Each morning the sun peeked like an egg yolk through Travis' window. Today was no different. The boy sat up suddenly. Having an inner clock was like someone shaking him awake. Travis rubbed his eyes then skinny legs leaped from the bed.
He watched a Blue Jay pecking at sunflower seeds from the bird feeder he and mom had fun building last week. The boy's blue eyes matched the brightly colored plumage of the wild bird. If only he could fly around like that bird and soar above his home and school. The boy shook his head at that awesome thought.
He pulled on yesterday's jeans and T-shirt. Mom wanted him to put on clean clothes each day. Well, at least a fresh pair of socks should keep her happy.
Travis quietly opened an old dresser drawer and selected his favorite white ones. Then tiptoed past Pete, his twelve-year old brother asleep in the other bed. Fair-haired Travis was two years younger and didn't seem to need as much sleep.
Besides, each morning he had private plans. He had to get up before his brothers and sisters. It was his only chance to get to check on different animals and birds visiting his backyard. These days, they were his only friends and helped him feel more worthwhile. Knowing someone depended on him meant something.
Now Travis quietly slipped past sleeping forms in other bedrooms. And made his way to the back of the house, where the freedom of a large back property awaited. The boy was met with chilly air and a ghostly mist lingering in the field.
Massaging his goose bumps brought shivers to arms and shoulders. Travis was happy living here. Five glorious acres of wooded paradise belonged to his grandmother and stretched before him as he filled his lungs with fresh air.
Sounds drifted alongside the wind, stirring pleasant memories. Various melodies brushed against his ears. They came from the throats of Sparrows, Chickadees and Pine Siskins. "CAW! CAW!" from Mickey his pet crow, was a familiar sound. Being around them helped the boy feel more alive. His body tingled all the way to his hand-me-down sneakers, a gift passed on from his thirteen-year old brother, Jeff.
Feathered friends helped him forget how poor his family really was. "Don't worry so much, Travis. You still have a lot going for you," lingered in his mind from mom's words. And the boy felt really sad knowing his family was the only one around without an indoor bathroom. It was quite embarrassing and after a few visits, friends stopped coming around.
With tail waving a reply to Travis' friendly hello, a red squirrel scurried into view. "Hey," the furry animal seemed to say, "good to see you." The boy knew squirrels couldn't talk. But did it really matter? It was still neat pretending as the little animal came close, trusting. Travis held a few peanuts in his hand before they were snatched away.
He spent the next twenty minutes roaming the back yard checking for other outdoor activity. Mouse trails looked like tiny ditches in the mud. Travis also noticed where birds scratched at the soil, looking for worms. And discovered what must have been an eagle's feather. Maybe from that huge bald eagle during last evening fly past. A startled cottontail bounded away in a rush, whiskers twitching at low speed.
"Travis! You out there?" mom called. Edna Carter came into view, colorful housecoat tied tightly at the waist.
"I'm over here," the boy replied. Then he ducked around the corner of the house in a game of hide-and-seek. His mother soon found him and wrapped Travis in a warm hug. "You deserve to stay in bed longer, mom." But, Travis hoped she'd decide to stay with him.
"Not when you're out here with just a T-shirt. Here, put this on," she said. Raising his arms, Travis allowed mom to pull a sweater over his head.
"How come you're up so early, mom?" he asked. Sometimes she acted more like a friend than a mother, he thought. Wisps of gray snuck through her thick hair, brushed back into a ponytail. Some people say it made her look cross, but not to Travis.
"I just wanted to see what adventure my son was doing," she answered. Her brilliant blue eyes were warm and caring. Travis didn't mind being told his were the same color as moms. He didn't have a dad, just a great mom. "So, what did you see this morning?" She asked.
Travis' thin shoulders gave an exaggerated shrug. "I dunno. Just looking around at things. You should see how birds and squirrels sometimes come up to me really close. They're my best friends, you know. I wish I could hold them and pat them. Once I even saw a deer..." His words tumbled as the waterfall at Perch Creek, where speckled trout were a decent size.
"WhoaWhoa. Hon, don't expect too much. They're wild creatures. They really don't trust people." She watched him carefully, hoping her words didn't sound mean.
"I know mom," he cut in. "But I'm just a kid. They know I wouldn't hurt them." His sincere expression brought a smile from his mom.
"What about your pig, Charlie? He's your friend too. Don't you think he's feeling a little jealous having to share you?"
"But he's like a prisoner in a pen, mom," Travis said, shaking his head in frustration. "Besides, we're going to eat him some day. It's not the same."
As he rushed towards the house, tears tried to break loose. Rusty springs screamed in protest when the door clanged behind him.
"Travis you come back here this very minute!" Mom's voice carried through the screen door and froze him in his tracks. He wondered if he should pretend not to hear. No, he couldn't. Not to mom. The boy waited several moments before answering. "Coming." Now they faced each other, mother and son.
"Know something?" she asked.
"No," the boy mumbled.
"I love you," she said softly.
He cracked a smile. Now she had him.
"I'm sorry I yelled at you," she said.
Travis came closer and took her hand. He led her boldly across the yard. His hand in hers was warm and comforting. And he held his chin high.
"Come on mom. I want you to meet my friends," he said.
And she went along.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher 2006
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.