Of Buzzards and Easter Baskets
'Of course now that you're at university you won't want an Easter basket this year,' said my mother one day when she was visiting me.
She was wrong, judging from the outcry that followed. Mom just rolled her eyes - she did that a lot in those days - convinced that her daughter: 1) was in no hurry to grow up; and 2) still wasn't eating right. Mothers worry about these things.
'Food, Glorious Food!'
This was some years ago. I like to think I've done a reasonable job of becoming an adult - at least I look like one - but she was right about the diet. It's no coincidence that chocolate is made from stuff with the scientific name of Theobroma cacao, or Food of the Gods. If it's good enough for the gods, who am I to turn up my nose? I still love my sweeties, and I still make up an Easter basket for myself each year.
I got to thinking about dietary habits a few weeks ago while putting together an entry that I hoped would make it into the Edited Guide. The entry dealt with the buzzards (also known as turkey vultures) who return to the area to mate each spring. The buzzard isn't the prettiest of birds; in fact, this is a face that only a mother could love. Not only did the poor critter come up short in the looks department, it is also a scavenger, which is a nice way of saying that it eats dead things.
In spite of its unappealing dietary habits, the buzzard has some interesting quirks. For one, it glides rather than flies. When a group of the birds decide it's time to boogie, they spiral up into the air until they catch an air current. This behaviour is called kettling because from a distance the birds resemble the tiny air bubbles in liquids that are beginning to boil. Another Researcher who's into gliding said that glider pilots look for kettling buzzards to help them find the thermals they need.
I also learned is that when a buzzard is frightened, it regurgitates on whatever is nearby. One thing I've discovered in a lifetime of eating is that, no matter how delicious the meal, it is always less than wonderful if it makes a return appearance. Given the buzzard's culinary inclinations, frightening one is probably not a good idea.
'I'll Never Grow Up, Not Me'
When my brothers and sister and I visited our parents over the holidays, we'd often drive up to the nearby state park. The park has a wildlife preserve where the staff care for injured animals and house the ones that can no longer fend for themselves in the wild. One of our favourite spots was a fenced area that held both wild turkeys and turkey vultures, presumably to help people tell the difference. A few years ago, a fellow my sister knows made a big production of shooting his own turkey for Thanksgiving. After the holiday he complained that the bird had tasted awfully gamey. He had, of course, shot and eaten a turkey vulture instead.
Anyway, my younger brother had discovered that if you gunned the car's engine, the male turkeys would make their 'gobbling' calls. We found this highly entertaining. Now I realize that while the male turkeys were strutting and 'gobbling' and trying to compete with the car, the turkey vultures were probably hiding somewhere at the back of the fenced area, tossing their cookies. Good thing we couldn't get any closer than we did.
Poor Mom was batting a thousand with her children. (The term 'batting a thousand' comes from American baseball and refers to a player's batting average, which is the ratio of the number of hits to the number of times at bat. An average of .355 is very good1. An average of 1.000 means the player hits everything that's sent his way; this is 'batting a thousand'.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Mom often noted that her children were definitely cut from the same cloth, as were all the wiseacres on both sides of the family. Mom was the exception; she had a quiet, gentle sense of humour and, thanks to the vagaries of romantic love, she found herself surrounded by comedians and practical jokers. She got used to our disappearing on Easter or Mother's Day to 'gobble' along with the turkeys and then coming home for a game of 'Extreme Croquet'2. We took our fun seriously, as she found out whenever she speculated that we were old enough to do without Easter baskets. She considered it a measure of maturity when we began to buy our own candy.
We still get a kick out of the turkeys, though. So do my nephews. My sisters-in-law roll their eyes. It's tough being a mother in my family.
Things Our Mother Taught Us
In addition to the usual 'life isn't fair' and 'take responsibility for your actions', we learned:
- You can't leave footprints in the sands of time by sitting on your bum. And you certainly don't want to leave bum-prints.
- If you're having trouble making a decision, choose the more difficult option. That's generally the correct one.
- When the bombs fall, avoid crowds. The crowd will panic, and you need to think clearly.
- If you don't feel well, go sit in the sun.3
- A brisk walk cures many ills.
- Follow your heart, but don't turn off your brain while you're doing it.
Thanks, Mom. You did a good job.