To Kill a Mockingbird

“Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it.
“Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

A mockingbird has taken up residence in our neighborhood. I finally understand why Atticus had to tell people NOT to kill mockingbirds… you know, aside from all the literary and metaphorical implications, of course.

In case you’re either not familiar with the mockingbird’s cacophonous call, too lazy to look up bird calls on Google, or prefer my hyperbolic and hardly technical description, you should know that mockingbirds are nature’s car alarm salesmen (salebirds?). Every 5 to 10 seconds, they change their song:

Beeeeep, beep, beep, beeeeeep, beep, beep;

WEE-woo WEE-woo WEE-woo;

(in rapid succession) tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet;

awk awk AWWWWK awk awk AWWWK;


chip yip yip chip…

Bird watchers, Harper Lee, and others are under the impression that this qualifies as “music.” And I guess I agree (if you’re using a very loose definition of music). It’s as the saying goes: one person’s squawking is another’s Justin Bieber.

I recognize that the mockingbird is a wonderful creature, with an impressive ability to mimic other birds and sounds. I’ve read that if you whistle a tune, the mockingbird is likely to pick it up and sing it back to you, like a feathery recorder that might also poop on your windshield.

The problem is, mockingbirds like to sing all night long, starting anytime between 10pm to 3am. So EVERY NIGHT for the last two weeks, I’ve heard that annoying bird outside my window. As you already know, I’m sadly not much of an animal person. I wouldn’t say that the mockingbird is my mortal enemy, but we are at the very least, frenemies.

I also read somewhere online that the male mockingbird sings extra loud during the spring to attract a female. So unless he finds a mate soon or gets a tinder profile, there’s not much I can do. [Contrary to what the title of this post says, I’m not going to kill a mockingbird. I just wrote that for the shock value, and to lure in some unsuspecting students who are copping out on a book report (Shame on you).]

Then, a few nights ago, I didn’t hear the mockingbird. 

Instead, I heard my neighbors having a loud party. They were blasting techno/electronic music, so loud I could hear the speakers reverberating. They also had a terrible DJ, who kept stopping songs midway through. While everyone shouted in disapproval, a few houses down, I quietly hoped someone had filed a noise complaint. Then, just as I thought the party was over, the DJ would pick a different song and start it back up, much to my dismay. It’s moments like this one that make me contemplate whether I’m actually a grumpy, old woman caught in a 23-year-old’s body. 

The bird came back the next day as if the party had never upstaged its nightly performance, and I was almost a little glad to hear its song. Almost. I’m not saying the party made me any more fond of the mockingbird. More than anything, I realized I need to invest in ear plugs or better headphones.


8 thoughts on “To Kill a Mockingbird

  1. We had some road work going on near our house and every morning we’d hear the beeping of the trucks backing up. I couldn’t believe it when I heard it on a Saturday too! I was *thisclose* to calling the city to complain when I saw the empty trucks. Sure enough – it was a mockingbird imitating their beep, beep, beep.
    Ear plugs are a good idea!

  2. on’ thin we have them here, but I do understand the annoyance factor of repetitive animal noises. Love your writing style, light and flowing with a great strong line all the way through it.

    • Thank you! I appreciate your comment. Sometimes I don’t manage to get enough distance from my writing before I post it, so then I’m left wondering, “Did that flow well? Was it any good?” I guess those are pretty normal self doubts.

  3. Being European, I never heard a Mockingbird until I lived in Massachusetts for a year (the whole of last year, as it happens). I became bewitched and, like you, finally I understood Atticus 360 degrees instead of the 350 degrees that comes of reading and re-reading Harper Lee’s masterpiece from aged 15 which is far too many decades for a poor mathmatician to count. I loved this tale. I love your style which I have barely just stumbled on via the delicious and delightful and downright irreverent Brian. I am glad and I follow with pleasure to find out more 😊

    • I love Massachusetts! Boston is one of my favorite cities. I’m glad you got to spend a year in the US.

      I also read To Kill a Mockingbird ages ago, so in a way, it was nice to be reminded of that great book. And you’re right; they really are bewitching birds. A tad bothersome but so interesting too.

      And yes, Brian is awesome! I’m very grateful to him for sharing my blog on his site. He really has a knack for connecting bloggers too, which I greatly appreciate.

      • He’s a keeper! And so are the Mockingbirds (even when they irritate) …. I hope to be back in New England for a long stint later this year. And I’m very pleased to be making your acquaintance 🙂

  4. Pingback: A Motel, a Dollhouse, and College Dorm All in One | Make the Welkin Dance

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