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Hubby Hobby: She Finds It's for the Birds

April 27, 1993|DIANNE KLEIN

We live in suburbia, in a house similar to the other ones around it, with a tame park nearby, and sidewalks, and "no parking" signs, and one of those neighborhood-watch notices that are supposed to scare away crooks, and a communal longing for a speed bump that will save our small children and smaller animals.

It can get, you know, a little confining.

So I am giving my husband the benefit of the doubt.

He's taken up a hobby. He feeds birds.

Truth is, at first I was a little concerned about this. I've never personally known a man who feeds birds, and does not mumble to himself, or wear cardigan sweaters in July, or the remains of his breakfast on his chin.

Understand that my husband does none of this, yet.

It's just that hobbies, in general, worry me. Only people who are searching for something take up a hobby. What else would possess someone to, say, collect beer bottles or play golf?

These are people who are about to blow.

But then I thought of Joey. I thought, "Would Joey Buttafuoco, who was obviously casting about for something more to his life, have taken up bird feeding?" Would Mary Jo have known about it? Amy? Surely it would have been mentioned on "Geraldo," or been featured in one of the made-for-TVs.

And it hasn't been, yet.

So I figure I'm safe. I figure that maybe this bird feeding thing is nothing. Maybe my husband just bought his feeder to relieve a little, um, stress.

Nothing like watching a few happy, chirpy, unencumbered, wildly promiscuous birds feeding at the trough to make you forget your own worries, I always say.

Not that my husband consulted with me about this. Which was fine. I didn't need to know. And this is not the type of thing that we talk about, anyway.

He wants to talk about those kinds of things, he can go to a shrink who'd presumably be one of those understanding, non-judgmental types who would listen to his inner most fears and worries, about you know, this mid-life crisis business, without thinking, "Oh my God, what will it be next time, fishing equipment ?"

What I'm saying here is that we are happy, my husband and I. Together. The man wants to feed birds, that's fine with me.

Fact is, when he rigged up the thing in the back, just outside the kitchen window, I was kind of curious myself. I wondered when it would all start .

The birds, I mean. When would they come? How did Kevin Costner know when he built that baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield that people would show, regardless of whether they were dead or not?

Not that my husband is Kevin Costner (although in a certain light, you can see a resemblance), or that he's hearing voices or anything. (In my opinion, once voices are involved, a shrink is definitely in order, but hey, we're talking bird feeding here.)

And the man has not taken up with an armed teen-aged girl and he has no plans to plow under the back patio for a baseball diamond, far as I know.

So, anyway, we waited. They didn't come. We waited some more. Nada.

(Apparently our back yard is not in the flight path, so advertising wouldn't have helped, either.)

Then, one morning, they showed . I mean, we're talking Alfred Hitchcock and that movie that forever altered my idea of birds as something that you'd want on your shoulders, or in your back yard, or maybe in your entire community even.

But I am aware that that was the movies. And this is real life.

So naturally, my husband immediately went out and bought an additional bird feeder, and the big value pack of birdseed, and a huge container to keep it in. Real life for my husband is warehouse shopping.

And he was . . . thrilled. The birds! The chirping! The fun of determining just what type of avians were paying us a call! Is that a crow? No. Robin? Definitely not. Vulture? Let me look that one up. . . .

But then the birds started taking my husband's largess for granted.

Oh, at first they were appreciative, all right. Happily guzzling and flinging bird seed all over the patio. Fighting among themselves for the best spot. No doubt talking up my husband as the selfless do-gooder that he appeared.

Still, you know how that goes. You give someone a handout and then they want another one, and another, and then they start bringing their friends and their in-laws and they've got to have theirs and pretty soon, they're all demanding free dental insurance.

And I've sensed--how should I say?--a certain loss of enchantment in my husband lately. The bird feeders have been standing fallow for longer stretches, the chirping but a memory of more abundant times.

So I asked him the other morning what gives.

"The ingrates are eating too much," he said. "I'm only going to fill them up once every two days. Teach them a lesson."

As I said, I was never really worried about my husband. A hobby can never really change a man deep down.

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