For the Birds

A bird caller--it's a wood tube about an inch long with a screw through the hole and a round handle at one end. You use the handle to twist the screw and it makes squeaky bird sounds

I picked up a bird caller yesterday at the Cooper Hewitt gift shop after visiting the Sonia Delaunay exhibit (more on that later).

It’s just like a bird caller I had when I was little that was the first thing I ever won. I was at the Lawrence Hall of Science with my family and we had just watched a lecture on birds. There was a Q & A afterwards and the lecturer also asked questions and gave prizes to people who got them right. I can’t remember what the question was–something which species practiced a certain behavior, I think.  I said the answer quickly, but quietly, and was drowned out by louder kids saying the wrong answer. Somehow the lecturer heard me or saw me, with my cokebottle glasses and total nerd-dom, and gave me the prize.

I was dumbfounded. I had never won anything and also never been rewarded for being smart. At home it was considered a matter of course, expected but not something that earned compliments or praise. If anything I had to hide it because my brother had some learning challenges and my parents didn’t want him to feel bad. I think this is laudable! But have realized as an adult that it gave me some mixed messages, to say the least. At school being smart was definitely a liability. The first time I ever ditched school was because I had finished reading Carrie faster than a friend and she called me a liar and slapped me.

So the prize was a big deal to me. It took a while to figure out how it worked, but I kept it, on a string, for years and years. Mine was red. This new one is wood-colored but nevertheless makes convincing squeaks and squawks. I’m hanging it on the wall as a reminder to speak up.

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