“Are you really going to the reunion dressed like that?” came the voice of my imaginary friend from the back seat of the trike. The very same voice that shouts into my ear, “Don’t you think the engine is running a little rough?” every time I fly low over the water, or just above the tree tops. That’s the trouble with imaginary friends. They’re always into your business. “Zip it, Truman.” I replied. “ It’s the only clean costume I’ve got left. And besides, it’s only been two weeks since I last saw the chicks.”
This project is nothing if not an endless series of reunions; not just with the chicks, but with crew members, campers, migration stopover hosts, project partners, and pieces of geography. And let’s face it, reunions are just an essential thread in the fabric of any migration. I’ve spent the last two weeks moving campers and my car to Wisconsin, seeing family and friends, and generally making my annual attempt at maintaining what could best be described as a tenuous grip on a real life , perhaps as insurance for the day when this project ends and I need one…while also serving as a reminder of how important it is not to forget the combination of the lock on your storage container.
Reunions, of course, are all about change. But nothing changes faster…not even the weather…than a Whooper chick. They grow at an incredible rate. If my aunts and uncles grew at the same rate, they’d be flying helicopter tours up my Uncle Ray’s nose and discontinuing them to the depths of my Aunt Paulin’s cleavage for fear of disturbing the condors. It’s all relative, I guess, but then relatives are usually what reunions are all about.
Last Tuesday was Chick Reunion Day. When the pen doors flew open and the chicks spilled out onto the runway , I was shocked to see they had grown so much that they resembled a pack of Velociraptors awaiting a curtain call for their big scene in “Jurassic Park 3”. What have Geoff and Richard been feeding them anyway, I wondered? Small children and radioactive isotopes?!?! Pretty soon we’re going to need a bigger pen, trade this trike in on a 747, and exchange my puppet for a whip and a chair while screaming, “Back, Zelda….Back!” at the beginning of each training session. Suddenly, I know what it feels like to be a meal worm.
“Hey Gang… remember me? I come in Peace!” The chicks just stood staring at me and I would swear I heard #4 say to #5, “Just look at that pathetic little begger would ya. He SHRUNK!”
Guess that’s the thing about reunions…nobody can expect to break into a time capsule without shedding a little blood. But reunions do bridge the crease between our shadow and our reflection, revealing more about ourselves than about others, and though that may not always be an easy pill to swallow, it does make for one hell of a ride.
My heart was in my throat as I stepped down hard on the gas pedal and roared down the runway, managing to stay just inches ahead of the thundering herd.
That’s when I heard #10 call over to #11, “Wonder what he tastes like?”