Paul’s Unbirthday

Yesterday, Paul was eating a potato scone and sipping a cup of espresso when Greta’s phone went off at his elbow. She had planted it there, set it off, and left the room for the surprise. “Happy birthday… to you … mucka! Happy birthday .. to you … mucka! Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday … to you!” She had invented her own tune that had a happy feel and she sang acapella in a jazzy, Zee Avi, style making her own beat in her throat.

For those of you who don’t know Greta, she’s made up a variety of languages that somehow make it into the mainstream consciousness of our family. The languages are so popular that they usually extend to the SJs and the Fields and perhaps even beyond. Mucka is a word for someone who is wierd. If someone freaks out and is being a complete dork, we tell her that she is being mucka-ish.

Her languages began six or seven years ago. At first, we didn’t know where she was getting the words, but eventually we discovered her attempting to read the backs of shampoo bottles. Thus, su-for-tate-ah is a morphed version of “sulfate” and came to mean “stupid master,” but the meanings are never stagnant and you have to always be ready to adjust its meaning for whatever comes into Greta’s mind, which is never predictable.

After tiring from that language, she invents another. Right now, we’re in the middle of a mucka-phase. For some reason, the word “chicken” has been changed to “chaunckin” and has a variety of meanings. Ding-fong, wing-wang, and weenus have also been mainstreamed.

When she first got her cell phone, she didn’t know anyone’s number or contact info, so she made them up. These are some of the contacts you would have found on Greta’s phone: Coco Bilch, Ulysses Sagg, and Duplica Livingston, all with imaginary numbers and personalities.

After our cozy breakfast, I cooked a picnic ham, chopped a fruit salad and folded in whipped cream, assembled a German potato salad (vinegar instead of mayo), and baked two cherry, raspberry pies. Then, we packed them into a cooler with a couple of beers and we were off.

First, we went to Lower Bridge in Terrebonne to check out a path that Paul is considering for a hike. He wanted to see how far it went. We didn’t get far before flooding stopped us. We saw a Western Tanager and a Bullock’s Oriole.

Then, we took the back roads to another spot, but somehow we missed a turn and ended up in Sisters. We ate at the city park on a picnic bench, played frisbee and the little ones waded in the creek in their “swim-soups” as Dagne used to call them.

The weather was perfect. Mild, mellow, warm — it was a spring day that burgeoned into perfection. The colors of the red rocks contrasted strongly with the budding fields, bursting in chartreuse and yellow and true greens. I’m waiting for the Nighthawks to begin feeding on the flies.

Next, we visited Sawyer Park in Bend because it is supposed to be the most productive birding spot in Oregon. We saw a mountain beaver, a Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, a nesting Mourning Dove, Yellow Warbler, and my favorite, an American Dipper. The Dipper is also called a Water Ouzel and, though I’m sure it was really working hard at gathering food, it looked like it was playing in the rapids, dipping and diving and bobbing in the eddies.

Ingrid watched the Violet Green Swallows scoop the skippers off the surface of the rivers and faithfully reported it to us. Greta insisted that she saw a two-headed blackbird, a cuckoo bird, and a LPL blackbird — which is her way of saying a lopsided-lumpy blackbird. Elsa tried to find a quiet spot to birdwatch but said that a little brown-eyed girl kept scaring them away. Dagne giggled at this and looked more pleased than apologetic.

We got home around 10 p.m. Then, Paul asked me to watch a western movie with him — a request I usually refuse. I like the greatest of the westerns, but as a genre, I don’t have much patience. But I sat and watched Open Range while he fell asleep on my lap.

It was a happy, happy un-birthday celebration.


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