I like to watch my daughter in the evenings with her finch…her sixteenth birthday present. I bought it for her last week, after one of our arguments. I wandered the lanes in Chandi Chowk, moving from one chirping store to the next. I asked the lady in one store what kinds of birds were best for indoor pets. She mentioned the names of several, but my attention perked up when she started to talk about the finch.
“What was that one again?” I said.
“The finch,” she said. “They are marvelous birds. They forage in flocks over the grasslands, but individually they are perfect indoors. Helpful for introverts. They speak a chirping sound, but not too loud. It’s like they’re talking with you.
I brought the bird home with a cage and all the accoutrements. I called my daughter down and showed her the bird, just making its home in the cage. My daughter marveled and immediately took the bird up to her room.
Later she came down and said, “Thanks, Ma.”
Sometimes after we argue I need to remind myself later what the issue was about. But I remember last night’s. It was about her friends.
Her world contains pressures, all beyond her making. She rides atop them like they are tectonic plates in her thoughts: I must be a certain way…I cannot be this way.
I tell her again for the 100th time that I don’t understand…that I wish I did. That she need not be so ripped apart by what Ashvi or Meera or Sira said to her. She runs through accusations and apologies and half-composed couplets…seething scorn for me and unrealized expectations for her, all within a few short breaths.
The lady at the store suggested covering the bird’s cage at night. She said it was for the bird’s nighttime sleeping patterns and for creating a general sense of calm. It was not cruel for the bird, she said. It was kind.
My daughter talks to the finch now at night. She closes her door, and they coo together in her room. It is not a whole solution. It is not even a bridge for the gap. But the bird is present and can be loved.