Parachutes for Birds

by Lucy Arnold-Foster

Just the other day,
I was cooking in the kitchen when my daughter said to me,
‘Mummy, why aren’t there parachutes for birds?’
It is funny.
One of those things that little children say.
And you see, afterwards, that they make much more sense than you realised.
‘Birds fly,’ I said,
So full of superiority,
So sure I was right,
‘They don’t need parachutes.’
And, in hindsight, I might have made a face.
You know the face.
The Aw, aren’t you a dear face.
Easy for me to do.
But as a child,
My daughter stamped her foot.
‘But they’re falling!’
Still, I ignored her reasoning.
I simply thought, aw, the dear and such innocence.
Superficial thoughts like that.
‘Lily’s mummy said so. She works for the birdies. She said so, mummy.’
I listened to her talk without hearing her words at all.
‘Birds are falling. So why don’t we give them parachutes?’
She left the room soon after,
And I continued to cook,
Blinded by my self-assurance.
It was only later,
Much later,
That I realised there might be
Sense behind the nonsense.
Birds are falling.
As I heard the phrase echo in my mind,
I remembered the blackbirds.
We had a small nest in our garden,
But Jonathon next door
Pulled the nest down and
Smashed all the eggs.
I had just frowned,
And worried about whether I should scold him or not, or leave it to his mother.
I didn’t think for a second about the birds.
Or the parents, who would return to find
Their home gone
And their children carelessly slaughtered.
Birds are falling, but it’s not just because of boys like Jonathon.
It’s because of
Global warming, and
Pollution, and
All over the world,
Birds are falling.
From hummingbirds to eagles,
Blackbirds to peregrine falcons.
Only then did I see what my daughter meant by
Birds are falling.
‘Birds are falling. So why don’t we give them parachutes?’
I thought of my little girl’s earnest face,
And I wished it was that simple.
But it’s not.
I always thought I could not do it, myself.
I said I wouldn’t know how to ‘give them parachutes,’ so to speak.
But I remembered what my daughter had said about
‘Lily’s mummy’, who
‘works for the birdies.’
What I had taken at the time for toddler nonsense,
I realised only now what she meant.
Lily’s mother worked for the birds.
She worked to help them,
Feed them
Save them.
She gave them parachutes.
And I wished I could do the same.
With this realisation,
I wished I could rush back to my daughter and answer her question;
You are right, you are so wonderfully right!
Birds are falling, we need to give them parachutes!
We need to save the birds!’
But she was already tucked up in bed.
I sighed. I just wished I’d paid more attention when
My daughter said to me,
‘Mummy, why aren’t there parachutes for birds?’