“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;
toot toot CHIRRRRP CHIRRRP;
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.