Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fannie Flamingo

The flamingos are back. They showed up as a church fundraiser for the first time in the fall of 1998 and my life hasn’t been the same since. The original flock of six who showed up in my front yard has grown to almost a hundred--if you include pigeons, parrots, pelicans, grackles and toucans. Oh, and one bald eagle (except I’m not supposed to mention the “bald” part. He’s very sensitive about that.) Each and every one of them has become a dear friend. Maybe not the grackles. Yes, definitely not the grackles.

The flamingos have always been great fundraisers. The church youth get about 24 of the pink plastic yard decorations and divide them into four flocks. They tell the congregation ahead of time what they are going to do and then sell insurance against having them show up in your yard. For a fee the youth will put them into the front yard of someone you know. After a day or so (during which time any hope of winning “yard of the month” has flown the coop) you call the youth and they come pick up the birds. For another fee you can specify who gets the honor next. The kids get in our pockets coming and going and everyone seems to have fun with it.

My flock showed up one morning after a night’s rain and my imagination opened in a way it never has. Nothing has been the same since.

It was Fannie who knocked at my door dripping wet and asked to come in. I gave her a towel to dry off and she asked if she could invite her friends. Of course, I told her, especially since they had rain dripping off their noses. At least I hoped it was rain.

I started writing.
Thursday, November 12, 1998

Dear First Presbyterian Youth:

My flamingo flock arrived yesterday. Thank you to whoever sent them. My neighbors gathered in our yard to check them out. They remarked on what a bright pink the birds were. One of them offered the suggestion that maybe it was time for us to start a Homeowners Association. Then they noticed my grass needed cutting and found few discarded advertising flyers on our lawn. One by one they faded back into their houses, though I could see some of them pull back the curtains a bit to get another glance.

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. She settled in at the kitchen table with a cup of cocoa and told me her real name is Frances but she prefers Fannie. She thinks Fannie sounds more friendly. Fannie seems to be a very friendly bird.

About an hour later Fred came to the door. He told me it was colder than (a profanity) out there and he sure could use a beer. Beaven brought him 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.

By now it was getting a little crowded in the house. Fannie had gone to bed—in our bed. But when the doorbell rang again with Farfel and Frank we let them in, too. After all, we had let the others in.

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 away from him. Francine has cleaned and re-organized my pantry, alphabetizing my spices. Farfel and Frank got into an argument over who would sleep by the window. Our house smells like wet feathers and I’m afraid you sent me the “indoors” flock by mistake. I just hope you make a lot of money from this fundraiser.

Thank you for this “gift”,

Love, Jane

P.S. Friday morning:
Boy, am I in trouble. I went to get the paper this morning and found Fern sitting on our porch. She was wet, cold and her eyes were swollen from crying in the rain. She said she had been beating on the door all night but we couldn’t hear her because Fred had the TV on so loud. Fannie helped her dry off and Francine made her a nice hot breakfast. I’m not sure she will ever be the same again after this trauma. Frank and Farfel are starting to worry that there won’t be enough beds for them all. They seem to be taking over and I’m getting worried.

By Monday morning the flamingos had become part of our family. Frank and Farfel started making bunk beds for everyone. Fred took the TV guide and circled all the football games. He had produced a beat-up styrofoam ice chest full of beer from God knows where and was talking about inviting some friends over. When I worried about the mess Fred was making Francine spent all evening Sunday night cleaning up feathers and vacuuming. She wants to help me decorate for Thanksgiving. She says my house “has possibilities.”

Fannie and Fern have been sitting at the kitchen table talking out all of Fern’s Flamingo Family of Origin problems. Fannie thinks her trauma goes well beyond the night spent in the rain at our house. She thinks Fern needs therapy and has suggested a couple of names. I have no idea how she knows these things.

Over the next week, the birds settled in. Farfel left for a couple of days to check out the pansies at Lee Park. He said he wanted to get some landscaping ideas for my back yard. I wish our neighbors knew what an asset he could be. That freed up some sleeping space and then Frank finished the bunk beds. Francine spent one whole day redecorating my house. She made a large table decoration out of coffee grounds and discarded banana peels.

The only major problem we had was when Francine tried to get Fred to move off the couch while she vacuumed. She never should have done that while he was watching Jerry Springer. He somehow managed to stuff one of her long legs down her throat and Frank had to stop painting the garage to take her to the hospital.

Thankfully, right after that incident Louis Gold called me from the church to say it was time to move the flock to someone else’s house. But the birds had made their mark on my heart and I had embarked on a journey with them that would lead me to many fun times.

Now that they are planning a new fall fund raiser for 2010 I volunteered to write about their adventures over the last ten years. I need to get busy; I fell behind on writing because Fannie was in town for the State Fair. I never get anything done when Fannie is with me and it’s even worse when Fannie’s sister Fernie comes with her. Fannie likes to drop by to visit this time every year because Fernie travels all over the country following the fairs with her Funnel Cake stand. It’s hard to get any writing done when they’re both here at my house because of all the mess they make. Fernie is all about Everything Fried and they always love to cook when they're together. My stove is caked with grease and powdered sugar and, of course, the dishwasher broke. But at least now that the fair is over I can clean my kitchen and get back to writing about the flamingos.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Fantastic. Jane, you should talk to my friends in a Lutheran youth group in PA. The group has been chaperoned by a pair of flamingos at all their events for years now, and the falmingo family is growing. The pastor has performed several flamingo wedding ceremonies. But no flamingo baptisms, because as animals, the flamingos are in a natural state of grace.