Many families enjoy telling folk stories of their heritage: some tales threatening, some sad, some fun. There was sadly more ‘sad’ and ‘threatening’ than fun tales in my family (I mean, consider the object lesson. When dealing with a ‘handful’ 24/7, isn’t terrorism a tempting option? At worst: revenge proved sweet…. at best: the possibility of tempering the Little Beast.)
But one story stood out from all the rest: my Dad’s ‘old country’ memory of storks.
Dad was raised (until age 8 when he journeyed to America) in the small town of Ploesti in Rumania. A town which apparently REALLY knew how to ‘make lemons from lemonade’.
At certain times of year it was beset upon blessed by STORKS (…we can neatly see how the stork bit got going: it obviously originated in The Old Country, and handily circumvented the entire need for a ‘birds and bees’ lecture.).
Legend had it that the stork was good luck ONLY if it chose to roost on your chimney.
I could readily see how THAT evolved because the Chimney was the only heat source for the house and if you had Good Luck roosting on it, obviously fire-making was halted for the duration of said Roost – but “feeling lucky” was obviously a winning take on actual reality (freezing your butt off because of a bird.*) (*Note: The resident Nave of Nature proclaims said Storks ONLY roost in summer. A fact unmentioned by Websters, Encyclopedia Britannica, or any other reference resource of the era.)
Once I was able to discern the difference between ‘roast’ and ‘roost’ (semantics DO count!), I became uncommonly obsessed with Storks.
First of all, I read everything our local library had on Storks. Which sadly consisted of: ½ a page in Encyclopedia Britannica, a quick mention in The Complete Book of Birds (complete with half photo for the stork-challenged) and an errant recipe in ‘All About World Game Cookery’, a title stealthily consulted in the public library’s admittedly-forbidden Adult Section (…I was NOT supposed to be trolling for facts in the Adult Section but gee: a researcher’s gotta do what a researcher’s gotta do…)
NONE of which answered my burning question: HOW could I get a stork to roast – I mean, roost – on OUR chimney?
I was totally convinced we needed Good Luck. ‘Cause then I could get a pink Schwinn bicycle. And Dad would definitely love the stork, given his heritage and fond remembrances. ‘Cause we never built fires in our chimney. So the Stork would be BOTH lucky AND safe.
All I needed was a stork.
Mom says she observed me out in the backyard sitting stock still for 15 minutes, staring up at the sky (Note: I was NOT staring at the sky. I was staring at OUR ROOF.)
She came barreling out of the house convinced I’d had a brain hemorrhage or something (I was indignant. It wasn’t like I NEVER STOPPED MOVING. I mean, there was nighttime and sleep, for two solid examples. Admittedly punctuated by sessions of Midnight Prowling.)
I loftily informed Mom I was “planning a surprise for Dad” and she got a REAL worried look on her face. (Apparently my past surprises* weren’t as welcome as I’d thought.) *…like, what I did with my ‘kids swimming pool’…..
No, I was busy musing on Pressing Issues of the Universe, to wit:
1. How do I climb up to the steep roof on the 2nd floor of our house? SOMEONE must’ve done it at some point, the presence of shingles being proof. But my experience at the time didn’t include knowledge of 50-foot ladders so I logically concluded that somehow flight was involved. And Santa STILL refused to respond to the “Wings: 1 Set” request on my annual Xmas list. It was a conundrum indeed.
2. Presuming Problem #1 was resolved, what would attract a Stork?? I surely didn’t want errant birds – say a flock of pesky crows – to settle on our chimney. (Being blackbirds, I suspected THEY would just bring Bad Luck. Obviously, no pink Schwinn.) And the bird books were sadly lacking in actual useful facts (as USUAL): i.e. there was nary a mention of Stork Food. Just the usual ya-ya-ya about what Storks looked like (…I knew THAT) and where they roosted (…and I duly noted the glaring omission of CHIMNEYS as a roosting choice. The available literature was SORELY LACKING. As usual.)
3. Presuming #1 and #2 were resolved – how long did the Stork have to actually roost to bring us Luck? Was it a cumulative thing, or a one-time blessing? I mean, could I expect a pink Schwinn, a Science Lab Kit (complete with deliciously forbidden explosive materials), and a Malibu Ken hot rod in succession if the Good Luck Stork stayed for an entire MONTH?
Always on Diane’s Xmas list/never received!
4. What about Stork Poop? I had been taught about the economic potentials of Bat Guano, so it stood to reason that Stork Poop would prove a lucrative side-business. (…being from a relatively poor family, the Money Angle was always of interest). And knowing how much larger Storks were than Bats, I had already calculated a MUCH higher volume of poop and thus a LOT more earning potential. It was gonna be a GOLD MINE!
And THAT was why my mother caught me in uncharacteristic motionless contemplation.
Upon being pressed (threatened, actually, if truth be told) to reveal my innermost musings, however, Mother responded with a decided lack of useful information or support. In fact, shoulders shaking, she turned back to her housework and left me to my ponderings. It was quite puzzling: with so much potential for Luck literally flying by overhead, how could she (unhelpfully) “leave me to figger it out”?
I never got on the roof (…apparently Mom wasn’t worried. They’d childproofed the roof access before my birth. Likely a portent of impending disaster was involved).
So I never got my Stork.
Or my pink Schwinn.
Or my Stork Poop Factory.
But, I never felt I had a deprived childhood. Despite the glaring pink Schwinn absence. I had plenty of books which thoroughly immersed me in other worlds. I had like an acre of backyards to play in (if you didn’t count the inconvenience of fencing, which was NO barrier to me!) and Mom had generously produced a new toy for me after 1.5 years in the form of a kid sister, who assumed several roles in my life as: accomplice, blame-absorber (before she could talk that is; which quickly evolved into the less desirable role of ‘tattle-tale’), and cheerleader.
Still. When geese flew by honking over the rooftops I, even years later, looked longingly aloft and pondered the next inevitable question:
Would a Roasting GOOSE substitute bring good luck too?? (I still had a little semantics issue with ‘roast’ and ‘roost’)
Either way, note the facts: one of my best schemes for Luck and Wealth was thwarted by unenthusiastic Parental Units and Complete Lack of Support. As usual. Still, I had been well trained in making Lemons from Lemonade.
Culinary lessons began the following month. I dutifully learned All About Roasting from Mom, who supervised my every move.
And taking a clue from my Creative Writing Teacher, I impulsively decided to spice up the results of my cooking efforts to impress my father with my culinary prowess.
As I proudly set my first roast before him, I christened it “Roast Stork Roosting on A Chimney of Potatoes”.
It was the Best. Chicken. Ever.