Those Effing Blue Jays

It has been hot this week—low to mid-nineties with high humidity. I know, for those of you living in Memphis or other summer furnaces, that sounds like a lovely spring day. But for those of us in New England, it’s hot.WIN_20160726_09_29_48_Pro One of my favorite things to do in the summer—early in the morning before it’s too hot—is to sit on our front steps with coffee, be as still as possible, and watch the birds devour their daily allotment of bird suet about ten feet away. As I was doing this a couple of mornings ago, a squirrel sauntered across the bottom of our steps about three feet away. He looked at me with a “what are you doing here?” glance, then headed toward the feeders in hopes of some leftovers on the ground. He was oblivious to a leaf and twig stuck behind his right ear. Then a good-sized blue-and-white bird flew inches from my head as it swooped toward the food. “I just got buzzed by one of those fucking blue jays,” I told Jeanne when I went inside.fucking blue jay

Although Jeanne has been known to drop an f-bomb or two, she is not in favor of indiscriminate profanity. She occasionally cringes when listening to her oldest stepson’s discourse; his go to adjective is “fucking.” F-bombs should be saved for the most appropriate situations, such as responses to Donald Trump’s latest tweet or describing the thirty-first person to cut you off in a given day on the road. One might think that dropping an f-bomb on an innocent bird taking a short cut to the feeder is a waste of an adjective that should be used sparingly, but Jeanne laughed at my description—she knew that I was referring to a story from a friend many years ago that has become iconic in our household.

Rodney Delasanta was one of best teachers and colleagues I ever had the privilege of knowing. One of my mentors when I first arrived at Providence College twenty-two years ago, Rodney was a true Renaissance man—rodneya Chaucer scholar, family man, sports fan (especially the Red Sox), award-winning accordion player (really), and classical music aficionado. The accordion business made him a regular recipient of the latest accordion joke from me. “What is the definition of a gentleman? A man who knows how to play the accordion—and doesn’t.” Once Rodney responded with an even better one: An accordion player is trying to find the location of his latest gig in downtown Manhattan. He parks his station wagon on the street with his accordion in the back, locks it, and sets out on foot to find the address. Upon returning to his vehicle he is crestfallen to find that the back window has been broken—and even more crestfallen to find five more accordions in the back of the station wagon!

Rodney was a proud father and an even prouder grandfather. His wife Frances, and equally proud grandmother, often babysat her three-year-old grandson during the day while his mother, an elementary school teacher, was at work. Frances and her grandson frequently enjoyed sitting on the enclosed back porch, watching many varieties of birds visit the feeders in the back yard. One day a large and aggressive blue jay swooped in for lunch, scattering any number of smaller and less obnoxious birds in every direction. This set off a conversation.blue jay mourning dove

Grandson: Nana, why is that blue and white bird so nasty?

Grandmother: Well, blue jays aren’t very nice birds. They are bossy and pushy and don’t care very much about the other birds.

Grandson: (after some reflection) Those fucking blue jays!

Grandmother: WHAT DID YOU SAY??

Grandson: Those fucking blue jays!

Frances, of course, immediately reported the activities of her innocent but foul-mouthed grandson to his mother when she arrived to retrieve him at the end of the day. Aghast, she explained to Frances that her son must have heard a little too much of her exasperated monologue as she tried to get his snow boots and paraphernalia on that morning when she was running very late. darndest“Out of the mouths of babes,” as they say—it’s tough to tell your kid that he must never use such and such a word when the first time he hears it is coming out of your own mouth.

Rodney loved this story and, as a natural story-teller and ham, always reduced everyone who heard it to uproarious laughter. Rodney passed away a few years ago; at his wake, Jeanne and I met his grandson, now in his teens, for the first time. “Oh, you’re the grandson in the blue jay story!” Jeanne said, and he knew exactly what she was talking about. The story is one example of the wonderful randomness of day-to-day life and a reminder to appreciate the unexpected. The comment from Rodney’s grandson has provided me with yet another go-to phrase to use in my self-talk, a phrase whose meaning is known only to me. Someone is being a self-centered jerk? “Stop being a fucking blue jay,” I think. torontoThe baseball team from north of the border just kicked the ass of my beloved Red Sox? “Those fucking Blue Jays.” It’s worth noting, of course, that blue jays are beautiful birds. The vast majority of feathered creatures who visit our feeders are unremarkable—sparrows, wrens, chickadees, and other little birds that biologists sometimes refer to collectively as “little brown jobs.” A blue jay swooping in brings a welcome infusion of color and individuality, even though it is by nature a jerk. I’m reminded of the well-known hymn:

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Even the fucking blue jays.

8 thoughts on “Those Effing Blue Jays

  1. David Kennedy

    Bravo! I have loads of those “fucking bluejays” who invariably are at my feeders and “rule the roost” forgive the expression! A wonderful pass time it is “watching the birds” at my feeders where I’m always looking to learn something. I’m beginning to believe the thing I’ve learned the most is stay out of the way of the “fucking bluejays”! Just their “shrill voice” has the message of “take warning, here I come”! Should send them to the mid-east! Notice I answered your blog at length which is a nuance; amazing what you can do when you’re “out of work” – I say damn it! And yes, I too love that hymn – one can tell we’re both “organists”!

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  2. Suzanne Fournier

    I remember this story well, Vance! I’ve just forwarded your post to Rodney’s daughter, who will also enjoy it and share with her family.

    Reply
  3. Frances G Delasanta

    Hi Vance.
    I just read your engaging and delightful column about the infamous “blue jays” which was forwarded to me from daughter Deborah who received it from Suzanne Fournier. My utterly adorable grandson Justin, 3 or 4 years old at the time is now a 33 year old young man but it is amazing how that story lives on. One thing I should like to correct for what it’s worth is the fact that when he said those words I turned to him and very quietly said “what did you say, honey?”and made nothing of it. He looked me straight in the eye {we were sitting down on the porch} and repeated “those f…blue jays, nana”. Needless to say I was shocked but made no sign of it…..but I did have a talk with his mother when she came to pick him up.
    In fact my sweet Justin when he was 5 years old once again created this second classic story! Lisa and husband Hank {they are since long divorced} owned a cute little house on Echo Lake where they remained all summer. Justin and his younger sister Jessica spent summers in this lovely setting. One day late spring Llisa took a ride down to the lake house with the children and when the three of them walked out on the dock saw something floating in the water. When Lisa realized what it was, she quickly brought the children back to the car. It was a dead dog who apparently fell through the ice and drowned during the winter.
    A few months later Lisa brought Justin to school for a “kindergarten screening”. She and Justin were seated in a room with a person at a desk who would ask the child a few questions. Justin is quite bright and responded very well. But when the person at the desk asked, “what floats?” out of the sweet child’s mouth came “a dead dog”. LIsa was horrified but not quite as much as the person behind the desk. Of course Lisa was so embarrassed and explained what had preceded his remark. Evidently, even though several months had passed, the little one never forgot that horrible site.
    This is the end of my grandson’s precious stories. He is the oldest of seven grandchildren. Each with different stories of their childhoods. We do enjoy repeating them once in a while when we are all together.

    Thank you again for the wonderful memory,

    Fran Delasanta

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  4. Karen

    I’m a F’k’in Blue Jays Fan, a bold raucous Christian one … I’ve loved baseball for years, maybe it is the idea we have to really fight to make it home to heaven. So I love the idea of stealing a base or two to get home. Up here our population could be fit in NYcity, so the idea of having a baseball league of our own is impossible, we don’t have the money to support such stadiums that would need to be all domed, etc. Last year we actually witness our Blue Jay club go the extra mile to purchase some top of the league players, and that is why we all went fan crazy suddenly…. And the reason fans were so wild through the Texas series, was because of a very rude thing a Texas pitcher did to us fans. So it went viral and really caused us Jay fans to be even more of a raucous !!!! LOL Here are a couple things you might not know about Blue Jays they are bold and maybe rude, but it is because bigger birds of pray, like hawks and eagles love them, for they hunt around bird feeders for their food too, and would rather take the effort to take a Jay of more ounces of meat, then try for a smaller bird, who can hope into smaller hiding places. This is why most Jays come in groups, a party is what they are called because of their bold raucous way, then they take what they want and fly away.

    But I’ve witness ways Jays help all the other neighbourhood smaller birds, they will actually protect them with their loud calls, when eagles or hawks come near. And have even witness a jay protecting a smaller bird on the ground, when a cat was ready to get it to eat it. So in all they are a good bird to have around, along with their beautiful Blue colour.

    And the way U.S.A. fans chant USA USA when they want to beat up our Jay team, you would think all the USA fans were really the bigger bully bird anyway. Love thy neighbour is what the big brothers of north America should be happy that MLB gives us one team to play ball with you all. = )

    big hugs, Love in Christ

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      1. Karen

        Well I think you have become my most favourite American … lol … Thanks for sharing that post, enjoy reading your thoughts!

        Big Hugs; from North of the border, and sister of our Lord ….

        oh OH .. P.S = I so love Mookie Betts … he’s my favourite player outside of our Blue jays team. Been hoping for his success since April, along with the hopes for our team’s success. ….Just love that sweet little lift of his lip, when he comes to bat, and I’m disappointed he grew a moustache that covers it now.

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  5. Karen ( Just Believe )

    All through this evening’s game I thought of you Vance, since you are the only Red Sox fan I have come to connect with through the net. ((( I loved tonight’s game, we really need the wins, and I will be praying for tomorrow’s win, sorry. Cause you guys have the ALE already, and we need tomorrow too, to hope to keep the wild card win.

    But I have to tell you, I was in tears, when I heard our two fan bases cheering in the friendly fun way = that is what heaven is based on = where two foes join as one, in their opposing cheers, happy to be together, watching both their teams, play a great game !!!!

    LET’S GO RED SOX ~ Let’s Go Blue Jays ~ LET’S GO RED SOX ~ Let’s Go Blue Jays ~ LET’S GO RED SOX ~ Let’s Go Blue Jays ~ LET’S GO RED SOX ~ Let’s Go Blue Jays

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