The Bird Carver’s Daughter (Part 7: Growing Up)
Guest post by Kari Jo Spear, Photographer, Novelist, and Daughter of Bob Spear
Things were starting to get out of hand.
My father’s carvings had been well received during their debut in the art gallery in Montpelier. People had flocked in to see them. Photos had been taken. Articles had been written. In short, Vermont was interested in his project. After their few weeks in fame and glory, my father returned his carvings to his shop in triumph.
The problem was, they seemed to have grown while they’d been gone. Or else the shop had shrunk. The first day they were back, I stood in the doorway, surveying the long, rectangular room. Or trying to survey it. I couldn’t really see it, or the bench, or the wood stove, or any of my father’s tools. Or my father, for that matter, and even in his younger days, he wasn’t hard to miss. (Meaning that he wore red shirts back then, too, of course! I don’t mean to imply anything about his general recognizable shape.)
The whole room was full, as far as I could tell, of green, leafy branches, tree trunks, and bright spots of plumage.
“I’m back here!” My father’s voice came from somewhere near the window. I turned sideways and squeezed between Plexiglas cases in his direction, stopping to glance at my favorites — the red-winged blackbirds. Yup, the mud I’d painted down at the bottom still looked good.
I finally found my father sitting on his stool, peering in my direction.
“You made it,” he said.
“Yeah, it’s getting a little tight in here. What’d they feed these guys in Montpelier, anyway? Did they put steroids in the suet, or something?”
My father didn’t laugh. “I’ve been talking to the Shelburne Farms people. And the Ethan Allen Homestead.”
“About?” I prompted.
“Housing them,” he said. “The collection.”
So he’d evidently noticed the overcrowding of the avian population in the room, too.
“What are they thinking?” As tight as it getting in here, I suddenly felt kind of funny about the carvings all going away permanently. I’d kind of missed them just while they’d been off on their maiden flight. And would strangers take good care of my mud, and everything? I mean, that mud was the first and only mud I’d ever painted! It wasn’t just any mud, after all. It was part of my childhood memories.
“No one seems to think they’ve got enough room.”
“Are you kidding me? Those barns at Shelburne Farms are huge!”
My father cleared his throat and said something that sounded like “…more cases, and a wetland diorama, and endangered species…”
I blinked. “You mean, there’s going to be lot more? A lot more?”
My father looked kind of sheepish and muttered something about investors and interested parties. I didn’t know much about that kind of thing, but I knew that he was talking about money. For the first time, I began to realize that this project might get really, really big. And not only that, it might really happen.
‘Holy cow,” I said. “Are you like going to get famous?”
My father suddenly looked horrified and leapt off his stool. “Let’s go canoeing,” he said in a rush, and he was gone as though he’d grown wings himself.
It took me a lot longer to find my way to the door of the shop. Something in the atmosphere had suddenly changed. I looked at the cases and the birds inside them in a new way. Yeah, they were bigger all right. Even my mud didn’t feel as though it was all mine any longer. Whatever was starting to happen here might get really weird, like turn into a legacy or something. And outlast my father.
And even me.
Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: The Early Years
Part 2: The Pre-teen Years (or, Why I’m Not a Carver)
Part 3: Something’s Going On Here
Part 4: The Summer of Pies
Part 5: My Addiction
Part 6: Habitat Shots