It all started with a pink, plastic bird – one of those ones with funky metal sticks for legs, so you can stand them in your dirt.
I am totally cool if you love these plastic birds in your yard. I have actually been known to point and smile at them in other folks’ yards. And I totally supported Mac’s high school senior project where she and her partner ‘pinked’ yards with oodles of flamingos for charity (okay… you had to pay to get her to remove the birds). It was fun and funny and people all over town had some laughs as a flock of pink, plastic flamingos migrated from yard to yard for months (and – in an astounding discovery for science – it turns out that flamingos are totally fine with snow)).
The idea actually came from Grampa though – meaning the idea to do a flock of flamingos all over town. He didn’t suggest it, but he was all over it anyway.
Because of the pink, plastic bird from long ago. The one he brought home from its natural habitat in Florida one year… and stuck it in my front yard.
I was super grateful when he gave it to me. I totally acted the part.
And then I would go outside and sneak it behind my bushes when he wasn’t looking.
It wasn’t because other people could see it from the street and I didn’t want them thinking I was a flamingo gal. I was something like 750 feet from the street, and behind a wall of forest anyway. And I could give a flying fig. If I liked lawn ornaments, I would have displayed them with aplomb (and probably a great sign or two).
And… Grampa knew this.
So I would hide the freakin’ flamingo, and Grampa would go find the freakin’ flamingo.
I’d put it behind a bush.
Grampa would put it in front of my favorite lilacs.
I’d hide it around the corner, early in the morning.
The damn thing would be in front of my parking spot when I got home from work.
And it became our thing.
Sometimes he would even get Mac – ‘his’ girl (she could do no wrong in his eyes) – to do his dirty work. Send her outside to move the bird while he distracted me (probably by spray-painting something neon orange).
And – because I couldn’t beat a cranky Old Yankee Man, I joined him. I was in it for the slow burn. The Chinese water torture thing.
First he came home from Florida one year to a roll of flamingo printed toilet paper waiting for him in his bathroom.
Another year I went tropical, and a four-foot tall flamingo made of banana leaves was waiting on his screen porch.
There were flamingo-themed items in his stocking each year, because Santa is always up for a good joke.
In one of those strange otherworldly series of happenings, I’ve been seeing flamingos at the exact moments I’ve been thinking of Grampa, since he left us two years ago.
It happens all the time.
At gas stations. I was hypothalamus deep in thought about Grampa one time when a car pulled up a the next pump – funky flamingo on springs, stuck to – and strangely wiggling around – on the dashboard.
At stores. I was wasting time between appointments just after the funeral, turned a corner and an entire display of flamingo-themed stuff – mugs and candle things and statuary – greeted me. I laughed out loud and scared a clerk.
Flamingos in yards, flamingos on other people’s t-shirts… they just show up, at the right times, all the dang time. And I think of the Old Yankee Man.
One of my most ‘smile through tears’ memories is that of my two boys, pall bearers at Grampa’s funeral, each wearing a navy blue tie covered in tiny pink flamingos.
Those ties were at the checkout counter as I was buying the boys’ blazers for the service.
They were the only ties hanging there.
So as we started to get ready for Mac’s wedding, I reminded Mac about the flamingos. I told her that they would be subtle, but that they needed to be there. A way for Grampa to attend. She could help me do the ‘dirty work’ this time.
So I’ve been looking for my small flamingo things here and there. Ones I will know are at the wedding, though may never be noticed by others… and the other day I was in HomeGoods.
And, from far away, I saw the shape of a flamingo on a kitchen towel. I thought, “It would be kind of funny to have the bartenders using flamingo towels to wipe down the bar or glasses or…” so I got closer.
And then I saw that the flamingo was actually wearing a bridal sash.
And I thought, “Are you kidding me?! hahahaha!” (I smiled my way through the mental ‘hahahaha!’ part) “A wedding-themed flamingo towel?! Excellent play, Old Yankee Man. No need to be subtle, I’m totally buying this.”
And I picked it up. It was kind of tangled with some sort of slotted spoon thingie behind it, so all I could see clearly was the flamingo holding its fancy drink, draped with the sash.
And then it unraveled and I stopped.
This was not subtle at all.
From Grampa Dingle, whose fave personal joke involved the freakin’ pink birds?!
And not only that, but the towel must have been moved from the towel area, because it was sort of tossed in a kitchen utensil area all by itself.
Only towel there. I felt like there was no way for me to miss it.
Sure, you can call it a coincidence.
A strange and wonderful one, for sure.
I’m just, once again, mentally bowing with respect.
Well played, old man.
This is your girl’s wedding.
Of course you would weigh in.
Thanks for readin’.
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