From the Sky - Part IV

One day after school I was sipping cocoa in Uncle Gio's kitchen when he called me to the window. It was a glorious spring day and summer was fast approaching, and with it, a seismic shift to my schedule. During the school year I went right to Uncle's when I got off the bus. I stayed there a few hours at most until Dad got home. But summer vacations always started with me being rotated between my Aunts for the first couple weeks. A few days or so with each, and they were long days of chores and grocery shopping. A benevolent sort of prison with wardens I loved. These were the short-term arrangements, because in mid-June I would leave for two months of a lakeside summer camp deep in a pine forest. Hot, sticky days full of hiking and swimming. Rainy days doing crafts. Tolerable suppers and then an hour of writing letters home to everyone. Cool nights under spectacular skies rich with twinkling stars. Marshmallows on sticks. Dancing around the campfire and singing silly songs. Lying on a thick bed of grass and staring deep into the sky; wondering if a hundred trillion-trillion miles away on a ringed planet with orange clouds, twin suns and three moons another little girl was staring back from her own summer camp alongside a rippling, purple lake.

When camp ended it was home once again to shuffle between aunts until the first day of school in September. But it was still spring the day Uncle called me to the window. Summer was just barely out of sight over the horizon.

"Come to the window, Renata," Uncle urged. "Something wonderful is happening."

I joined him, and he pointed at the honey locust.

"Look. Look, Renata!"

"I don't see anything!" I cried, looking up to the high branches.

"Lower! Lower Renata! That little spot of red: do you see it?"

Well, I didn't. Not at first. But then I saw movement, and my eyes fell upon a small bird with a striking red body and dark wings. He seemed to be dancing among the branches, hopping and spreading his wings wide to show off his back.

"What is he doing, Uncle?"

"Courting. He is in love, Renata, and the one who has stolen his heart is somewhere high up in my tree."

"Where? I don't see her."

"Oh, she's there," Uncle laughed. "She's hiding, but she's there. Soon there will be a nest, and then eggs, and finally little baby birds."

"What kind of bird is he, Uncle?"

"A scarlet tanager. When his lady bird builds the nest, I will show you though my field glasses."

"Can't I climb and see?" I asked.

"No, Renata, no. They build their nests very, very high. Much too high for you to climb. We'll look through the glasses, Renata, and it will be very soon. Maybe even next week. They waste no time, these little birds. They fall in love fast, make their eggs, and they'll be feeding their babies before the summer comes."

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