The Neighborhood Celebrity

Abbie Creed

Revision © Copyright 2024 by Abbie Creed

Photo by Jacques Le Henaff on Unsplash.
Photo by Jacques Le Henaff on Unsplash.

The Neighborhood Celebrity” is a heart-warming story with a happy ending, and is quite suitable for children of any age. It depicts how a child, a teenager and an adult showing empathy, Compassion, patience and caring, met under extraordinary circumstances, and worked together to save a life. I wrote this story for all the children in my life.

It was the last day of school when my son, Kelly, was ready to graduate from the 8th grade and I was a bit delayed getting home from my school teaching job, that I was met with a bit of excitement. I walked into my bedroom to find a glob of something right in the center of my bed. There was no way to tell what it was, but it was breathing, and neighbor children were watching its every breath.

One of the children found this baby sparrow that had fallen out of the nest and was in danger of being devoured by a family dog. My son Kelly was known to all the children as the big kid who took care of animals. But this one looked as if it was beyond Kelly’s fixing. It appeared to have tissue, skin, but no feathers. Looking at the poor thing was sad; you could see its insides through its thin skin.

Kelly called the Audubon Society to get information about birds. A kind gentleman there tried to be positive about the poor little bird but felt it had little to no chance of survival. However, he gave Kelly a list of things to do such as making food using oatmeal, cottage cheese and Karo syrup. Kelly made a paste in a small bowl and cut up one of his artist brushes, leaving just four small bristles as a means of feeding the bird. Using his ability to communicate with this little critter by making a clicking noise with his tongue and teeth, the baby bird opened its beak as Kelly gently picked up some of the mixture on the bristles of the brush and poked it down the bird’s throat. These were directions given to him by the kind man on the other end of the phone. He said, “ Mama birds push the food through the beaks of their babies and into their gullet.” This same routine was repeated many times a day for several weeks.

To everyone’s amazement, Chip, Kelly’s name for the bird, was thriving. However, being a bird’s mama was extremely time consuming. For a thirteen-year-old. The foot of Kelly’s bed became the bird’s nest. Every morning at sun-up, that baby bird started pulling Kelly’s neck hairs to wake him and remind him that it was time for breakfast. After a week or so, Chip began to have a few feathers and was gaining weight.

We had a cat in our family at that time and it was quite a feat to keep the cat out of Kelly’s room. As the bird began to flit around, the cat became more curious about the noise behind the closed door. During the day, Kelly took the bird to the basement where it had more room, so the shift began, to keep the basement door closed so the cat could not go downstairs.

During these critical days, Kelly was in constant touch with the gentleman at the Audubon Society. When the gentleman felt it was time to change the bird’s formula to something a bit more substantial, Kelly switched to wild bird seed, but it had to be crushed up. Kelly did this by putting it on the driveway and crushing it with a hammer. With this new change, Chip learned to feed himself. Kelly took him outside several times a day for that purpose. He also kept a little food in the basement.

Chip became the pride of the neighborhood children. They often came to visit him in the basement. Kelly had taught the children to hold their pointer finger out, click their teeth and watch as Chip jumped up and sit on their fingers. Chip also liked to give kisses on the cheeks and loved rocking on the rung of the wooden rocking chair in the basement. It was so fascinating to watch the children as they very carefully followed Kelly’s instructions.

The whole family was getting overly attached to that little bird. But as directed by the gentleman from Audubon, it was time to teach the bird to fly. The routine was for Kelly’s brother to stand in the open window of his second-floor bedroom while Kelly went down to the back yard and with his clicking sound, call Chip to fly down. After several tries that little bird accomplished its first lesson. When it was time to reverse the procedure Kelly stood in his bedroom window, while his brother took the bird to the backyard. It took a few more tries to accomplish flying up. But once that was accomplished Chip flew all over the yard, but at night he wanted inside Kelly’s bedroom.

The next lesson for Chip was exceedingly difficult for Kelly. He was advised not to let Chip in at night. He and the bird had slept together most of the early days of summer and now he would have to be the one to stop it. That little bird slept on Kelly’s windowsill with the screen in the window separating them for the rest of the summer. After Chip had learned to crack the bird seed himself, he did not have to wake Kelly to have breakfast.

Chip had a broken front claw that was quite noticeable, so it was not difficult for Kelly, using his binoculars, to keep an eye on Chip when he was outside. He did not go far from home even though he had learned to fly with ease. One day when Kelly went to the swimming pool, he asked me to let Chip stay in the basement. He was afraid that if chip followed him, he might not know how to get home. There I was babysitting a baby bird on a hot summer afternoon. But somehow, one of Kelly’s brothers had left the basement door open and Chip got out. However, I did not know it. I think he exited the basement without making sure the door closed tightly.

As Kelly was returning home from the pool, riding his bike down Winston Avenue, a bird took a flying dive at him and landed on his shoulder to finish the ride home. Kelly knew it had to be Chip. The bird had picked Kelly out of all the boys riding along with him. I think Kelly was a little too excited that Chip had landed on his shoulder for the ride home, to be upset that someone had let him out of the basement.

All summer Chip was spotted in the backyard. The gentleman from the Audubon Society was beyond excited that this little sparrow had survived and had become such a special neighborhood celebrity. Kelly, living up to his reputation, told the children that they had saved the bird’s life, and that they were welcome to come to our yard to watch for him any time they wanted.

Kelly watched for Chip all winter long and on occasion spotted him in the trees nearby. The next summer as well, Chip could be seen in the neighborhood. After all, Winston Avenue was his home, and Kelly’s siblings and the neighbor children were his family. What a fun filled and memorable Summer that was!

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