Taking Flight

Maura C was the first place winner of the 2013 5th Grade Story Contest! Congratulations Maura, and thank you for this beautiful story.

I unwillingly ambled down the block to Walker Elementary, the sidewalk abuzz with a cacophony of first-day noises, from wailing kindergarteners to my future classmates, the fifth graders who ruled the school. Normally, the chaos would make me more excited, but today, it just made me more depressed. 

I looked around, hoping to spot a friendly face, but found nothing.

“I’m completely alone,” I thought miserably. And it was true. My parents were divorced. My mother and I had moved, so I had to go to a new school. And nobody in my family understood me!

I was so swept up in my thoughts that I didn’t notice the bird until I almost stepped on her. She let out a terrified peep, and I froze.

A robin! My namesake. She was so close that I could see every speckle on her forehead, every splotch on her wing.

She cocked her tiny head and gazed at me, with a look so piercing that it went through my very bones. It was the sharpest look that I’d ever seen, and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

“Well hello there, little one,” I said soothingly. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”

The robin gave a soft twitter and pushed off from her perch. I wanted to watch her longer, but I could see children flooding into the building. And somehow, that bird gave me the courage to join them.

***

The cool Autumn breeze buffeted my feathers as I rocketed up into the sky, singing for all I was worth, then plummeted back to the Earth, coming to rest on a twig.

As I basked in the crisp air, my eyes fell on a girl of about ten years walking alone. I was not sure why she drew my attention. On a whim, I pushed off of my branch and followed her.

When I got closer to her, I could see that she was upset. Hunched shoulders, sluggish walk, red eyes- they all told the same story. This was one gloomy girl.

I was struck by the sudden urge to give her support, so I peeped, and she looked down at me.We stared at each other for what seemed like hours, and then a name came to me through her thoughts. “Robin.” She’s one, I’m one.

I wanted to stay and find out more, but I sensed Robin would be in trouble if she was late, so I gave a farewell chirp and pushed off into the air.

***

Months passed without sight of the robin. I had long since forgotten the encounter, other important things taking precedence in my mind. I was sure that she was long gone. How misguided I was…

Another terrible day. I woke up with my mom yelling that I was going to be late, then got to school barely before the bell, only to trip and scatter all my belongings in various places. I ran into class, my tardiness unnoticed , but my teacher (the only good thing in this morbid school) wasn’t there. Instead, there was an impatient, hot-tempered substitute who, from the beginning, seemed to loathe me.  Every transgression I made through the day was reprimanded. Finally she called me “insubordinate” and sent me to the principal.

When I left the school in the afternoon, it all became too much, and I started to cry. I plopped down on a bench, sobbing, and curled up into a ball. As I sat there, just wanting the day to end, a bird came up and sat beside me.

It was the robin! I was sure of it – I could see the black markings on her head. As miserable as I was, I had to smile.

“Hi there, robin,” I whispered appreciatively. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”

She picked up a stick that lay by my feet and flew away. I was momentarily upset at the prospect that even she didn’t like me, but then she came back – and did it again! What was going on? She repeated this many times before it finally clicked. The robin was making a nest! And when birds make nests…

I gathered all the nearby sticks and followed her to her nesting spot nearby. I lay them on the ground and miraculously she carried them up to it.

Forgetting all the troubles of the day, I felt like I was helping build her babies’ future home.

***

While I’d seen the girl Robin many times over the last few months, I hadn’t seen her this despondent before. I was about to start making my nest and wanted to share the happiness I felt of having babies.  I landed next to her sorrowful form and gathered a stick to take it to my new home.  But this seemed to make her more upset, so I repeated the gathering of my nest’s foundation over and over again.  She started smiling!  The two Robins had connected.

Then something miraculous occurred. She began helping me!  All the worry in her face disappeared as she poured herself into gathering sticks and setting them under my tree, where I lifted them onto the nest. And when she was happy, she glowed like a light had been turned on inside of her. It was wonderful to see.

***

In the months that followed, the nest became my secret place. Whenever I had an especially horrible day, I went there and watched the little baby birds sticking their heads up, mouths constantly open for food. My life still wasn’t perfect, of course. But numerous times during that year, the robin gave me something that I had been missing. Hope for the future. As I left Walker Elementary, I saw the fledgling robins take flight for the first time. Watching them dart between the trees, I knew that their future was just beginning. And it was time for me, too, to take flight.

***

Goodbye, Robin. Fly high.

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