“See the birds?” My father would ask me, pointing out our window. “That’s the first sign of spring. They’ve come back to join my little blue bird.” He teased and ruffled my hair.
I think I took spring for granted then. Just a pretty season where flowers began to bloom, a symbol that summer would come and school would end.
Dad never took a spring for granted. Dad liked kites. He spent his slow days figuring out how to best make a kite that could catch the smallest drifts. He would dust off his kites from the long winters they spent on the shelf and take me to parks after school. I would hum along as he sang any song excitedly in our car.
We had this great hill where we would set up a picnic. Mom would make us something to eat, since I was too young and Dad had the amazing talent to burn things on the outside and have it be raw in the middle, she would pack it up and tell us to go have fun. I love my Mom, but kite flying was always something just for me and Dad. I would jump out of the car and race Dad up the hill past the sprigs of wildflowers all the way to the top. I sat smelling dandelions and felt the wind as Dad trudged up the hill carrying the blanket for them to sit on and lunch.
“You know that the winner gets the first turn on the kite, right?” Dad said slyly.
I nodded with an idiotic gloating face.
“Well, it’s in the trunk of the car. Shout if you need me to unlock it from here.”
I scowled angrily as what he said fully dawned on me. I ran back down and took my precious time as if making him wait even longer for his turn was worth it.
My favorite kite was the blue bird he made. I loved how the delicate wings would move in the wind, how it could swerve and dodge. Dad could make it dance gracefully in the sky. I followed on the ground. Sometimes he would hand me the string and I tried to make it dance, it never looked as good as Dad’s did though.
I thought I got too old for kites as I grew up. I thought they were childish and wanted to text with friends. I stopped going as often to the park with Dad. I can see how it pained him now.
I looked out the window of the car as Mom drove me to the hospital. I saw birds singing in the branches. I clenched my fists so tight that my knuckles went white.
Why were they singing?
I shoved my hands to my pockets as I got out of the car in the dark parking lot. We walked through the familiar white painted hallways, we walked up the stale smelling stairs, past the foreboding doors.
“217.” Mom said. Her voice cracked. “Where here.”
The room smelled of disinfectant. Nothing natural at all.
“Hey, bluebird.” Dad said, trying to smile. I didn’t like how he looked. He looked skinny, his skin looked waxy and pale, wires went through his nose. He was supposed to be more than skin and bones, his skin should have color.
“Hey.” I said quietly. Dad began to cough. I turned my gaze to the ground. Mom and Dad talked like everything was normal, but it wasn’t normal.
“The said chances for recovery weren’t looking good.” Mom said
Something in me broke, like some invisible dam. “You're gonna get better.” I thought I was shouting but the words barely came out. “You have to!”
Dad exchanged a look with Mom. She wrapped her arms around her body as if it would be some form of armor from the hurt.
Something wet and salty dripped down my face. I wiped the tears from my face sniffing. “Sorry. I shouldn’t cry.” The last part came out as a whisper.
“No, hey, listen Blue bird,” I heard Dad say. “Feeling is never bad, just promise you won’t forget to smile.”
I nod slowly as a nurse began to usher me and Mom out of the room.
Smiling felt so hard when he left. I felt guilty for all those spring afternoons that I would never get back. Our old hill stayed abandoned as I grew up..
As I finished school…
As I moved out…
Springs came and went, and came and went. I smiled again, but it was far more sparse than before.
Spring came again and I heard birds singing as I pulled up to my old house. Mom was having a garage sale and I wanted to help.
I noticed the grey hairs that streaked her hair. A lot more than I remember.
Mom came out with a cardboard box. She smiled at me. “I’m glad you came, but I really don’t need any help. It’s a great day! You should go outside.”
I shrugged trying to hide a smile. “How can I help?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “There are some more cardboard boxes inside if you insist.”
I went inside the house. There were vases of wildflowers in the rooms, they smelled beautiful.There was a different paint on the walls, a deep green, a big difference from the light blue that I was so used to, and different furniture from when I grew up.
I picked up one of the boxes. It hadn’t been taped very well and a glimpse of faded blue caught my attention. I opened it and saw an old forgotten blue bird. The colors had faded and the fabric wrinkled, but nothing was torn and Dad’s old handiwork held up beautifully.
“It’s been a while since that’s gotten to fly.” Mom said as she came to get another one of the boxes.
I could hear my voice speak. “I-I think I’m going to go to the park.”
Mom smiled as she walked away.
I went up to our old hill. Trees had died and sprung up, a new creek was there, houses had moved closer, but it was still our hill.
I sent the blue bird up into the air making it do flips and turns, still nowhere as graceful as Dad’s had ever been.
My face stretched and beamed.