Time to Fly

Life continues on for this widowed mom. Time moves at an ever more rapid pace and often I wonder where the heck it goes!

A few years ago, my son’s AIG teacher gave me a lovely hand-painted gourd birdhouse for Christmas. It has hung from an iron shepherd’s hook near my front door for several years, lovely but empty. This year, just as my son arrived home from college, a spunky Carolina wren discovered it. Flittering in and out, she investigated the bird house and tested the entrance angles from every nearby bush. Then she and her spry little mate began lining the gourd with moss and leaves. While the outside of the birdhouse is quite beautiful, the home the tiny birds built on the inside together is a work of art. They built their babies a bed of soft green moss cradled by sticks and leaves.

Tirelessly, they worked dawn ‘til dusk on that nest, feeding on the mealworms in the tray feeder before and after their workday. When the weeks of endless rain fell in May I hardly saw them, and they were never together. I feared the worst. But then one afternoon as my son passed by the gourd he heard the tiniest voices imaginable from within the gourd. Babies! Knowing I would want to see them, too, he fetched me. When I peered in, the momma reared up and pointed her formidable beak at me. The days passed and the babies grew. Occasionally, when they were alone in the nest they would squeak with frantic cries and open their tiny mouths in unison to beg from me when I passed by. Day by day they grew and grew—they went from bald babies the size of marbles to fuzzy golf-ball size fledglings and every night, as darkness fell, they would sing the sweetest high-pitched sleepy songs to their mother as she returned to the nest and laid her soft blanket of feathers round them. This touched my heart deeply because my son used to do the same thing when the day closed in on him and I held him in the rocking chair.

And then they disappeared. I had seen a hawk circling my yard, had it taken the babies? A neighbor reported cowbirds had arrived in town—a known nest predator. But then four wrens arrived at the feeder. Two of them almost crashed into the window and the fifth sat in a tree flapping its wings and squawking. The parents flew them around the bushes in the side yard. Bush to feeder, bush to bush, bush to birdbath, back to the feeder. For the first few days, their flight training was a comedy of errors. But they survived and now, they are confident young birds starting to sport their mating feathers (Not unlike my son actually).

Those parents worked themselves ragged. Haven’t you done the same? (I know I have.) Parenting is hard enough with two, but when one parent dies and the other is forced to go solo, it’s really tough. While most of our houses look good from the outside, the real beauty of home is the world we’ve created INSIDE. It’s our selfless love that has made our houses places of safety. It’s the soft nests we’ve made for them, our dedication to their well-being, and the life we have modeled for them as the years poured out, that is nothing short of true art.

Just like the baby wrens from the gourd, my baby is flying now, too, and with each flap of his wings, I find my tired heart both celebrating and mourning a little. The mother in me marvels at how quickly my baby became a toddler, then student, Eagle scout and now… a man.

I know it’s time for him to fly! The mother in me is happy for him and proud that he has such strong wings. But I admit that as I watched that wren cleaning and relining her nest today I thought, “Thank God I’m too old to breed again!”


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