my daughter, a toddler and blessed with fascination for the mundane, was crouching next a water fountain.
by night, it serves as the centerpiece to an urban beer-garden. in morning light, she innocently surveyed it’s submerged pennies and floating cigarette butts, and suddenly exclaimed “bird! in da wa-ter!” in her adorable, sing-song, high-pitched toddler voice.
at first, i assumed the floating shape was lifeless. i wondered if ‘dead bird’ was a concept she would grasp, and what kind of ‘first’ this would be for both mother and child.
but it breathed, if just barely, it’s beak opening and closing in a languid, hopeless way. i scooped it out with a styrofoam plate. it’s eyes were glazed over, a bluish white. it’s tiny claws were twisted and limp.
out of the water, it began to shake and shiver. with paper napkins i dried it, and wrapped it up to keep it warm. it fit in the palm of my hand.
my daughter peered at it curiously and proclaimed cheerfully: “so cute!” – her charming naivete contrasting with my weathered dread; i’ve lived long enough to know what it’s like when a small animal dies in your hands.

but slowly this little bird began to recover. it stopped shivering, it’s brown eyes focused on me. i held it and spoke to it, and imagined that it might be comforted by my care and concern.

so what to do with it? following the advice of a wild-life rescue center’s automated answering system, we placed the bird, still swathed in it’s paper blankets, in a small covered container with air-holes: a paper soup-to-go container from a nearby coffee-shop served the purpose.

we took it with us. we waited for the animal shelter to call us back.

in it’s dark, disposable-paper-product nest, it continued to rally. i was amazed to see the life come back full-force into it’s tiny body, but my daughter was less impressed. having been unaware of the danger, she was oblivious to the miracle. for her it simply continued to be ’so cute’…
animal rescue called us back, suggesting we return it to where we found it and see if it could fly. following their advice, we drove it and then carried it back to it’s beer-garden. as we approached, we heard it begin to ‘cheep! cheep!’ – an encouraging sign.

we opened the container, set it down in a flower-pot, and waited. it peered around, then snuggled back. i thought it might take it’s time in venturing out into the world again, but as i reached to adjust it’s napkin-blanket, it hopped out and flew across the patio! we watched with joy as it hopped and pecked on the ground, looking around and taking it all in, this bonus-round of bird-life, back from the brink of extinction.

we disposed of the container and napkin – with a tiny pile of bird-poop, the only remaining sign of our happy-ending story – and went home.

the bird’s survival was so uplifting, so special for me. at bedtime, as we began our routine discussion of the day’s events, i reminded my daughter of the incident. “remember the bird?” i said. her face lit up. i wondered what she would remember, what part of the adventure stuck out for her, what would she say? and with the joy and fascination that only a toddler in toilet-training can bring, she exclaimed: “bird pooped!”