There’s a Dead Bird in My Freezer

I know, you’re thinking …. Everyone has a dead bird in the freezer. Chicken. Turkey. Cornish hen. Even a Turducken More salt?  Parsley?(Google it!). But I’m talking bird as in sparrow (this is just a wild guess, remember, I grew up in the Bronx. A bird to me is either small – a sparrow – or large – a pigeon.).

Here’s the story. As Sophia used to say on “Golden Girls,” picture it. Day after Thanksgiving. Early afternoon. My two granddaughters are with me. The older one is watching a Netflix movie with a bag of popcorn by her side. The younger is outside with me, making Stone Soup with real stones (gravel from my courtyard) and chatting away about consistency and taste. Suddenly, I remember the dead bird in the courtyard and say, “Would you like to see something interesting?”

We walk over to where the bird lies. A few moments of silence, then, “Can I pick it up?” What to do? Remember, I’m the grandma, not the mother, so I make a quick decision and hope to not offend. “Sure, but let’s put on some latex gloves first.” That done, Lila gently picks it up, strokes the soft white fur on the belly and asks plaintively, “Can I keep it?” Now this is tricky. One wrong answer and I can become the Bad Grandma. I think quickly. After all, she lives in an apartment in the city. I don’t think this dead bird would be a welcome addition and the parents are nowhere to be consulted with!

So, I give her some possibilities: Maybe Mommy and Daddy will let you take it home but since you’re on your way to your other grandma in Mass., you might be able to take it there and leave it in the forest. Another possibility is leave Lila with birdit here and, if a mouse, cat or snake (all of which I’ve seen outside my home) doesn’t get to it first, you can revisit it next time you come. The third option comes to me in a haze of memories past:

When my daughter (Lila’s mom) was in college, our pet Catfish, Blacky, died. My daughter insisted on burying it and convinced me to put it in the freezer until her school break so she could perform the ceremony. I did, she did, and it’s buried in our yard. So I told Lila we could put it in the freezer.

We found a small “casket” and Lila wrote a note on the inside. I shoved it in the freezer, between lentil soup and a box of White Castle burgers. There it will stay until she comes again. I am certain it will be the first thing she’ll ask about!bird casket


  1. Oh this is so charming. And you even took pictures! Ha! I will definitely keep this solution in mind for my grand kids! I can’t wait to read the follow up Arlene! (Of course it only works for Grandmothers — thinking of all the critters my kids had — my freezer would have been filled to capacity!)

    • The original critter in the freezer was our dead Catfish, Blacky, who died while my daughter was away at college. We promised to save it for her for a disection and burial, so in the freezer he went!

      • Ha ha! Your family sounds as zany as mine, Arlene! LOL! I love that! 😀 And I’m assuming nobody mistook it for dinner, which is always a plus too! 😀

      • We did consider Blacky for dinner but sacrificed him in the name of Science.

      • Ha ha! I think science was indeed the best way to go with Blacky! 😀

  2. Linda Levine

    A dead bird is a metaphor for lost loves. Thank you so much for your understanding and clever posts. Larfry

  3. My Retirement Blog

    Dear Arlene. I laughed out loud at this post of yours. It shows just what we are sometimes called upon to do as grandparents. You never know what comes next out of their mouths do you? My little grandson (4) told me the other day he knew where he came from before he was in Mummy’s tummy. I held my breath waiting for the next line – we were in the supermarket! “I was in a jam jar”. I still havn’t worked that one out.

    • I’d love to know where his insight came from!

  4. Awwwww…… 🙂

  5. Corey

    Your post, There’s a Dead Bird in My Freezer (A)Musings by Arlene, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Corey!

  6. Kelcey

    I clearly remember Lila’s mom hanging dead bees in her room when we lived together so I can’t imagine a dead bird being much of a problem. Great post!

    • I also vaguely remember something about a rat……thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. When my daughter was 3, we saw that just over our fence, in the neighbor’s yard, a rabbit had been killed. It became our science lesson and discussion about dead bodies, as she wanted to check it daily to see how it decomposed. It sounds awful, but it really led to some great conversation about a tough topic. Since then, we have had numerous ceremonies for butterflies, cicadas and a kitty. She got the science first and ceremony/spirituality second. Hopefully I didn’t warp her too much!

    • Since my daughter is a Science teacher, she is totally into that, in fact offered to do a dissection, but Lila turned it down. Lessons in Life, Death and Spirituality last a lifetime!

  8. madeline

    A wonderful story by a good grandma!

    • Learning from one’s mistakes as a mother helps one to become a better grandma! When my son read the story, he said, “You never let US touch a dead animal!”

  9. Lewis Baden

    It reads so easily, I am quite impressed, really nice, I look forward to your book.

  10. Jordana

    I think I actually wanted to dissect it (as I offered to do with the bird). My favorite part of this post is the last picture.

    • A scientist to the end! Glad you liked this touching story.

      • Linda Levine

        We have a shankbone in our freezer ( who doesn’t?)

        And, you ARE the best Grandma!

      • Shankbone? As in Passover? So do we!

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