For years I have thought about her—Bird Lady from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
When I watched the movie as a kid, I loved her character. I loved that she cared for the city birds, and that they seemed to care for her. I loved the warmth of her presence.
In the movie, she has no name (though she of course has a name, and not naming her is absolutely tragic), but is played by Irish actress Brenda Fricker, who has been in more than thirty films and was the first Irish actress to win an academy award.
The first lesson we learn is, of course, not to judge people right away based on circumstances or appearances. The very person that Kevin was afraid of at first ends up being the person who saves him (not unlike his neighbor Old Man Marley in the first movie who also saves him).
But their short-lived relationship is also just deeply human. They have a conversation about love and trust, about broken hearts and loneliness. She shares with Kevin that she once loved someone who stopped loving her back, and that she was forgotten.
Kevin says to her: If you need somebody to trust, it can be me. I won't forget to remember you.
Bird Lady responds: Don't make promises you can't keep.
This is the lesson learned again and again, and it’s the exact risk we take every time we step out of ourselves into love with someone else. We risk being forgotten. We risk getting our hearts broken. We risk everything for the chance to be seen and to see someone else.
Maybe that’s one reason we have animal friends in our lives—someone who will love us well, daily, without condition, someone we can practice loving back, just like Bird Lady had the pigeons of New York as her companions all those years.
You don’t have to look far to feel the toxicity of this moment. As I’ve written before, we are all personally and collectively raw right now, and that rawness, the grief, is spilling out into every space we inhabit, whether we know it or not.
We have all broken each other’s hearts, and we have all been heartbroken in one way or another. We are all still small children trying to heal, trying to understand the big world. We are all both Lost Kevin and Lonely Bird Lady, trying to find our way back to ourselves, trying to find our way back to each other.
During the holiday season, we are asked to embrace the magic, and it doesn’t take me long to cry during a holiday movie or as we put up the Christmas tree. I am well aware of the deep grief and also bits of joy that exist this time of year.
So this holiday, don’t be afraid to embrace your humanness. Don’t be afraid to say what you’re scared of and to name what you’re grateful for. Don’t be afraid to dream and to explore, and don’t be afraid to find out what’s on the other side of every question.
I am thinking of this gorgeous print that hangs in my bathroom, one of many pieces by artist Morgan Harper Nichols now sold at Target. It reads I am choosing to trust I have not been forgotten.
That’s a lot of what this season is about, too, trusting that somehow, in some way, we are held, even in ways we cannot understand—even if we are held by our very selves.
Maybe the magic is really in the everydayness, in the quiet moments, in the peace, in the deep breath and the being seen and known. Maybe when we take the risk to love ourselves well, that’s magic, too.
So, at the end of the day, don’t forget to remember someone else.
At the end of the day, don’t forget to remember yourself.
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Onward, friends, together.