A month or two ago, one weekend morning, I heard an incredible racket in the vents above my kitchen while I was sleepily brewing coffee. I paused, terrified, then simply listened: it sounded like… things clanking around. It sounded like… live animals. It sounded like… tiny velociraptors were up there.
Oh, I thought in a flash of recognition. There are fucking birds that have decided to live in my fucking external vent. Great.
I emailed the condo board, but for a variety of reasons they weren’t willing or ready to do anything about it yet, so for the past six weeks I’ve been dealing with the clanking, the fluttering, the incessant fucking chirping. “What could they possibly be doing up there?” I would mentally scream in frustration. “DON’T THEY KNOW I’M TRYING TO WATCH THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA?”
And then. One weekend morning, I heard a small cheep. And then several. And then a cacophony. A brood of birds (I had to google what a group of baby birds is called). I now had not just a couple of stray birds living in my vent, but an entire generation of baby birds. Had been born there. Would first fly from there.
I learned to listen for the distinctive sounds. The fluttering of wings and a “thump” announced a parent landing with food for the baby birds — I knew, because they’d chirp with alarm and excitement when that happened. They were terrified of my cabinets, I realized — every time I let a kitchen cabinet fall heavy or slammed my microwave door shut, the vibrations shot up into the vent and must have made them think they were going through a horrific earthquake. So I tempered my movements, learned to click the microwave door quietly shut so as not to disturb.
As the weeks went on, I grew accustomed to the birds. They were my constant companion, and I couldn’t help but hold affection towards them. I complained to my friends about the noise on every weekend morning, but I secretly looked forward to hearing the chirps. What can I say? It was spring. Things were blooming. I was feeling tender.
Then one Sunday, I realized: the entire weekend had passed and I hadn’t heard a single solitary chirp. The birds — they were gone. Without so much as a parting notice, they had learned to fly and left the nest. Not a goodbye, even, to the woman who had (unknowingly, unwillingly) provided a home for them to be fed, to be cared for, to learn how to leap into the sky?
Of course not, because they’re birds, and I’m a human, and we’re, like, different species, and besides, they’d never even known I existed. My vent was nothing more than cozy tunnel home for them. They’d flown off to explore the world and the neighborhood oak trees, and pluck worms from the earth, and one day make families of their own.
I was weirdly lonely and melancholy about their departure. What can I say? It was the start of summer, and things had finished blooming, and I was feeling tender.
Then one early morning this past weekend, and I stood over my coffeemaker watching it brew my life juice, I heard the telltale and distinctive “flutter flutter flutter THUMP.” A bird had landed in my ceiling vent, once again. I looked up, expecting, I’m not sure what — it’s not like I can x-ray vision through my ceiling — but knowing again that life was settling in there.
The flutterthumps have come on a consistent basis again the past several days, and I can only imagine that either the former parents are coming back, or a new pair is getting ready to make life in there again. I’ll now know — and welcome — that the metal vent flowing through my kitchen ceiling is home to a late telltale of spring, and an early harbinger of summer, and that again, not too far from today, another family will be created up there, and then will soon learn to fly.