How my garden helped me learn about love and how to survive its loss by Conny Manero
Parents say that they love their children equally, but all my life I seriously doubted that. I had every reason to. Whenever I heard my mother talking about my brother and me, my brother was praised to the stars while my shortcomings were listed. My brother was an easy baby, a quiet toddler and a model student, while I was a cry baby, caused havoc as a toddler and gave my teachers grey hairs. I wasn’t as smart as him, I wasn’t as talented as him, I wasn’t as organized as him, the list went on and on and I always came up short.
For years I tried to prove myself. I took up drawing, learned a foreign language, studied photography and became active in various types of sport, all in an effort to impress my parents. I didn’t work. My brother was a far better drawer than I was; he spoke four languages; had a natural talent for taking beautiful pictures and could outrun any of the boys in school.
I resigned myself to being second best, but had great difficulties coming to terms that my parents didn’t love me as much as my brother, simply because I was different than he was.
The years passed and in time I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own apartment with a balcony. Every spring I would put planters and baskets on the balcony, filled with geraniums, violets and petunias.
It was one of those baskets of petunias that a male finch and his lady friend came to inspect one day. After hopping on the rim of the basket, they jumped inside and judging by the amount of chirping, seemed to have an argument as to whether or not this basket was suitable to raise their family. Mrs. Finch must have approved of the accommodations because a day or so later Mr. Finch arrived with twigs and grasses to build a nest inside the basket.
I stopped watering the petunias, because I couldn’t very well flood the new home of Mr. and Mrs. Finch. It was a shame that the flowers would die, but it was a small price to pay for the happiness of the bird couple.
When the nest was finished Mrs. Finch came to have a look and settled in. I kept an eye on what was going on inside the basket by climbing on top of a chair in the living room and peering through the floor to ceiling window.
One day I noticed four little eggs. From then on Mrs. Finch spent a great deal of time sitting in the basket while Mr. Finch brought her food. I admired her patience, sitting there, day after day after day.
One morning I noticed that Mrs. Finch was flying in and out of the nest. I quickly climbed on the chair, which was now permanently positioned near the window, and noticed, to my delight four fussy little chicks. They were barely bigger than marbles, but I saw tiny little beaks, which they opened wide whenever Mama Finch landed on the basket.
Watching the little chicks grow became a bit of a hobby. Several times a day I climbed on the chair just to see how they were doing and I watched Mama fly back and forth.
And then one day it happened … the little chicks had turned into little finches and were ready to spread their wings. One by one they hopped on the rim of the basket, took a leap of faith and flew away. All but one. The poor little thing spread his wings, tried to fly, but landed on the balcony. He tried to fly again and again, but he achieved little more than hopping. Finally he gave up and settled behind a flowerpot.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I go out and help the poor little finch, or should I leave it alone? Would Mama or Papa Finch come back for him? If I went out and approached him, I was fairly sure he would be frightened, perhaps try to fly off the balcony and crash on the ground eleven floors below.
I felt so sorry for the poor little thing. I was all too familiar with how he must have felt. He was different from his siblings, had tried his very best and failed. Would his parents abandon him or would they come back for him?
Early the next morning I woke up from a fierce chirping. I flew out of bed to see what was going on. Had Mama or Papa Finch returned? Mama finch sure had. She was sitting near her chick and was twittering up a storm while fluttering her feathers. After a few minutes the chick approached the rim of the balcony, and flew away with Mama Finch in its wake.
This display of love warmed my heart and in that moment I knew that it didn’t matter if a child was different from its siblings. Parents love their children, all their children, even if one is a little different.