Turkeys don’t fly. Or so we thought. My husband and I were taking a walk to town when we passed a young man on a bike.
“I might be crazy but I think I just saw some turkeys taking off from a roof over there!” He was breathless, and looked back over his shoulder at us as he kept riding. We smiled, thinking , yes, he could be crazy, but then right in front of us we saw a huge bird swoop down and up over the street, high up into a tall oak. There it perched on what seemed to be a very small branch for such a large bird, its long neck and broad tail silhouetted against the dark blushing sky.
“Wow!” we both said together. Wild turkeys are not strangers here, and their numbers have been growing. Mostly you see them on the ground, clucking and waddling, not moving with great intention. Occasionally they will flutter upwards to perch on a shed or pile of wood. But I’ve never seen one fly.
We just returned from New York, from a beautiful Thanksgiving with my family —siblings, spouses and kids who are not kids anymore joined with my sons, their wives and my five grandchildren. Even my daughter-in-law’s family came and joined in with singing and playing all kinds of instruments. Making music together must be a form of love. The night ended with my granddaughters taking the stage and singing Amazing Grace as we sang and played along.
I keep looking at a picture of us taken on a bridge the next day, 11 of us. Just 15 years ago we were five, then four a month after Christmas, when Spence died. I remember looking into a camera that summer, my arms around both boys, unable to smile. Whether we liked it or not our new name was Homicide Survivor, and all of the implications and statistics of our survival came with it. The empty space screams at you at first, then settles in like a dense fog. You see what’s closest but everything ahead and behind is obscured. And the two boys I held onto that day were not guaranteed – I was too aware of that much. Now four has turned into 11.
Eleven! Who would guess that even through the ashes and ruin of a family brought down to their knees through grief that something so wondrous could grow? And grow and grow. In one picture taken on Thanksgiving day, I am holding two babies, one for each arm. Leo Murray Farnsworth arrived in July and Quincy Spencer MacLeod joined us in October. They can eat turkey next year!
A dear friend who lost her son two years ago this month told me she was relieved to find others had left small treasures at her son’s grave.
“I am afraid people will forget him,” she lamented. Well I know the feeling. I found a picture I had of her son testifying at the Spencer Macleod Three Point Shoot Out the summer before he died and sent it to her.
“I miss Larry,” I told her. People think saying this kind of thing heightens the pain of loss but it actually helps. She will never stop missing him. It’s good to not be alone, especially when the pain is so dense you can’t see very far.
No sooner had the first turkey settled in the top of the tall oak, when two more ascended over the street, up, up , up into the sky. Turkeys are not known for their grace, but the huge wings pumping against the pewter sky and lighting on the top of a bare tree were magnificent. It’s a tad ironic that we just celebrated a day when millions of their genetically altered and fatter kin were slaughtered.
We walked down to Main St. and it felt good after a four hour drive home. The air was cold and wet and the downtown was deserted except for a few stragglers like us. The Christmas decorations were up but so restrained I wasn’t sure if they were decorations at all. I miss the full bore garish displays of Pawtucket – Santa, baby Jesus, angels and elves all competing for tiny lawns and dirty windows. And lots of lights, colored lights blinking and shouting Merry Christmas. I think Jesus would love it too. There’s a lot to celebrate.
The Cape air felt good to breathe in and out as we walked – the salt from the Sound mixed with the smell of decaying leaves scattered around my feet. I thought of my two sons’ cars traveling south still, their wives who love them so well and the children that adore their daddies. I say a quick prayer for the babies to sleep, for their cars to be filled with peace and joy. It’s a long way to North Carolina. And I thank God for the miracle of His grace, His abundant life.
Those who sow in tears will reap in joy. Psalm 126:5 NKJV
People may forget, but He does not.
On the way home, we strained our eyes to search for the dark outline of a turkey 50 feet up in a tree. We could spot two for certain. The wind was picking up and we wondered how they could sleep on the thin branches waving in the dark. But then again, who would guess that turkeys really can fly? Who could guess?