The Bird Lady of Āliamanu

She was a lover who’d found something to love wholeheartedly
Everyone knew her as the Bird Lady of Āliamanu Intermediate
The school where she taught English for 30 years
But she also taught students a lesson
In addition to reading and writing

Laden with birdcages brought to work faithfully
Her car bursting with birdsong as she arrived before the bell
She carried them up to her second-floor classroom
Trip after trip after trip

While they read Steinbeck or Dickinson
Wrote poetry or worked on their grammar sheets
Her class would hear the chirping choir of birds
These were birds her students brought her
Found somewhere injured, sick, too young to fend

And between classes while students filed in and out
They would watch her feed each one with eyedroppers
Of milk, pablum, softened bread crumbs, papaya, water
Or anything else the diet of each one required

She taught them to care about and be kind to animals
And after her pupils went on to high school and then into the world
They would still stop by to drop off other birds needing help
Some bringing their own cages to show her a bird in need they’d found
Ask her advice for best insuring that bird’s recovery

This went on for the 30 years about which her students knew
But my mother had cared for birds her entire life
And would continue after she retired from teaching
For as long as she was able to do so

Most of the birds she nursed
Made their nests in trees around our home
My mother called each of them by name
Fed them every day of their lives
For as long as she was able to do so

Talk story

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