The Day the Pigeons Came To Dine

I went to lunch with my younger friend E last week. E is one of the funniest people I know. She has opinions about everything from politics to the latest cheap sex scandal making the headlines. I call that well-rounded.

I like having friends like E who are a different age. It means I get to offer occasional nuggets of 24K wisdom and, since I haven’t given birth to the other person, she doesn’t roll her eyes or make gagging noises till she’s a few blocks away.

The last time we got together, which was at a party at a nearby bar, I confided to her that I had once been an award-winning hula hooper at the Holiday Inn South in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 1980s. (The prize was always the same: a free weekend at the Holiday Inn South, which wasn’t all that desirable, but how do you refuse a free weekend anywhere?)

Anyway, E pretended not to believe me, which is why I ended up hula-hooping that day in the backyard of the bar — just to show her, since, God knows, who needs that kind of unwelcome and inappropriate attention at my age?

This time, we met for lunch at a coffee place downtown. The weather was flawless — a sky the color of bluebonnets and a warm sun. It was clear to me we needed to sit outside, since, any day now, this town was going to turn into the blast oven we Texans call summer.

E looked around at the outside tables and noted in an ominous tone there were lots of birds around. (She’s a little high-strung, like most of my friends.) I told her she’d been watching too many Alfred Hitchcock movies, so we sat down, even though E kept swiveling her head and fretting about the pigeons.

Our food arrived. So did the pigeons. They swooped in and rested on a nearby table, watching us.

By then, though, E was telling me the wonderful story of how she and her husband are on the waiting list to adopt a baby. I found this quite exciting since a) E will be a great mother and b) this is the closest I’ve come, so far, to being a pretend grandmother.

Two pigeons hovered over my vegetarian chili. I yelled and beat them off. E reminded me she’d predicted the birds might be awful. I said not to sidetrack me when we had much more important things to discuss, such as my impending almost-grandmotherhood.

The pigeons adjourned to another, recently vacated table. They greedily shared the remains of a grilled cheese sandwich. Another pigeon showed up to eat the salad. I stuck a plastic spoon in my chili and tried to concentrate on my upcoming status change.

What did I want the baby to call me? Something glamorous and modern and with-it, obviously. 

More pigeons showed up for the dinner party. They fluttered and pecked. One tried to fly off with a stringy tomato hanging from its beak.

What’s wrong with Coco? It sounded so, I don’t know, chic. Maybe, too, this would signal a new era in my life, when I could score a Chanel jacket, instead of just talking about it and boring my friends with all my constantly babbled-about but perennially unconsummated plans. Like, say, my recently shipwrecked plans to go to Colombia. God, I was never going to live that one down.

The pigeon brunch went on at the next table, with some departing and new arrivals showing up. E announced she was losing her appetite. I pointed out she’d already cleaned her plate, anyway, so what was the problem? The pigeons squawked and flapped their wings. I noticed my vegetarian chili — mostly untouched — was beginning to look revolting.

So, E and I got up and carried our trays to the window. Behind us, four pigeons crowded at our old table, pecking at scraps and flapping their wings. E said she was never going to eat outside again. I said yes, I hated nature, too. It was too uncivilized, just like Republicans.

E had to go shopping, so she took off down the street. I waved at her and wondered whether the baby would mind if his/her almost-grandmother took the nickname of a known Nazi sympathizer, however chic. Probably he/she would.

So, I’d better keep searching. I might as well feed Coco to the pigeons, since they seemed to be omnivorous today.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)





21 comments… add one
  • Every single time I go to Hula Hut, a bird flies INTO MY HEAD. Sure, I could sit inside, but why should I have to do that?!

    And I’m going to be a grandmother at the end of October. My grandmother name will be Pete, which I happen to think is just adorable. Coco is good too. 🙂

  • It’s even better when the sea gulls decide they want to share your food. Thanks for the humor before bedtime. But I do hope I don’t dream about “The Birds” now.

  • Glad you survived the birds to live another day and apply your creativity to your grandmotherly handle. I had only distant prospects for grandmotherhood during my own dining with birds experience.

    It was a good thing, too. I was so aggravated with one of our group who kept feeding the birds who swarmed and threatened imminent bombardment. Any name I would have thought up would have been related to mayhem, maybe like Freddy as in Krueger!

    Fortunately, we left it up to our first grandson as he began to talk. Now all six grands call us by the names he gave us– Baboo and Nana, and that is much better than Freddy and Carrie.

  • “It was too uncivilized, just like Republicans.” That was my much-needed laugh for the morning! I hate eating outside. There are always bugs, especially bees swooping in.

  • Birds and critters can sure drive you to eat indoors! I love the idea of intergenerational friendships. They do inspire~

  • John Worrall Link

    Since you fed Coco to the pigeons, I offer up leftovers from Hillary’s (Mimi’s) plate, namely Yo Yo Ma and Yo Mama.

  • For a grandmotherly name, I bit the bullet and went for “Granny D.” All the other grandmothers had taken the best monikers. But that’s okay, somehow Granny D sounded bright and chipper. I must have been drinking Sunny Delight (Sunny D) on the day I thought it up because now my grandmotherly nom de plume just sounds old. And, birds, they’ll eat almost anything. Duck!

  • I like birds fine, but not near my food. Not that it will help your almost-grandmotherly name search, but my niece calls me MooMe.

  • My Spanish speaking grandson calls me a traditional Nona, and I suppose his sister will too, once she can talk. But my other children object to having Spanish imperialism imposed on their putative offspring, so we have agreed on Big Julie. There are worse principles to live by than irony.

    Why do I imagine magpies, my local marauders, cleaner than pigeons? Is it their tidy black and white feathers?

  • Patricia N Link

    Thanks for another early morning laugh. I saw “The Birds” when I was way too young and was scared to death. Probably the source of many of my issues today! Another example of my parents being too tired/distracted to notice what their fourth child was up to.

  • >>>I said yes, I hated nature, too. It was too uncivilized, just like Republicans.<<< OMG, I LOL'd at that one, so unexpected. You gave me my first morning laugh.
    On the grandmother thing, I was so excited when our daughter was pregnant, we could be "Meemaw" and "Paw-paw." My husband just rolled his eyes. Both of our girls set the names, it's just grandma and grandpa.

  • The seagulls are like that around here. Sometimes I’ll get lunch in town and take it down to the park by the bay. The seagulls will crowd around your car or table and wait. Just wait. And look at you. Here’s one:

  • merr Link

    Total non-sequitur (or maybe not?) but I was JUST thinking about how pigeons are not something we see here in so Cal/OC. In NY, yes, all over the place, but not here. Crows, yes, or rather, ravens. And when you eat outside at a popular eatery at, say, an outside mall, birds will do the swoop in. It’s very disconcerting.

  • Like Living Large, I loved that line. You always make me laugh and feel as if I were there with you. Thanks for that!

  • I still haven’t seen Birds…my grandfather never was able to shake the name my oldest sister gave him–Bah-Bah. For years I thought that was his real name.

  • Could you video tape the hula-hooping? That’s what I want to see. Right here, baby!

  • Sheryl Link

    Every time ihave good intentions of eating outside, some kind of outdoor-living critter ruins my plans, be it birds, bees or flies. Being a pretend grandmother would be much more fun.

  • Larry Link

    First, bats, then gulls. We have entered the Ruth Pennebaker, the Bird Phase.

  • After being trapped inside for 9 months, in Chicago, we love to eat outside but I am terrified of birds, horrified. And they are everywhere, pigeons, that my daughters call “dirty birds”, and, because we are so close to the water, beautiful gulls, who are as intrusive as those dirty birds. So to that, I think “Birdie” is a perfectly charming name for a soon to be almost grandmother!

  • My kid came up with his own nickname for one of his grandmas — DeeDee, which bares no resemblance to her name, but maybe was his way of saying grandma at the time.

    Another nickname I love is GoGo — which sounds so with it and lively and young grandmotherish. What do you think, Ruth?

  • Adding on here: GoGo is very like Coco — without the Nazi ties. Try it on for size.

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