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Miracle on Madison Avenue

From walks in the woods to the busy streets of Manhattan, birds intrigued his late mother. Him, too.

An artist's rendering of a young man bending down to a red-winged blackbird

Rain drizzled down on my head. I was early for work and drinking a paper cup of coffee outside the office on Madison Avenue.

I couldn’t sleep the night before or the night before that. My mom had passed away about eight months ago, and though I hadn’t fallen apart completely, I had my good days and bad days. Most of all, I just missed her.

At night, when it was clear outside, I’d look up at the sky and try to imagine her looking down on me. But more often than not, I couldn’t quite get that picture in my head.

I took another sip of coffee and sighed. Everything else seemed to be falling into place in my life. I had a good job, a decent apartment and a girlfriend I cared about. Why couldn’t I have faith that Mom was up there smiling down on me?

From behind a potted plant I could see movement on the sidewalk. A black bird hopped a couple inches toward me. Even the most common birds held my attention, partly because my mom was an avid bird-watcher herself.

I had a photo she’d taken of her favorite–a red-winged blackbird–tacked up on the bulletin board over my desk at work.

In free moments, the picture took me back to happy afternoons with my mom, going for walks around the woods by our house and trying to name as many species of birds as we could.

I tried to identify this one.

The bird hopped right up to my shoe. Could it be? A red-winged blackbird! What an unlikely visitor in the middle of a big city. The bird hopped past me and continued along Madison Avenue.

I looked up at the sky and smiled. All those nights staring overhead, I’d missed the signs right on the ground in front of me.


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