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ENTER ETHEL MERMAN
August 1, 2005
 
My hummingbird visitor announces herself each time she appears -- not in sound, but by a charismatic taking of the stage, a quivering, almost-vertical pause in the air -- Here I am! -- to before going to work on the feeders.

What is your name? I asked her yesterday. She said nothing, visited each of the four feeders and an orange trumpet blossom, and then buzzed away.

I sipped my tea and waited. She comes about four times an hour, so I knew she'd be back. And soon she was, with the same electric pause as she surveyed the garden of hummingbird delights under the arbor. Here I am again!

But what is your name?

Oh, sorry. I'm Ethel.

That's an odd name for a hummingbird, I thought to myself, but it would have been a rude thing to say to her, so instead I asked, Have you a last name?

Merman. Ethel Merman. You?

Uh, I'm Barbara. Barbara Crafton. Ethel Merman was a really odd name for a hummingbird.

Say, this sugar water is really swell.

Swell? She talked a little like Ethel Merman. Well, I'm glad you like it.

Oh, yeah. Me, I eat whatever isn't nailed down, ya know? Always hungry.,/i>

,i>Me, too,,/i> I said, patting my own stomach. But you don't gain.

Heck, no. You don't gain weight doing what I do. You wanna gain weight, don't be a hummingbird.

You know, there used to be a singer named Ethel Merman. Did you ever hear of her?

Can't say I ever did. Was she any good?

She sure was. She had a tremendous voice.

Yeah? I'll have to look her up. I sing a little myself, once in a while.

You do? I'd love to hear you.,/i> But Ethel didn't answer. She was gone as suddenly as she had appeared.

Well, at least I know her name. Maybe many hummingbirds are deceased celebrities on a second tour of life, given a chance to see what it's like to be small. Their tiny size doesn't change much for them, really: they still have great charisma, effortlessly drawing human attention to themselves, no matter what they are doing. The conversation stops when one appears, and nobody can stop looking at them as long as they are here. I haven't heard this Ethel sing, but my guess is she's not the belter Ethel Merman was.

So size isn't everything. Neither is volume. Some of us are just amazing, no matter what.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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