Aunt Marcia is the only one on the Stuart side of my family who knows who Fannie Flamingo is. Marcia has a flamingo friend herself so we’ve enjoyed keeping up with the others’ adventures. It was only natural for Fannie to drop everything and fly to visit her in the hospital. Here's what I wrote to her on the Caring Bridge website:
Dear Aunt Marcia,So, for Cousin Mickey (a charter member of our Mischief Makers Club), here is the background on Fannie Flamingo:
Help is on its way! When Fannie heard you were in the hospital she dropped everything and headed out to find you.
This is a pretty major move on Fannie's part since she had already committed to a project to seal the nuclear reactors in Japan. Her plan is to lead 500,000 flamingos over the reactors and let nature take its course as they fly over. Various authorities are convinced this would seal the reactors forever.
Her old friend, Rudy Guliani recommended her personally for this job after the great work she did with the Displaced Pigeon Project in New York after 9/11. Fannie has a way of finding practical solutions to major disasters.
For now she is trying to find someone to take her place in leading the Japan project because we all know how important it is to get the reactors sealed.
She was in a fast-track Japanese language class when she heard you were in the hospital. She left immediately and took to the air on her way to find you. She didn't even stop to pack. So, if you see a disheveled bright pink flamingo wearing a kimona and geisha make-up don't worry, it will be Fannie there in your room to cheer you on.
ps- I wouldn't tell the nurses if you see her. You know how nurses can be sometimes
Fannie appeared at my doorstep as part of a flock of six plastic lawn ornaments in the fall of 1999. They were part of a church youth fund raiser. But they came to life in my mind and I soon recognized them for their individual personalities. I started writing about them.
Fannie is the leader of the bunch and the one who first knocked on the front door that cold and wet November morning. She had rain dripping off her beak as she asked to come in and warm herself. Fannie brought Fern in with her since Fern was crying in the rain. Francine was next; she made some hot cocoa and proceeded to redecorate my house. Farfel went to the backyard and started building a nest for himself in the garden. Fred wasn’t nearly as polite; he just walked on in, sat on our couch and turned the TV on. Frank started building bunk beds when it looked like they would be here for awhile. Farfel helped him.
Each bird had its own distinct personality. Francine eventually got on Fred’s nerves when her vacuuming made so much noise he couldn’t hear the TV. He finally stuffed one of her legs down her throat and Frank had to stop painting the garage and take her to the hospital.
I began to talk about the birds so much that my daughters developed a kind of sibling rivalry with them.
I took Fannie with me on my first trip to Guatemala. When one of my friends heard about this plan she worried that I really did intend to pack a huge pink plastic lawn ornament. Being a veteran of many trips to Guatemala she insisted I couldn’t take Fannie through customs so she gave me a Beanie Baby flamingo. Two days before we were to leave for home the beanie baby Fannie disappeared. So my stories about her adventures got only better.
I feared she had been kidnapped by a remnant of the guerilla forces from their recently settled civil war. I later found out she had flown the coop with a dangerously attractive Toucan named Jose. Things went from bad to worse in a country where lawlessness is the norm and drugs are plentiful. The Toucan split and left her to her own devices.
My friend Mamie Broadhurst spotted her in North Carolina and sent me a picture. Mamie said she was hesitant to stop and talk because Fannie looked a bit confused.
Somehow, Fannie ended up at the Betty Ford clinic with a tattoo under her left wing that read “Free Elian.” She had no memory of how she got the tat or found the Betty. But she emerged from the clinic a new bird. A more dynamic and energetic bird, if that was possible.
She was invited to walk in the 2001 Inaugural parade and met Big Bird. They had a brief romance and she moved to New York City for a while. She realized she has horrible taste in men when she eventually noticed all Big Bird wanted to do was count to ten and sing. “Males can be so immature and shallow,” she told me.
She was still in NYC on September 11th. When the towers fell Fannie’s bright pink feathers were about the only sight people could pick out in the great cloud of gray dust. So she led folks to the Brooklyn Bridge and safety. Then she started a big pot of coffee brewing and set up shop at the St Paul’s Chapel by the pile of rubble.
That night she realized the fall of the Twin Towers had left so many pigeons without a place to roost at night. She didn’t sleep a wink that night and began her ministry, the Displaced Pigeon Project, the next morning. For the next year she spent a lot of time flying to various cities like Chicago to find similar skyscrapers for the pigeons.
She also found a steady and dependable male to spend time with. Sam is a bald eagle who lives atop the Washington Monument. He is such an instrumental figure in the federal government that they put his picture on the stamps.
She was eventually recognized by Mayor Guiliani and sent on other missions. In fact, I was there last year on September 11th when the city gave her a nice plaque. However, she was so put off by the demonstrations against the Islamic Center that she took to wearing a burqa for a while.
She led a protest in Trafalgar Square against a new law which the banned feeding the pigeons. Some of the NYC pigeons had been placed there post-9/11 and she couldn't beileve such a welcoming city would do that to their own pigeons. She chained herself to the statue of Lord Nelson and passed out sacks of bird seed. But the mayor of London called Guilani and he convinced her to choose her battles more carefully and she left London.
For the last few years, she has lived in Teculutan, Guatemala working with the Quetzal birds there. These birds are beautiful and have a long tail very similar to the peacock. The Quetzal is a shy bird and lives hidden in the forest. It has no song, nor makes noise of any kind. I guess when you’re so beautiful that you stand out in a crowd your only defense from predators is to keep your mouth shut. The bird is so revered that the Guatemalan currency is called the Quetzal. There is an old Mayan story that the Quetzal once had a beautiful song but when the Spanish conquered Guatemala the Quetzal stopped singing. The legend goes that the Quetzal will sing again when peace and justice return to Guatemala.
When Fannie heard this she resolved to teach the Quetzal to sing again. She shares an apartment in the backyard of Karla Cordon’s house in Teculutan with a parrot named Polly Parton. Periodically they will fly off into the forests to work with the Quetzals. I see her sometimes when I visit Guatemala.
And she usually visits me in October when she comes into town to visit her sister Fernie who operates a Funnel Cake stand at the Texas State Fair. I tried letting Fernie stay with me one year during the Fair but you wouldn’t believe the mess she made in my kitchen. The only thing she knows how to cook is fried foods, preferably the kind you dust with powdered sugar. How that bird does love to throw powdered sugar all over the kitchen!
Fannie isn’t entirely comfortable seeing her sister so that always lends a certain tension. Fernie stole Fannie's boyfriend and ended up marrying him. But early in the marriage Floyd was killed in a tragic woodworking accident with a floor-mounted Delta Planer/Joiner. All that Fernie has left of him is a pillow made of his feathers. She sleeps with that pillow every night.
Fannie comes out of retirement at various times whenever there is an emergency. I never know when she will pop in on me or my imagination. Let’s hope she can get Marcia back to health soon. I know the Nuclear Reactor Defecation Project is important to the world’s health.