Around 6:30 each morning, he opens the sliding door and screams into the backyard.
Come to the yard, birds! It’s safe here. Please hurry!
Whatever you’re picturing when I say that Khalil likes birds right now is inadequate. Try to imagine a lifelong bird-watching enthusiast and then multiply that passion by one thousand.
Eighteen months ago he loved freshwater fish and before that, dinosaurs. But that was all just a preparation for the birds.
A bird feeder that sticks to the window arrived. Khalil has sat for hours, riveted, pleading quietly for a bird to visit. He didn’t want to go to school today because he would miss his first bird guest.
Yesterday, while chatting with Mona over the daffodils blooming where our two yards meet, Khalil spotted a red-winged blackbird in her yard. He had been waiting for weeks to see one and re-lived that magical moment on a loop until bedtime, hugging me each time. He couldn’t believe his luck.
He is constantly ranking his favorite things about birds:
No, actually, I like it most when they hop. Second most is when they fly very fast.
Today my favorite is when they eat worms. Remember when she picked up a worm and dropped it?
If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a while (and welcome if you haven’t!) you know that I have agonized over all that Khalil has missed due to the pandemic. Balancing his specific health needs with his developmental needs has felt impossible. So many of us have done impossible things over these last years.
While he is most devoted to the birds, he has enough joy left over for flowers. Every day he checks on the not-yet-blooming tulips and looks for new daffodils. He circles the house to monitor the budding lilacs and tiny apple blossoms starting to form. His eyes sparkle with every new bloom.
There’s this line from Anne of Green Gables that I typed up and taped above my sink in California.
“...but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom alongside it.”
When I became disabled 11 years ago, my path narrowed. And when Khalil turned three and then four and then five during a pandemic, his path narrowed, too. But I watch him now and the way he notices. And attends. And derives deep joy from birds and flowers and the tiny miracles of spring and I am struck by what I had been overlooking in all my agonizing.
It’s important to note that I’m not trying to silver-lining this god-awful pandemic. On principle, I do not look on the bright side of suffering. I’m certainly not saying that I’m glad Khalil has been stuck at home for many long days. But, if I am trying to accept whatever what is is then I have to faithfully witness the depth and breadth of our experience.
And what I’m seeing is this:
Flowers of quiet happiness continue to bloom.
Anne's horizons had closed in since the night she had sat there after coming home from Queen's; but if the path set before her feet was to be narrow she knew that flowers of quiet happiness would bloom along it. The joy of sincere work and worthy aspiration and congenial friendship were to be hers; nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams. And there was always the bend in the road!
"`God's in his heaven, all's right with the world,'" whispered Anne softly.