National Review’s Jonah Goldberg recently reposted a link to “The Hop Bird.” It is an endearing tribute to his father that he wrote after Sidney Goldberg died four years ago. Goldberg is thoroughly likable, and it seems that he follows his old man in this; reading about “the hop bird” gladdens me, knowing that such a man existed. Goldberg is certainly fortunate to have such a fine family, and he is quite aware of it.
Goldberg recounts the story that inspired his article’s title. It made my heart smile.
As Goldberg family legend has it, my parents were engaged after only a few dates, and mom fell for dad after a daytime date at the Central Park Zoo.
My Dad, already in his late thirties and a respected editor, took Mom on a daytime trip to the zoo. Now, for a gal like Mom, this wasn’t exactly her idea of an exciting date. But she was intrigued. He brought her straight away to the old birdhouse, which hasn’t been there for decades. At the main birdcage he told her to look off to one side where an un-presupposing small bird was standing alone. It took my Mom a few moments to find it. Keep your eye on that one, Dad told her, as she was still wondering what this was all about. And she waited. And waited. What was the deal?
And then, suddenly, the bird hopped.
It was a humble hop, all things considered, but a distinctly purposeful one. And, then nothing. Another longish wait. And then: another hop. And that was it. That’s all it did: Hop, after long intervals and for no apparent reason. It was, as we Goldbergs have called it ever since, “the hop bird.” And my Mom thought it was hilarious. She laughed and laughed and laughed. She still laughs about it today.
If you didn’t have it pointed out to you, you might never have noticed the hop bird. He didn’t look particularly special. He didn’t have showy feathers or huge wings, like many of the other birds in the cage. But he had this hop. And he hopped as he saw fit, on his own schedule, to his own inner clock and, while he surely noticed the other birds, he was content to be unlike them. He was, simply, the hop bird. There was no explaining him. Either you got him, or you didn’t. And if you got him, you loved him.
And my Mom got him.
How extraordinarily ordinarily human! Such stories, though common and seemingly unimportant, justify mankind’s existence. For in them, we see how human beings acknowledge the splendor of being with wonder, amusement, and love.
Sidney Goldberg, may his memory be a blessing.