is interested in Horticulture (ferns would be a natural specialty, don’tcha think?), but when I suggested helping Farkel in the yard, she just freaked out at the thought of going outside. I guess that all-nighter in the rain really affected her.
Fred is on the couch watching Monday Night Football, which doesn't sit well with Beaven and Frank. They want to watch the Discovery Channel show on Building the Brooklyn Bridge but no one is willing to challenge Fred.. He can get pretty intimidating when he's have a couple of beers. And today, what with Oprah, Montel Williams and Jerry Springer, he's gone through more than a couple.
Frank finished the bunk beds in the front room and cleaned up the garage. He told Beaven he could do a tune up on my car if Beaven wanted him to.
So, that's it here at Flamingo Heaven. We're settling into a happy little family. Louis Gold, the youth group sponsor, called to say the birds aren’t earning any money sitting in my front yard. He plans to come by and move them to another house. If I pay a premium I can pick where they go next. I just hope he waits until Francine is finished with the mural in the bathroom.
Tuesday Flamingo Update:
I got home from work today to find a horrible scene: furniture turned over all through the house and pink feathers everywhere!! Nobody was home except Fred who was sitting in his usual spot in front of the TV. Getting answers out of him is next to impossible, especially during Jeopardy. I knew that Farfel had taken Fern out to the Arboretum for a kind of "test run” to see how she handles the outdoors and to look at all the flowers (and ferns!—I think she is really developing an interest there.) Fannie had gone to Sam’s to apply for a job as one of those ladies who pass out the free samples on Saturdays. I think she’ll do a really good job.
I had to wait until Frank brought Francine home from the hospital a few minutes later.
It turns out that she had tried to re-upholster the sofa while Fred was on it. I think her mistake was to try it during The Jerry Springer Show. Somehow he had managed to stuff one of her legs all the way down her throat. By the time Frank could get in the house from the garage where he was painting, the damage had been done.
Louis called me to say it was time for him to pick up the flock and keep it migrating. And I know just where they need to go.
Mrs. Linda Peavy
111 W. Kenwood
Garland, TX 75041
I hope you enjoy your new flock of flamingos. Please let Fern in the house immediately, as she is prone to crying fits when exposed to the outside. I think she’ll get better with a little TLC.
I just know you and Francine will have fun together. She’s really handy around the house and can wallpaper with the best of us. She may be quiet for a while—she has a really sore throat.
Carl should enjoy having a buddy to watch TV with. Warn him, however, to keep a lock on the beer icebox in the garage. Frank can build him a handy cabinet if he wants one.
One of my reasons for choosing you as their next family is that I know Farfel will "approve" of your landscaping- I think he was always secretly horrified at my own attempts. I hope you’ll let him walk back over here from time to time to check on my yard, too. We so enjoyed having him.
You’re on your own with Fred.
p.s. You might want to keep Fred and Francine separated for a while.
Thursday, November 19, 1998
Farfel dropped by this afternoon to say that Linda Peavy told them they can’t stay long at her house. Fern is the only one she will let in and the other five are producing more than enough fertilizer for her front yard. Farfel agrees that too much ammonia can be bad for the yard. I’m not sure where Louis will move them to next. I hope somewhere close so that Frank can finish painting the garage. He had to stop to take Francine to the hospital, you know.
I saw Fannie at Sam’s today. She loves her job passing out the free samples. Said she went by a couple of homeless shelters and invited them to come on by. Today she was giving out the tiny little slices of bagel dogs. But I think they get moved around a lot so you may have to hunt for her. But then, how hard is it to miss a bright pink flamingo??
Francine also got a job. She’s going to decorate Christmas tree ornaments for Michael’s. It’s temporary but could lead to something bigger at the end of the season.
Nobody has heard from Fred. I’ll bet he’s not happy having to watch TV through the window from the backyard but at least Carl has all the sports channels and I guess that’s better than my house.
In January, 1999, they declared an end to the fund raiser, making a tidy bundle of money. They packed them up for storage and will auction off the plastic replicas of my friends later in the spring. But I couldn’t let them go so easily.
They have become so real to me and always will be.
That’s why I’ve decided to take Fannie with me to Guatemala on the mission trip leaving this week. She certainly has the time available. I’m afraid she got fired from her job at Sam’s. After all those homeless people started coming in for the free samples, the store found out what she had done and fired her Christmas Eve. She didn’t have to go hungry though, she was welcomed at the shelters. You can imagine what the drunks with DT’s thought at seeing a pink flamingo at the shelter eating ham with them (Fannie avoids eating turkey for obvious reasons.)
The church doesn’t know but the flamingos all sneak out for various reasons. Frank, Farfel, and Francine have jobs. Fern will sometimes stay inside all day, depending on the weather. But, if the weather is really nice, she may help Farfel at the nursery where he works. Anytime he has a question about the Boston Ferns, she can usually help him out. Fred usually runs by the Peavy’s. He likes to watch TV through the window. Linda still won’t let him in. Says he leave too many empty beer cans laying around and smells funny.
The Peavys are moving next month so maybe the new owners will be more understanding. I can’t imagine why Carl and Linda wanted to move.
Tune in next week when the Flamingo Family Adventures takes a whole new turn.