Someone on my parenting group asked for advice about getting a bird out of her chimney, so let’s travel back in time to when I found myself listening to a scratch-scratch-scratch in my own chimney.
The year was 2000. A month after Emily had died, as I sat at my computer, I heard behind me an irregular thump-flutter in the pipe leading from the woodstove to the chimney.
My heart stopped: that was either a squirrel or a bird.
I did exactly what you would expect a newly-bereaved mother to do. I calmly assessed the situation, determining which life form had gotten trapped, and ascertained the best methods of removing the bird so we could release it to the wild.
No, what am I saying? I panicked, broke down sobbing, and posted on the anencephaly support group that my daughter had died and now this bird was going to die IN MY CHIMNEY and I was a waste of a human life because I couldn’t do anything right, could I?
While email messages came back from the good ladies on the support group telling me to get a grip, I did actually calm down, determine that we had a bird rather than a squirrel (it fluttered when I put my ear to the pipe) and eventually I realized that although I couldn’t remove the pipe from the woodstove, I could open the ash chute at the bottom. And this I did.
Seconds after I opened the ash chute, nothing happened.
Well, it makes sense: the bird had gone below the elbow in the pipe and couldn’t just come out. So I left it open, reading my encouraging emails and sending more crazed ones, and then at one point I felt that hyper-awareness you get when there’s an animal in your house. I turned, and the bird was standing at the edge of the ash chute. It was an immature mockingbird.
Until this moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that once the bird came out, I would need to chase it up the stairs and outside. I also hadn’t considered that I was not the only one with that instinct about animals in the house, and that my cat had come downstairs to help me with her mad bird removal skillz.
The cat hurled herself at the mocker, which burst out of the ash chute, and I ducked, then engaged my brain for the first time in this entire venture. I shut all the blinds and drapes and opened the front door so the bird might fly toward the light and the air. And this, for once, worked. The bird flew up the stairs and landed on the screen door, cat in pursuit.
I managed to get the door open, but the bird clung to the screen. By now I was in a frenzy and I screamed, “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! GET OUT!”
The bird flew away.
I staggered out onto the front step and then sat down, breath heaving.
About thirty seconds later I looked around to find neighbors up and down the block staring at me. Because there’s no way they had seen the bird fly off my front door screen. No, the only thing they’d heard was me screaming at someone to get out of the house, and then I’d come outside.
Clearly I’d lost my marbles and thrown myself out of the house.
Yeah. My neighbors loved me. A lot. At least I gave them something to talk about.