When I was 9, my best friend Nicole and I spent the summer playing make-believe with the birds in our neighboring backyards. We assigned each one a name and personality, then made up complex stories about their lives.
Nicole's favorite was Julia the goldfinch, affable and sprightly. Mine was Robiny the robin, a bit of a tomboy. Kate the crow, meanwhile, was the neighborhood bully. Nobody liked her.
Every afternoon, we lay atop Nicole's playhouse, stared up at the trees and imagined their lives. We considered those birds our good friends, and we wanted to be sure they knew it. So we asked Nicole's mom for two helium balloons from the nearby five-and-dime store.
Once we had them, we wrote messages in marker on their sides.
"Dear Robiny," mine read. "Please come live with me when I grow up and get my own house."
Then, we released them into the sky.
The irony of this gesture is not lost on my grownup self, though I had forgotten all about it until this spring when a pair of robins built a nest in the corner of my carport. Every day, I watched them: one on the nest while the other brought it worms. Soon, the babies hatched, and a week or so later, one by one they leapt from their nest.
For days after, the fledglings hopped around my backyard while their parents watched from low branches. I wondered if next spring those babies might be the ones building nests in my carport. From my porch steps, I watched, and I tried to imagine the rest of their lives.
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