Arising in pitch dark this morning, the quiet envelops me in a slight sense of unease. As the dawn progresses, the outlines of the leafless trees in the distance behind the houses become a hive of activity, with flocks of migrating birds preparing to take to the sky to continue their journey. As they separate from the trees en masse, it evokes memory of just such a morning 42 years ago.
Driving my regular and familiar route over the Meridian Street Bridge, just off Kessler Boulevard in Indianapolis, Indiana, on my way to North Central High School after dropping my younger brothers off at school, I was very tired, still very sleepy, having stayed up past 2am to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, one of my favorite scary movies. In the bleak, dark grey sky, with the morning light just beginning to glow, the outlines of the bare trees along the White River loomed, dark with enormous throngs of migrating birds and their discordant calling.
Just as my wheels hit the cement of the bridge, the birds rose up in a huge, dense, black swarm, flocking overhead and creating a fearsome racket, guaranteed to incite immediate terror in an exhausted teen’s brain. In an instant, I was Tippi Hedren, the birds diving and attacking my head, pecking at my eyes and skull, determined to get me.
Scant bridge traffic at that early hour is probably the only reason I survived “the attack” without consequence, as I squeezed tight my eyelids, heavy with eyeliner, shadow and mascara behind my half-inch thick glasses, pressed down on the pedal and sprinted across the expanse. As the cacophony receded, I slowly opened my eyes, everlastingly relieved and grateful still to be alive and all in one piece.
In a classic example of the resilience of youth, I continued on to school, business as usual and in the afternoon, drove the same route home in reverse, unconcerned as I approached the bridge. I still vividly recall, however, as I related my early morning nightmare to my late father, “the look”; you know, the one that speaks volumes in one short glance. “What the hell is wrong with you, staying up watching a scary movie half the night when you have to get your little brothers to school and be in class by 7:00 in the morning? And how could you just shut your eyes and hope you’d make it across that damned bridge without killing yourself or someone else? But I’m glad you’re safe and I still love you, my favorite [only] daughter.”