Home was the same. It felt like nothing had been moved, which is how I wanted it to feel. Mom was seated on a red wicker knitting, and staring through the window at the bird garden. Dad was reading the paper and dropping raisins one at a time into a small cup of applesauce. “Rats are back,” she said and tapped at the window, three polite knocks, like it was a door. I had thought a lot about those knocks, light and pleasant. I had missed them, you know. “Did they ever leave,” I asked. “For a while, I stacked some big stones against the fence, but they got under them. I’m not always around to shoo them off.” “My money’s on the rats,” Dad said, “Hate to say it, but they have all day, their whole lives, to figure out a way from under Liz’s house to the bird feeder.” Which was probably true. Outside in the garden birds sank and rose in flashes of color. Blue jays, cardinals, finches, blackbirds, taking turns resting on the feeder and pecking out the food. They sang also, calling to one another in turns. I think birds are smarter than we give them credit for. Mom turned back to her knitting, “I noticed a family of bluejays in Liz’s gutter the other day, they were beautiful. I think they were migrating away from the cold so they didn’t stay too long.” “Did you tell Liz?” I asked. “No, I thought I wouldn’t, she might’ve gone up there and cleared out the nest. I want to see if they come back.” “Will they?” “Google says maybe.” Being home was nice. Things really were the same. I had been gone a while, first for only a few months, and then for longer. Getting out, spreading my wings and whatnot. That was a good thing, Mom and Dad always said. I came home as much as I could. It was always peaceful to know they were there. “Feeders are getting a little low also, don’t you think?” “Looks that way,” she said. It seemed like birds would always show up to mom’s garden. They could rely on her, she cared for them. I don’t think I could have a bird garden like she does. I’m not consistent, I’m fickle. She taps again at the window, politely, like she doesn’t want to bother. Like the window is a glass door. I’m happy nothing has changed.
AJ (Pitzer '21) is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee.