From the Archives. In honor of those lost last week in Connecticut.
Last summer, a mother and father bird made a nest in the camellia bush just outside our back door. I’m no birdwatcher, but I can tell you that male was gorgeous with a black body, yellow bill and a red crest. The female? She looked exhausted, of course.
Who knows what drew the birds to this spot alongside our busy, utilitarian driveway. Was it the comforting sounds of the dryer vent? The tumbleweeds of dog hair from our molting German shepherd, perfect for a plush nest? Whatever the attraction, the birds made our bush their home, singing in the morning on a branch not six feet from where I fed the shedding dog. Mom and Dad watched the nest nonstop until the babies were born, then guarded it even more diligently as their children thrived.
The tiny chirps grew louder and stronger with every delivery of red berries. The parents communicated constantly, as they stood watch on a branch in the guava tree. Our whole family was entranced by this unfolding domestic drama. Even the dog sensed something special was happening in the camellia bush.
Perhaps I grew so attached to the little family because they represented the most basic tenets of good parenting with such a singular purpose: providing shelter, food and safety. But more likely, it was because I’d recently witnessed the helplessness of friends as they struggled with difficult situations concerning their children.
One couple who tried for years to have children, stood guard in the NICU, their babies born way too soon.
One family discovered that the many questions they have about their son could now be answered with a single phrase: Asperger’s Syndrome.
One single father faced the unthinkable, a change of course for his ill son from hopeful recovery to palliative care after the cancer returned.
When I watched the birds, I was reminded of how unrelenting a parent’s job is. And how fragile.
One morning, my husband reported that he had seen the birds take the little ones on a test flight. What a task, I thought, to teach a kid to fly.
Fittingly, on Independence Day, the entire aviary family left their nest for good. When I discovered their departure, I broke down. It hadn’t occurred to me that once the babies learned to fly, they would leave. But, of course, that’s what happens in the best of circumstances. If, as a parent, you do your job right and you’re incredibly lucky, your children will grow up and leave the nest.
Then, I thought of my friends, their children and their overwhelming challenges, and I realized that teaching our children to fly isn’t a task.
It’s a gift.
Embracing my chaos, Lian