The Cuckoo Bird
The Cuckoo Bird
The Cuckoo is a very silly bird and I find the specie particularly interesting, especially its behavior with its offspring. Cuckoos don’t bother building their own nests – they merely lay their eggs in the other birds’ nests. It can get more complicated from there.
Philip Larkin, an eminent writer in postwar England, was a national favorite poet who was commonly referred to as “England’s other Poet Laureate” until his death in 1985.
I find this poem by Philip Larkin to be extremely enlightening regarding the travails of parenting of which most of us suffer. It is in us all to screw up our kids unless we are very, very careful or just lucky. And even then chances are, you won’t escape doing so.
From “This Be The Verse,” By Philip Larkin (1922-1985)
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had, and add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn, By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern, And half at one anothers throats.
Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself.”
Escape and Survive
Escaping and surviving, survive and escape, are obviously synonymous. Escapes can come in many forms during a lifetime; surviving infancy for example, only then comes your childhood, the teenage years, becoming a young adult, and on to mid-life when finally, if you have survived all of these you try and survive being old.
We survive infancy because good parents are duty bound to look after our every need. Some are good at it and some not so, but they are solely responsible for our graduating from infancy into childhood. With fear placed at your doorstep or at the foot of your bed or perhaps under it, childhood can be both a very frightening and exciting endeavor. Consider our exposure to some of the classic Fairy Tales when young. For example; do you remember being read, “Fe Fi, Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman, be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread?” And who can ever forget poor Hansel and Gretel.
Fear does instill in us an instinct for survival in so many ways so perhaps it isn’t all bad. Parents don’t always escape their childhood without their own set of scars and more often than not pass them along to their offspring. My previous series of survival and escape stories were about the mix of an environment clashing with our nature that is all to do with our DNA; our inescapable biological make up. If you don’t know from where you came you could be in for some surprises. This was certainly true for me, not learning until I was 45 years old that I had been adopted and placed into someone else’s nest. Keep in mind the cuckoo bird metaphor enlisted here is meant as an endearment to another species quest for survival.
… from the start; The Primal Wound
Being born unwanted can ruin your day but it doesn’t have to ruin your life. I was not born out of wedlock but my potential future existence provoked the union for certain. It happens. My parents’ marriage dissolved soon after my birth. My mother, unloved and unsupported, was forced to make a decision not easy to make, to soldier on or find another nest and place me in it.
Enter the story of the Cuckoo Bird: Much like a cuckoo bird laying its egg in someone else’s nest, giving a child away to adoption can have a major effect on the unwanted newborn, inflicting on it what is suspected to be “The Primal Wound.”
The blessing of “The Primal Wound” as explored by Nancy Verrier in her book by the same name, can be doubly troubling. The book suggests a “primal wound” occurs when a mother and child are separated by adoption shortly after childbirth. A mother and child have a vital connected relationship, according to the books author, which is physical, psychological and physiological. The effects of disrupting such bonds is the focus of her book; making a study of adoption on the adoptee. A central theme is the assertion that all adoptees, even those adopted at birth, will retain memories of the separation from their birth mothers, and that regardless of the way the adoption is presented and handled by adoptive parents, these memories will have profound effects on the emotional and psychological well-being of the child and adult adoptee well into adulthood.
I was placed on the doorstep of the Hart families nest at 5217 32nd Street in West Detroit in early 1942. Even with the help of a few surviving relatives I haven’t put together exactly how and when I arrived there; the place where so many of my first memories accumulated. My experience there, as it relates to my sense of self, who I am now and who I thought I was then, of course changed. Learning, forty-five years late that I’d arrived from a different Mum than was led to believe, a cuckoo bird had dropped me off, I understood better the emotional turmoil I experienced during this period. My childhood then suddenly made more sense.
The Cuckoo… as cartoon figure
The depicted character in the Roadrunner cartoon series are a related species. Cuckoos are medium-sized birds that vary in size, it can be either the male or the female that is larger. One of the most important distinguishing features of the family are the feet, which have two inner toes pointing forward and the two outer backward. The common cuckoo is slender. Almost all species have long tails which are used for steering in terrestrial species and as a rudder during flight in the arboreal species. It is no wonder the Roadrunner was able to escape Mr. Wiley Coyote so effortlessly.