The Gift of Flight in honor of the Sandy Hook Victims

by Lian on December 19, 2012

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




CLSD OPEN December 23, 2012 at 8:25 AM

Lian, thanks for re-posting this timeless piece. It really sums up how most of us are feeling these days. So heartbroken for Sandy Hook, and so thankful and lucky to have our kids here safe and sound. I’ve been thinking of you and your family alot too, knowing how difficult the first holidays without your mom will be. May you find peace in little ways throughout the holidays and the new year. xo, Chris

Cyndi December 21, 2012 at 4:31 AM

Lian, that is just beautiful and proof that it is a timeless piece of writing.

How fortunate you were to witness the nesting and nurturing of the babies and the inevitable and important departure. Despite the challenges we face as parents, it is a gift as you said to teach our children to fly.

I sat at my high school son’s music concert last night and felt privileged to see those kids performing together – kids that most likely started playing their instruments and singing in their early elementary years. I felt an enormous sadness for a moment when I thought about the children that would never have that opportunity.

Thank you for sharing your wonderful writing – I won’t forget this story.

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