My very first memories were of hearing sounds off in the distance. To me, it was more or less just mumbling and I had no idea what to make of it. I also remember sensing light and dark periods and I felt as though I was inside some type of small object. It was all just a blur and no matter how hard I tried, I just could not seem to figure out what it all meant.
Gradually, as more light and dark periods came and went, those mumbling sounds became a lot clearer and I noticed that two particular sounds were repeated often…Gracie and George. However, my small brain was still having a hard time making sense of it all. As another dark period came along, I gave up worrying about it and drifted off into one of those quiet restful periods that I always enjoyed.
Eventually, little by little, some pieces of the puzzle began to fit together and I was able to figure out that Gracie and George were the ones that warmed me up whenever I got cold. I think there might be someone else too, since every so often I would hear loud thumping noises coming from nearby. Ugh, it was all so confusing.
As time passed, those nearby thumping noises became more frequent. I was beginning to think it was some type of communication so I began responding back by banging hard on the sidewall of my little home. Even though I had no idea what we were saying to each other, I kept up my side of the conversation. Something made me feel as though it was important that I continued thumping away on my wall.
Sometime later, during one of the light periods, I heard a loud cracking noise and the thumping I had been hearing from my neighbor stopped. It was then that I heard George say, “It’s a girl Gracie” followed by Gracie saying, “Oh, isn’t she beautiful? I’m going to name her after my grandmother, Darla Grace.” George seemed to like that and they both went on oohing and aahing. Suddenly there was a peeping sound and shortly after, Gracie saying, “George, she’s hungry. Go get her something to eat.” I heard a beating sound and then everything got quiet. I listened hard for other noises, but eventually drifted off into another one of my rest periods. I must have been real tired from all that banging on my wall.
Some nearby sounds brought me out of my rest period and I noticed the light was shining again. I spent some time trying to make sense out of what took place just before I drifted off in my rest period. My neighbor…ah…Darla banged hard on her wall and it must have cracked open. She must have gone outside and that’s when Gracie gave her a name. Hmmm…oh…oh…Gracie must be her mom, wait, if Gracie is her mom that means Gracie must be my mom too and Darla is my sister. Oh, I get it, so it is important that I bang my way out of here so mom can give me a name too. I wonder how they knew she was a girl. Maybe it’s stamped on our little bottoms…ugh I can’t see very well, I guess I’ll have to wait to find out. Just then, I heard George say, “Gracie, have you heard anymore thumping?”
“No George I haven’t and I’m starting to worry. I hope nothing is wrong.”
I knew in an instant what I had to do and began banging harder than ever on my wall. Time passed quickly and it started to get dark again. I was so tuckered out from banging that in no time at all I had drifted off into another rest period. Busting down that wall will just have to wait a little while longer.
When the light came back on, I was ready to start attacking that wall again. I was anxious to meet my mom, dad, and my sister and find out the name mom had chosen for me…oh, and find out if I’m a girl or whatever. With renewed spirit, I really let that wall have it. I pounded and pounded on that wall, I wanted out. Suddenly there was a loud cracking sound and instantly my little home got much brighter inside and at the same time, I was amazed how much easier it was for me to breath. I went back to work on the crack, this time I was trying to bust a hole that was big enough for me to squeeze through, so I could reach the outside world. Though I was tired and sore, I continued enlarging the hole. Finally, my escape hole was just big enough for me to squeeze through. I was eager to see what was outside my little home and to meet my family.
Even though my eyesight still was not that great, I was able make out two blurry figures that I assumed were my parents, Gracie and George.
My dad was the first to speak, “It’s a boy Gracie and he’s kind of puny.”
“Oh George, he’s a handsome one. I think I’ll name him after my great grandfather Percival Bartholomew.”
“Percival? Oh Gracie, you are not going to stick him with that name are you? Why don’t you name him after me?”
“That would be too confusing George. No, he’s Percival Bartholomew.”
Wow, I was a boy and I had a neat sounding name, Percival, Percival Bartholomew. I was so thrilled I wanted to thank mom and dad but when I tried the only thing that came out was a bunch of peeps.
“George, he’s hungry. Go get him something to eat.”
When dad returned, I got my first taste of food. I am not sure what it was mom fed me but it was real good.
After eating, even though it was not dark yet, I drifted off into one of my peaceful rest periods. All the work I did to break through that darn wall had just plain worn me out. The last thing I remember hearing was mom saying “Oh look George, the poor little guy must be tuckered out…he’s going to sleep.”
As is the case with every newborn, each day presented Percival with new learning experiences and eventually, like his sister Darla had done, he developed the ability to communicate with his family.
“M…M…M – om”
“What do you need Darla?”
“I didn’t say anything mom, it was him, Percival.”
“Da…Dar…Dar – la”
“Oh my God, George, George, quick come over here.”
“What is it Gracie?”
“George, it’s Percival, he’s speaking.”
“D…D…D – ad”
“I’ll be darned, hey way to go Percy”
“George, don’t call him that, his name is Percival”
“I doubt he’ll let anyone call him Percival when he gets older. No Percy will do just fine for now.”
“Ugh, you’re just impossible George.”
And so the process continued each day with Percival adding more and more new words to his vocabulary. Gracie and George were thrilled with his rapid progress…well, that is until he learned those words that every parent dreads, the questioning words, how, what, where, when, and why.
“Ma, how does dad know where to find our food?”
“Ma, what makes the sky blue?”
“Ma, where do fish come from?”
“Ma, when can I learn to fly like you and dad?”
And the question no parent wants to hear or face the resulting temper tantrum.
“Ma, why do I have to go to sleep so early, I’m a big boy now?”
Unlike Darla, who typically hung around with her mom, Percival would go off by himself, well, as far as the edge of the nest would allow. He spent his time “investigating” as he called it.
“Ma, what’s this little thing crawling on the edge of the nest?”
“That’s an ant, Percival. Don’t get too close, it can give you a nasty bite.”
“Aw mom, how can something so small hurt a big boy like…OUCH!”
“Does that answer your question, Percival?”
“Ye…yes mom, OUCH…mom, it hurts, make it all better,” was Percival’s tearful reply.
On and on it went, with each passing day both Darla and Percival were not only growing in size, but were also expanding their knowledge…albeit, sometimes learning the hard, painful way.
Occasionally, Darla and Percival would be left alone as George flew off in search of a tasty morsel for lunch and Gracie would be “stretching her wings” high above the nest. It was on one of those days that, unlike Darla, Percival had decided to forgo his nap and climb up on the wide, flat part of the nest to, as he put it, “try his wings”. He had just flapped them several times, barely creating a breeze, when he was startled by a nearby voice.
“You had better get down from there before you hurt yourself. You’re too young to fly yet.”
“Wa…wa…what? Who are you?” was Percival’s somewhat shaky response.
“I’m Jake…Jake the squirrel. What’s your name?”
“Percival, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…oh, man, you’ve got to be kidding me. Your parents really stuck you with a doozie…you’re really going to get picked on with a name like that one.”
“I thought it was a neat name, although my dad isn’t real fond of it.”
“Your dad is right.”
“My dad calls me Percy.”
“Well, that’s a bit better, but you might as well just put a ‘Kick Me’ sign on your back. Do you have a middle name?”
“Ugh, not much better…hey wait, how about Bart, yeah, Bart, that sounds real cool.”
“I don’t know…Bart, Bart, my name is Bart, hey, I think you’re right, that does sound pretty neat.”
“You think your parents will like it?”
“I doubt my mom will like it, nope, she’ll still call me Percival, but I know dad will like it.”
“Whoa, here comes your dad with lunch. I had better get out of here. You don’t eat squirrel do you?”
“Nah, I like fish. My dad brings home the bestest fish. I don’t know where he gets it but boy, is it good. What do you eat?”
“I’m a vegetarian, I eat nuts, seeds, fruits, you know things like that. Oh, and I love oranges…and corn on the cob, but that’s somewhat hard to come by because the farmers do not like me mucking about their cornfields. What I do not eat are birds, so you can stop worrying. Gotta go, bye Bart.”
“See ya later, Jake.”
Percival…ugh, Bart was climbing back into the nest as his dad landed. The fish he was carrying in his talons was really big and Per…err, a, Bart could not wait to start eating lunch.
“Wake your sister up Percy and you guys get ready for lunch.”
“Where’s mom, isn’t she going to feed us?”
“Your mom needed some time away from the nest, so she’s having lunch with her friends.”
“Darla, wake up its lunch time. Dad’s feeding us today.”
“Stop shaking me Percy, I’m awake.”
“Dad, Darla, I wanna be called Bart, not Percy or Percival.”
“Uh-oh, any chance you’ve been talking to a certain intruder who goes by the name Jake?”
“Aaaaa, I talked to a squirrel named Jake. What’s an in…intude…intude…err?”
“Someone who sticks his nose in where it doesn’t belong. Jake pulls this stunt every year at this time. If he does not like a name your mom has picked, he usually comes up with an alternative. It drives your mom crazy. In all fairness, I like the nicknames Jake comes up with…ahem, but do not tell your mom that or I will be in deep trouble. Okay, Bart it is then.”
After lunch, Percival…err…a…Bart had a huge smile on his face. He had a new name, a nickname, one that wouldn’t make him a target for teasing. Nope, and he would not have to put a “Kick Me” sign on his back. That made everything in his little world, just fine and dandy. Well, it was until he saw his mom winging in from her lunch date…that wiped the smile right off his face. He knew he was going to have to tell her in no uncertain terms, “Ma, just call me Bart, not Percival or Percy”…then stand back and wait for the explosion. Suddenly Bart’s little world was turned upside-down and his stomach began churning. The next thing Bart knew, he was barfing his delicious, nutritious, fish lunch right over the edge of the nest.
As soon as his mom had landed, she quickly moved to Percival…err…a…Bart’s side. On her final approach to the nest, she had seen Bart’s fish waterfall cascading to the ground below.
“Percival, what’s wrong? Are you sick?”
Percival, a, that is, a Bart was now sobbing and crying little boy tears.
“M-m-m-mom, I…I…mom…Just call me Bart, na…not Percival or P…Percy, just Bart.”
Percival…ugh…Bart was now cowering in the corner waiting for his mom to explode. He had himself so upset he was now hiccupping between his sobs and his tears threatened to flood the nest.
Gracie moved next to Bart and put her wing around him. Expecting an explosion, Bart was confused by his mom’s actions.
“Calm down Perc…Bart, calm down. So, I’m going to assume you have met Jake. This time, he did indeed come up with a nickname I can live with and it truly fits you. Okay, we will all start calling you Bart. You understand though, that Percival Bartholomew will still be your legal name. I wanted you to be named after my great grandfather, but at the same time, I was worried that you might be teased about your name. I was hoping Jake would come up with an acceptable nickname. Now that you’re Bart you won’t ever have to worry about someone sticking a ‘Kick Me’ sign on your back.”
Bart had stopped crying and now had a look of total awe on his face.
“I love you mom.”
“I love you too Bart. Now let’s see what we can do about replacing your fish lunch that’s now in an unappetizing puddle on the ground below.”
Although Darla and Bart were both truly enjoying their childhood, nature has a way of moving the clock forward and they were slowly growing into a beautiful young woman and a handsome young man. Gracie and George were so proud of their children, they had learned so much and were rapidly moving toward that inevitable day when they would leave the nest and strike out on their own. However, before that could take place, Gracie and George had two final things to teach the “kids”, two very important things, two items without which they would not survive on their own…how to fly and how to get their own food.
The day of reckoning had arrived and Bart had himself in a dither. He had been trying his wings from time to time but was having trouble with his coordination. Several times, he had smacked himself in the head while “warming-up” for takeoff. George had also noticed that his son was…well, let’s just say he was not the most coordinated individual George had ever seen. As he was watching his son, the klutz, he started remembering his own days of learning to fly and realized it was almost as if he was watching himself…you guessed it, George also had two left feet when he was young.
Darla was Darla, the epitome of grace. Both Gracie and George were sure she would be soaring high in the sky in no time at all. Bart, well Bart was a completely different story. George felt it was going to take all his skill and patience to get him off the ground, airborne, without coming back down like a rock.
George spent two days with the “kids” explaining the principles of flight and then went on to demonstrate how to use their wings to control direction and altitude. Once he was fairly sure both Darla and Bart understood the concepts, he had each one demonstrate them while remaining earthbound.
Darla, as expected, looked like a pro, however, Bart was still somewhat klutzy and at one point even bonked his dad on the head. Reluctantly, George made the decision that early tomorrow morning was when the “kids” would make their solo flights. He then promptly dismissed his flight class students, and headed out to find some delicious, nutritious, fish for the family to enjoy at their evening meal…hoping that this would not be Bart’s last supper.
That night, Darla slept like a log, while Bart, still fretting about his morning flight, spent the night tossing, turning, and counting sheep. He had just counted his one-millionth sheep when the rising sun indicated it was time to face the music.
Gracie and George were truly worried about Bart’s solo flight, to the point that George was seriously thinking about rescheduling the flights so he could spend additional time with Bart trying to hone his flying skills. However, in the end he was not very sure that would make a difference, so things would continue as planned.
Even Bart’s friend, Jake the squirrel, was worried and had placed himself on the ground below the nest thinking he might be able to break Bart’s fall if he plummeted like a rock.
Darla was to go first. She hesitated as she went through her preflight checklist of everything George had taught her. Once that was complete, she spread her wings and jumped off the edge of the nest. Everyone held their breath, and for a split second, it looked as though Darla was headed straight for the ground, but at the last minute, she started flapping her wings and up she went, higher and higher in the sky, showing off her skills and thoroughly enjoying every minute of her first flight.
Remembering her brother’s nervousness, Darla quickly returned to the nest, intending to pass along some of the things she had learned during her short flight and to cheer Bart on. She was truly worried about him surviving his first flight.
Now it was Bart’s turn to take the plunge, whoa, bad choice of words…it was Bart’s turn to try his wings. He had stalled as long as he could. As he stood at the edge of the nest, he was struggling to remember all the instructions his father had gone over in flight class. The more he tried to remember, the more confused he became. Finally, in desperation, he just stuck his wings out and jumped.
Bart’s family and his friend Jake all watched in horror as Bart fell like a rock. Bart was in sheer panic mode, he knew he should be doing something, but his mind was spinning in circles, he just could not seem to focus. He could see Jake on the ground below running around in circles waving his arms up and down, but he just couldn’t seem to put it all together. Suddenly, he heard his dad’s booming voice, “Bart, concentrate, your wings, use your wings, fly Bart, you can do it, fly Bart.”
Bart’s mind instantly began to focus on the task at hand, he did just what his dad told him to do, he flapped his wings and he did indeed begin to fly. At the same time, he started remembering all his dads’ flight instructions. He was flying, he was soaring higher and higher, he was actually having fun. A collective sigh of relief was quickly followed by laughter as Bart’s family and Jake heard the words “Weeeeeeee, weeeeeeee, wee, wee, weeee, this is fun, I’m flying, I’m really flying” echoing all around the neighborhood.
Bart had never had so much fun and he was reluctant to return to the nest. Eventually, he had no choice, he was getting tired, and his wings were beginning to ache. When he landed, everyone began to congratulate him, even Jake who had climbed back up the tree and joined the crowd.
Gracie and George were proud of what their “kids” had accomplished and it was now time to celebrate the success of their first flights with a good meal and lots of camaraderie. George had flown in two very large fish to satisfy all their raging appetites. He also commandeered an ear of fresh corn as a special treat for Jake. The celebration went on into the wee hours of the morning until one by one they began to poop out. Everyone flopped down wherever it was comfortable and in no time at all, were “sawing zzzzzz’s”…even Jake slept in the nest that night.
The following week was spent teaching the “kids” what to eat and how to acquire it. Gracie worked with Darla and George worked with a now, very coordinated, Bart. George even showed Bart where to “commandeer” ears of corn for his buddy Jake. Both learned very quickly and in no time at all were self-sufficient, ready to strike out on their own.
Gracie and George spent less and less time at the nest, they were out either visiting with friends, spending time alone, or dining out. Darla had her own group of friends and she was now “doing her thing”. Bart, well, Bart was very special and had his own group of friends, all kinds of different friends, he was very happy and still spent a lot of his time “investigating”.
The “kids” were now young adults, both beautiful and handsome. Although the family was heading in different directions, they still managed to get together for a meal at least once a month to keep everyone up to date on what was happening in their lives.
The years have been good to our family, mom and dad are still together, Darla has a boyfriend and I have been seeing a very special “friend”. Our once small family has become quite large and I now have a whole horde of brothers and sisters. We still enjoy getting together each month, although we did have to find a much larger tree to accommodate our ever-growing family.
Sadly, Jake is no longer with us. He had an unfortunate run in with an irate farmer while he was commandeering ears of corn to feed his family. He will always live in my heart. Through the years, he has kept me on the straight and narrow and I will always be grateful for the great name he gave me so I would not have to put a “Kick Me” sign on my back.
I am now at the age where I can start my own family and there is no doubt, whatsoever, that my first son will indeed be named Jake in his honor.
Another great adventure comes to an end. It doesn’t get any better than this…well, unless you’re talking about having a lifelong best friend to confide in and keep you on the right path. That might just be a step up from this story.
I guess as we travel the road of life, we can never be really sure which way the road will turn…one thing’s for certain though, if you listen to what your heart is telling you, you’ll usually do the correct thing and rarely regret your decision.
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