A blackbird becomes part of the family
Ellen stepped out on to the balcony, carrying her morning coffee. She loved these few moments alone to experience the first minutes of a fresh day. She watched the sun glide up over the horizon. Through the open french doors she could see her filmmaker husband, Jim, still in bed. She leaned back onto the metal railing and smiled, watching as he rolled over to fill the space where she’d been sleeping. Suddenly she felt her world tilting on its axis and soon realised the balcony railing was coming loose. She staggered trying to regain her balance but flew backwards and hit the concrete paving below, hard.
Months of rehabilitation followed the accident. For the first few weeks it wasn’t known whether Ellen would live or die. She lay drifting in and out of consciousness. Her dreams though were vivid, she dreamt she was flying, the skies full of birds attempting to stop her crashing to the ground. Ellen saw a blackbird singing to her even when she closed her eyes at night.
Eventually she was given the bad news she would never walk again, this was worse than a death sentence to the athletic mother of three little boys. “What’s the use of a mother who can’t do anything for her children. I should have died. I wish I was dead!” She would say time and time again. Eventually released from hospital, she went home to the house now adapted for her wheelchair.
The entire family were suffering alongside of her as Ellen endeavoured to come out of the depression she found herself in. The boys had lost the happy mother they’d known, life as they all knew it had changed forever. She attempted to explain to her husband the gut-wrenching, soul- crushing feeling that someone had stolen her life from her. Then she’d feel guilty when she looked at her three young, healthy boys and knew she had to keep going for their sakes.
The turning point came one day when she was out in the garden watching the children play, feeling frustrated at not being able to join their cricket game, when she saw a tiny bird lying upon the ground, its wings still covered in baby feathers.
“Hey boys, come and see what I’ve found,” she called. Six-year-old Alex ran over and picked up the bird, bringing it close to his face. He looked at his mother. “Is it dead?” He whispered, his eyes pooling with tears.
“No, I think he’s just tired and hungry. Why don’t you guys go and see if you can find some worms or something we can feed him with?” Alex ran to tell his brothers.
With the blackbird on her lap, Carol wheeled herself inside to find a shoe box to put the bird in.
“I know how you’re feeling,” she murmured to the injured chick.
The young family had witnessed enough tragedy for one lifetime and they were not going to stand idly by and watch this feeble fluff ball die. After receiving veterinary treatment for its broken wing they were advised the fledgling would need feeding every two hours for the first few weeks if she was to survive. This baby they called Penguin needed around the clock care and Ellen wakened several times each night to feed her.
Eventually the bird grew stronger and became Ellen’s constant companion, never leaving her side. Penguin bonded with each member of the family but forged a special relationship with Ellen. Maybe she recognised her saviour had a need for extra care too. When they were alone Ellen and Penguin would talk and sing to each other. When Ellen was having one of her really dark days Penguin was always there encouraging her to get through the day.
Ellen and Jim were used to living with noise and mess, being the parents to three boisterous boys and Penguin fitted right in. She became a beloved member of the family. It was fun watching the four ‘kids’ growing up together. They became accustomed to every curtain, cushion, blanket and flat surface being covered in bird poop. Penguin would lie in bed with the boys as they watched movies or read. Eventually one momentous day she showed she was well and strong enough to fly and took off around the living room to rousing applause.
Penguin was not happy when the family decided she needed a life outside and Jim placed her in the frangipani tree in the backyard. She would sneak back into the house every chance she had. Eventually though she learned to forage for food and became self-sufficient but remained part of their family, always coming when called. Eventually though the day came when she didn’t return, when she flew away to make a family of her own.
Ellen continued her recovery both mental and physical. She took up kayaking and went on to win the National Championships. It was as if that little bird came into all their lives for a reason, simply by her presence she managed to put an injured family back together again.
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