Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Bird in a guilt cage
I speak in the past tense, alas. While receiving my final instructions from the owner, he informed me that he was no longer filling the bird-feeders.
"The birds come anyway," he shrugged.
Except they don't. I lasted one week before sneaking around to the pet supply store near where younger daughter is having swimming lessons. Somehow, I feel this is probably unethical. It's his house. I'm not sure why he's leaving the empty, dusty bird-feeders up; maybe he intends to feed the birds during the winter months only. But, oh, it's lovely to have them back. I sneakily hose the seed shells off the porch, and plan to stop refilling just before they return. I'm a ba-a-a-a-d house-sitter...
And that's not all I'm bad at. During this morning's illicit birdseed run, I held the shop door open for an attractive gentleman about my age and his winsome teenage daughter. He thanked me and addressed me by name. My heart sank. I've described my problems with face-blindness before. Even when he mentioned the name of his pretty daughter it didn't help, although he said it was she who had recognized me. I assumed it was a fellow-parent from elder daughter's co-op preschool days as we were in the general neighbourhood, chattered a bit and politely parted. I was shoveling birdseed from one of the bins when it hit me. The man is the widower of a high school and university friend who died two years ago, leaving two girls then aged ten and twelve. I have a photo of the family that I took in seven years ago on my fridge. The daughter has completely changed since then...but her father hasn't. Damn. Damn. Damn.
Burning with shame and with the sun that is unseasonably hot for Victoria this year (Ottawa is unseasonably cool, of course), I headed home with my shopping and waited out most of the afternoon's heat in the lower level of the house. Few houses in Victoria have air-conditioning; a week to two weeks' worth of above 25 degrees Celsius isn't worth the expense.
Unlike Ottawa, Victoria's summer heat quickly dissipates in the evening, so I decided to take younger daughter on an expedition to get ice-cream, envisioning the trek down the hill in the golden evening light with the sea breezes wafting fragances. Instead, the sun hung stubbornly above the western horizon in a blazing ball. We arrived at the local Thrifty Foods, passing parades of young children in tow behind their mums. I realized with a twinge how all of these kids would have been born after we left for Hades nine years years ago.
The supermarket aisles were deliciously cool. I encouraged younger daughter to make a selection, narrowing it down by category: "It has to be Island Farms because we can't get that in Ottawa; do you want chocolate? No? Vanilla? Here's six variations on vanilla." She chose the chocolate chip one, of course. Near us, a small family were also mulling over the selection, debating over ice milk or frozen yogurt. The dad, an early thirties civil servant type, called after his wife: "Well, you're the one who has to wear the tennis skirt. It's your choice...." I watched her walk off towards the cashier and briefly considered bouncing my deposit bottle off his bean, but thought the better of it. It might have upset the two young children this lithe woman had borne him, evidently without gaining an ounce.
The climb back up the hill is deceptively steep and relentless, taking twenty minutes of steady plodding. By the time we'd reached the house, I was in an Ottawa-worthy sweat, and checked the computer to confirm my suspicions. Yep, 28 degrees Celcius at seven pm, with a humidex of 33, the equivalent of a mild summer day in the nation's capital. Hades has followed me home.