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Friday, June 24, 2005


Last night disaster was narrowly averted when Sarabelle and Gracie pried a baby cardinal from the jaws of our normally wimpy cat, Orlando. The bird, nearly fledged, ended up on the ground just a wee bit too soon. Was he pushed, or just overconfident? We’ll never know. He was in good shape, though shaken up after seeing his little birdie life flash before his eyes, and the girls placed him in a towel-lined box for safe keeping overnight. This morning, on his never-ending commute, Jorge dropped Wally, the name arbitrarily assigned to the poor thing, off at the Wild Animal Rescue Center in Fort Lauderdale. He’s going to be fine and will be released in a few days.

The girls insisted I blog about it. My stock response, “Get your own blog,” seemed to put an end to the matter, and yet I kept thinking about that bird.

The empty nest. Independence. Taking a big leap and landing flat on your beak. Or being pushed out, headed for a big fall. Being mauled.

I keep saying I want my girls to be independent.* That’s what you’re supposed to say. That’s what you’re supposed to do. And I was pretty sure I meant it, until I thought about the dichotomy presented by our long term plans. We’ve always thought it would be great to find a piece of property in some idyllic rural setting and set each of the girls up with a couple adjoining acres and eventually a home of their own. It would be an investment for their future and their security, Jorge being rather pessimistic about the quality of potential suitors for his darling daughters and wishing to provide a nice, soft, feathered nest for them to land in, and besides, we just plain enjoy their company. I’d love to grow old and be surrounded by children and grandchildren. They’d have the opportunity to perpetuate the family business, and provide gainful employment for possible future spouses if necessary. Teaching self-sufficiency would be a valuable lesson. But that’s cutting into their independence.

*This being modified from the earlier, “They can do anything they want, even if they want to be table dancers, just as long as they’re the best damn table dancers in town and they’re happy,” when I ended up with one for whom that possibility would not come as a complete shock.

Maybe my girls have the potential to cure cancer. What are the chances they actually achieve this? Would a self-sufficient life be less valuable than one that aims to save the world? One can dream of being a marine biologist or a pilot or a ballerina, but are these realistic?

Is it possible to live an old fashioned family-centered lifestyle and still encourage independence? Is our idea of independence different from what it was one hundred years ago when families generally stuck together? Does independence only mean being able to choose your own path from limitless possibilities or is there room for independence within a controlled situation? Would we be clipping their wings? To some extent, intentional communities do this. The Amish and Mennonites seem to be able to keep most everyone close, but their options are limited. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Does it even matter in the grand scheme of things?

Then there is the added dichotomy of teaching them about the importance of creating and maintaining strong family ties at the same time we consider moving far, far away from our own, because there sure isn’t any idyllic rural setting around here.

Thanks a lot, Wally.

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