Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Do NOT Collect Flamingoes

I never intended to collect flamingoes.  The flock just sort of grew on its own.  The first one came as a birthday joke, the second must have blown off a truck on its way to the dumpster because it was sunfaded and missing its wire legs when I found it on the ditchbank near our house.   Whimsically, I declared that it was a sign that I should provide a refuge for flamingoes that had outlived their usefulness as lawn ornaments and I put the two of them down in the edge of the woods where they could live out their plastic lives in peace, away from the jeering eyes of landscape snobs.

A young friend brought me two that had been abandoned by their owners, and a month later, she showed up with a sad specimen that she had “liberated” from someone’s yard.  Its head was missing.  I took the three of them in.

As word of this lunacy spread, more birds arrived, wingless, legless, some with holes in their sides.  How could I turn away any these battered, neglected creatures?

Then more friends sent a whole pink and shiny flock for one of my “big O” birthdays, and my brother gleefully added a couple that must have broken out of prison for they wear black-and-white stripes.

Last year some anonymous jokester sneaked in three more birds:  two decorated with pink crystals, the third made of metal that has since faded to a becoming blue.  No one has ever admitted to the deed.

The flock now numbers about fifty and when the sun filters through the trees at the perfect angle, the little copse takes on a distinctly pink glow.  On a recent sunny day, the UPS delivery man started to drive out of the yard, then braked and backed up to call through his open window,  “If you don’t mind my asking, ma’am, what the heck have you got down there?”

Because of the refuge, friends think I am enamored of all things flamingo.  Trust me, I am not.  There is nothing flamingo in my house despite their best efforts with ceramic flamingo mugs, resin flamingo computer ornaments, ballpoint pens topped with pink feathers, flamingo snow domes.  All are immediately sent out to join the flock, where they will sink or swim or slowly disintegrate. 

I have a friend who once bought herself a small porcelain turtle to sit on her kitchen windowsill, innocently remarking that she had always liked turtles.  That’s all her friends and family had to hear.  “Ooooh, let’s bring her back one of those cute turtle souvenirs,” they say when they’re on vacation.  Or, “Wouldn’t those turtle-printed dishtowels be a perfect Christmas gift for her?”  My friend’s house is now overrun with turtles.  There’s a turtle-shaped footstool in her den, turtle-topped ceramic soup tureen on the sideboard, framed turtle pictures and a turtle-shaped soap dish in her bathroom.  A whatnot cabinet is filled with crystal turtles, hand-painted turtles from Mexico, dimestore turtles from her grandchildren.    

I know what would happen if I ever let the first flamingo stay inside my house.  It would be the camel’s nose under the tent flap, so let me say it one more time:  I do NOT collect flamingoes.  Are we clear on this?  

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