When I left the islands to come home this time, I came to an empty nest. I didn’t mind so much. I was only for 2 weeks, the perfect amount of time to have a house to yourself. The first few days passed by in a whirl - I had friends in and out of the house constantly and I was delighting in all the wonders that only a city affords. During those first few days I was enjoying my pseudo-solitude so much, that I had forgotten the one thing I just can’t do alone. Eat. I had always found eating alone to be a most dull, unappetising experience.
A body needs food though - and at about 3 in the afternoon on a particularly quiet day - I grabbed a box of Pringles that was to be my first meal of the day. I settled down with it, looking out at the balcony and down came a visitor. My visitor was a crow. The same one that I had often caught my mum feeding.
“Why” I had asked her “are you always feeding that crow? Of all the beautiful birds in the world, why a manky looking crow??” A mother’s eccentricities are sometimes the hardest to understand.
She looked at me sheepishly, like she didn’t quite understand it herself. “A crow that visits everyday... they say it carries the spirit of an ancestor.”
“Who is ‘they’ mamma?? And anyway, do you actually believe that?” I had asked her with fond, yet condescending, amusement.
“No... But, well, just in case, you know...” she had replied sheepishly, and we had left it at that. So he came, everyday, that partaker of our family meals.
And here he was again, months after there had been no family in the family house, staring at me. Cocking his head quizzically - an expression that birds have perfected - at my strange idea of a meal.
“Are you my ancestor?” I asked aloud.
With a couple of hops on his skinny black legs he settled his ruffled feathers, perched himself on the balcony’s iron beams and looked at me with an expression familiar to me of fond, yet condescending, amusement.
“Alright” I said, “you will have your meal...”
I brought out some rice for him, unwilling to share with him my Pringle treat. And then I figured, if he was going to eat a proper Mamma kind of meal, I might as well eat properly too.
So there we sat, the crow busy with his rice in a plastic bowl, me with mine in a respectable plate, eating just the way we would have done if mamma was feeding us. And that’s how we continued to eat for the rest of my stay, before once more I abandoned the nest.
I don’t know whether he carries the spirit of my ancestors. Guiltily I am aware of not being terribly moved by those faceless nameless beings anyway. But I am sure he carries a technique or two of my mother’s, for he saved me from a week of grazing on varied versions of fried processed potatoes, making me feel as if I was eating for him, with him, and not alone.
“Well, good bye then” I had said to him on my last day, laughing at myself for adopting mamma’s oddness. I know I saw him laughing too. These crazy ladies, he must be thinking, for believing I might be an ancestor. These crazy ladies, he might be thinking, for not knowing that I am an ancestor. Then again, maybe he’s just happy to be fed.