Birds Of A Feather

My bus arrived on time in spite of the foul weather. I shook my umbrella, climbed the steps, and headed straight for the empty seat beside Marble Lady. I call her that now because last week she cleaned her purse during our morning commute and we discussed the small green marble she discovered in its zippered pocket. She’d found the marble in her yard, dropped it into her purse thinking it may have once belonged to her now adult son, and thought no more about it until she came across it that day on the bus. After we talked, she realized her sentimental feelings attached to it and instead of getting rid of the marble, she kept it.

This morning she faced the window when I boarded the bus. As I sat down she turned to give a “good morning” nod to whoever it was beside her. Seeing me, she broke into a smile. There was a question I’d been waiting to ask her but didn’t know my chance would come so soon.

“Have you lost your marbles?” I knew she’d remember last week’s conversation.

“No,” she laughed, “but I gave one away!”

Our bus stopped with traffic ahead of us, poor weather making it a slow commute. While we waited, she explained that she’d told her son about the small green marble. He agreed it was likely his because he remembered his set of marbles as a little boy. She’d told her son about our conversation and how a rush of sentimentality made her want the marble she initially disregarded. She had been affected by memories the marble sparked.

“I’ll never look at a marble the same way!” she insisted.

Marble Lady continued by saying she and her son had enjoyed a conversation of their own about sentimentality. They had laughed and remembered some good times but agreed that neither of them were usually prone to those feelings.

“Still, I’ll never look at a marble the same way.” she repeated. “Most things just don’t affect me like that.”

“Not me.” I confessed. “Not sure whether a blessing or a curse, but almost anything can make me sentimental.”

“Almost anything?” her tone begged me to seek professional help.

“Almost anything.” I confirmed with resignation.

The bus crawled forward and stopped again. While we waited, Marble Lady casually wiped moisture from the window to reveal a small bare tree by the street. A single blackbird flew onto a branch. In a moment it was joined by another, then three more, one more, two more, then many more, until suddenly the tree was peppered with blackbirds. They mingled, flapped wings, traded places, and made a ruckus we heard from inside the bus. I stared at the bustling blackbirds as the bus crawled forward a few more feet.

Marble Lady remarked how interesting it is that blackbirds spend most of their lives alone or with one or two more but at certain times of the year they gather from near and far to be together, say whatever it is they say to each other, then part ways knowing they’ll do it again next year. She stopped talking when she noticed me staring at the flock.

“Oh no.” she grinned, remembering how almost anything can make me sentimental. She leaned closer to get my attention. “Don’t tell me that flock of birds makes you feel sentimental?”

“Noooo. Not at all.” I answered. “It makes me feel nostalgic!”

Good manners prevented her eyes rolling.

I attempted an explanation. “I was just thinking how that flock of birds compares to my family.”

Her eyes still didn’t roll but she stifled a laugh. “It makes you feel nostalgic? Tell me how!”

This was a pop quiz, I thought. I could never pass a pop quiz when I was in school. Now here was another, just like the one I had in Chemistry decades ago when I’d only studied for History. My stomach lurched like our bus in the traffic as I pondered just how to articulate my nostalgia.

I explained that my immediate family is large and my extended family is absolutely sprawling. Between aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, spouses and children of all, we’re a lot like those blackbirds. We spend most of our lives alone or with one or two others, but once a year or so we flock together. Just like those birds, there are certain times of the year when we gather from near and far to be together, say whatever it is we say to each other, then part ways knowing we’ll do it all again next year.

I’m sure Marble Lady wanted to tell me it wasn’t she who might have lost her marbles. She stared blankly at me for a second then looked back at the flock of raucous birds. As if on cue their muffled chatter ceased and they emptied the tree in unison to disperse in various directions. Marble Lady turned to look at me again.

“Well, now I will never look at a bird the same way.” she said.

The bus moved on at regular speed, Marble Lady became a birdwatcher, and I wondered whether I’d lost marbles of my own or finally passed a pop quiz.

Stuart M. Perkins



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123 responses to “Birds Of A Feather

  1. Marble Lady must look forward to seeing you – what an epiphany every time! I love your stories. Thank you.

  2. Hello Stuart, thank you for liking The Promise. I enjoyed your Birds of a Feather story, which shows you to be an amiable, kind person. I am not shy about telling of my experiences with my husband’s spirit and want to share them and perhaps give hope. I watched a PBS program once where the speaker said that more people had such experiences than is reported, apparently for fear of being called crackers.

  3. That’s a lovely story, really enjoyed it and it shows how so many little things can affect us.

  4. Too funny. I enjoyed this thoroughly. 🙂

  5. If you look at your morning commute with such hopeful eyes, I can only wonder at the joy you must find in the rest of your life. I look forward to following your posts.

  6. Well done. I too am a nostalgic sentimentalist. As my husband describes it, I have an unusual attachment to “things” that interferes at times with his need to declutter our home.

    Not sure if these items are totems or just triggers but either way, I have bits of things that stir up memories when I hold them in my hand. I bet you do, too!

    It probably has a lot to do with moving quite a few times as a child. I must have tried to keep something to remind me of where I’d been.

    Keep writing, please?

  7. Love that your family flock together, I swim together with mine like dolphins once a year

  8. Thank you for the like and follow! I like this, especially the blackbird analogy. It is beautiful and true.

  9. Lovely wordsmithery. And a heartwarming glimpse of those intersecting lives.

  10. Mom

    Beautiful. I “name” people that way as well. And, it’s usually from first impressions , so I expected a perfectly coifed, sculpted and cooling smooth older woman. I’m glad she was marble of the more whimsical sort 😉

  11. I really enjoyed this- especially the sentiment of finding meaningful things in the everyday mundane. Too often we all rush through each encounter without taking stock, but I love that here, you and Marble Lady have. A lesson and entertainment for all 🙂

  12. Shows how every small thing can manage to find a corner in our mind, and haunt us for days thereafter. Beautiful. Keep it up!

  13. What a fabulous story. Buses and trains are such wonderful places for random conversations. Funnily enough, every morning when I look out of my bedroom window at the rooftops over the other side of the street (our side of the street is much higher than the other side), each chimney pot belongs to a pair of blackbirds. Sometimes, they visit each other from another chimney pot, but once a year a full blackbird conference takes place. The seagulls seem to have a respect for these particular songbirds and never try to nest on their roofs.

  14. I’ve said this before, but I love reading your stories 🙂 I especially loved reading about the Marble Lady again. Sounds like you two created all sorts of memories, and I’m glad you choose to share them with us.

  15. What a good story, I’m loving Marble Lady … Sounds like me when I find something random that belonged to someone I loved it tends to lose its randomness and becomes meaningful. Don’t think I’ll look at birds the same way either.

  16. mottyl

    This is beautiful. I have a sentimental bent myself, although it has been sanded down to something I keep more often to myself. I think it is valuable, like that marble, and those birds.

  17. Rekha

    Really don’t know, how I missed reading this story all these day.s loved it Stuart. Well, now I will never look at trivial things the same way. 🙂 Keep spreading happiness.

  18. Sarah

    Funny, short, and sweet! 🙂 Speaking of sentimentalities, my parents have one for horseshoe crabs. Before they were married, they had a long distance relationship, my mother studying, my father in the military (it was a requirement for Taiwanese citizens to undergo some training.) My father found a horseshoe crab on the beach and then sent it to her. She told me it was stinky. They’re still married today.

  19. Thanks, Stuart, I thoroughly enjoyed your poetic story.

  20. What a lovely post. I love the story. Thank you.

  21. Loved this! I can relate to the gentleman on the bus, almost anything can make me sentimental. Thanks for the follow, I am quite looking forward to reading and sharing your posts!

  22. Beautiful story & great title. I can totally relate to your hyper-sensitivity as well. I seem to be affected by and/or find meaning in everything.
    Everything happens for a reason, so meaningful coincidences are everywhere if we pay attention!
    Love & Light,

  23. Refreshing, the way you look at things, and then reveal them to the rest of us.

  24. alfredsalmanac

    I love Marble Lady! A super-hero aboard the bus. I really enjoyed this post and your analogy of the birds and families. I can certainly identity with that.

  25. Hi Stuart, I am nominating you for a Liebster Award.
    You may not want this, however I enjoy your writing.
    Cheers Jamie.

  26. The most interesting encounters occur on public transportation. Lovely story, Stuart. Thank you for reading mine.

  27. I love the ending. The fact you’re still contemplating to yourself.

  28. Pingback: Nostalgia in the Mundane |

  29. Something as tiny as a marble can have significant sentimental value, well put! 🙂

  30. Julia Manuel

    What a brilliant telling…so endearing. Just marvelous. Put the two of you together and you’re my Gramma Moore ☺ now I’m feeling sentimental AND nostalgic!

  31. This is beautifully written. I loved every word

  32. Nice! I enjoyed this post thoroughly. 🙂

  33. Reblogged this on – catherine whittier and commented:
    Because it’s the little things that carry the weight of meaning…

  34. LOVE this!! I am the marble lady!

  35. Shery Alexander Heinis

    My family is very much like that. Large and dispersed, coming together a couple of times per year.

  36. Just loved it.. It is true that every being on this earth has some meaning to it. I am following your blog right now

  37. rudyhou

    big families tend to be that way. mine come together when there’s a wedding or when it’s time to celebrate the chinese new year (yes, we are chinese by blood).

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