In my almost twenty years of teaching, I’ve acquired a small posse of pink flamingos — although some might argue that’s an understatement. Either way, suffice it to say, I’ve got a few flocking flamingos.
My collection began serendipitously, like all truly great collections do. I was in my first year of teaching, and while driving to work, I would pause at a stop sign in the dip of a hill on a back country road. And there, on a corner lot of the four-way, sat a yellow clapboard house with white trim. Average enough. But what this house had like no other house I’d ever seen before was a passel of pink flamingos throwing a party.
Shit you not.
Now this was way before smart phones with cameras, but gosh, I wish I’d had one. Still, picture it if you will…
Ten or twelve pink plastic flamingos arranged in an artistic display of garden-party fun. Some wore hats, some wore beads. There was one in a Hawaiian shirt, another in a frothy green boa. There were umbrella drinks staked in front of them, and they were clustered in groups, mixing and flamingling. A couple were even making out in the back (which made for a whole lotta necking). It was a technicolor tableau of tacky plastic yard art.
The first time I saw them, I stopped the car, enthralled. I couldn’t wait to get to school and tell my kids about them.
Then, when the following Monday rolled around — Heavens to Birdsy, there was a new scene arranged! A fishing expedition this time, complete with rods and reels and a couple canoes. The flamingos wore miniature vests and fishermen hats. There was a cooler of beer on a bench and a trawl line with silver plastic fish hanging off the back.
I knew flamingos ate fish, but with such skill! such accoutrement!
Every Monday of that school year, a new tableau was unveiled, leaving me smiling ear to ear. There were barbecues, pool parties, trick or treat costumes, even a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer and a red-foam clown-nosed Rudolf in the lead. I don’t think Christmas as a kid ever got me as excited as those Monday mornings my first year teaching.
My students were as obsessed as I was and never failed to ask about the flamingos’ latest exploits. The last week of school, as my seventh-graders wrapped up their year, they also wrapped up flamingos in tissue paper and gave them to me as gifts. Book marks, magnets and tchotchkes and homemade art.
In nearly twenty years, my desk and bookshelf behind it have become littered with flamingo fare, which eventually spilled over into my home and my friends and family. I’ve been gifted with stuffed ones, resin ones, painted ones, glow-in-the-dark ones. I’ve got bags and hats and earrings and even a gaudaciously-sparkly Vegas-style bracelet my sister discovered for me. In Vegas.
My husband found me a phone cover, my girls gifted me an apron. My mother got me kitchen towels, friends give me coasters and cups, throw pillows and blankets. An artist friend painted some on canvas and wind chimes. Kids get them for me as ornaments every Christmas.
For my fiftieth birthday, Mike surprised me with a lawn-full of the yard birds wishing me the happiest of “Flocking Birthdays.” After that, I obtained a pair of classic ones perched on metal sticks in pots for my deck — the kind your great Aunt Pearline had grazing in her blue hydrangeas in front of her trailer in Euharlee in the 70s. Heck, she still has them to this day. And now, so do I. Plus a zombie skeleton one just for Halloween.
That distant flamingo house party at the four-way stop fizzled out long, long ago, but it started a trend. A collection. An obsession.
I for-sure wouldn’t say my collection’s complete. I mean, sure…
I’ve got tumblers and coasters aplenty. I’ve got whirligigs, wind chimes galore. You want flamingo shirts? Not quite twenty. But who cares? No big deal, I want more…
I want to do what those people did. I want to make, want to make some parties, put all my birds out on display, kick up their bills…
Out where you walk, out where you run, out where you’ll drive by them just for fun,
… partying free, please let them be part of your world.
Corny, I know… but still. All those years ago, in perhaps my hardest teaching year of all, with seventh-grade students battling hormones and each other on the daily — flamingos brought me (and them) great joy.
And now, in the midst of all this coronavirus craziness, with all of us battling depression and each other, why not plant a little pink flamingo joy on a patch of lawn at our own pale yellow house?
So to my husband, if you’re reading this — I may have just ordered a 50-pack of powder pink flamingos on Amazon. We’re officially flocked.
And neighbors — please don’t call the cops or the HOA on me. As far as I’ve heard, there’s no social distancing restrictions on pink plastic yard art.