As hard as I try, I don’t recollect ever having met a man that had empty nest syndrome. In fact, I think it’s ingrained in men to nudge the “chicks” to the edge of the nest and give them the boot as early as possible. When a kid hits the double digit years and begins talking back from the back seat of the car, many men would probably consider it to be a chance opportunity to just pull over to the side of the road, hand them a twenty, and send them on their way. Okay, maybe that’s a bit drastic, but there may be something to that Mark Twain quote about putting a kid in a barrel when they turn thirteen.
Several weeks ago we sat here watching out our dining room window as a couple of birds began to take up residence in the oddest of locations. Birds do not always select the best place when looking for an idle spot in which to heap straw for a nest. But they seemed to think that Holly’s bike on the front porch had not been in motion for awhile, so they began laying the foundation in the backpack basket which Holly had hanging on the front of her bike.
As we watched intently off and on over the next day or so, the speed at which the two feathered builders worked was astonishing. It wasn’t long before the welcome mat was thrown out and they were moved in. Upon closer investigation, after they’d been there a few days, the kids discovered that there were a collection of eggs in the nest, and they began counting the days in which they would hatch. A nest had been started at the other end of the porch a month earlier, but something had gotten those eggs, so the kids were excited to have another chance at seeing some baby birds come to life.
As the summer heat pushed the limits of the mercury we began to wonder if we could just hatch eggs outside on the open ground in the near incubator heat. Perhaps the heat may have lent itself to the eruption of the eggs, because soon the new arrival of baby birds had come. As the featherless, blind, ugly creatures wriggled around in the nest, the kids kept a close watch on momma bird as she kept a steady stream going of bringing groceries home for her brood.
The feeding of the three went on for a while, and as eyes opened and feathers grew they began to actually take on the appearance of birds. It was pretty cool to be able to go out to the nest, look inside, make some kind of a chirping sound or rustle the nest, and the little dependents would throw their heads back ready for a food drop. It was reminiscent of walking into my own kitchen and rattling a food wrapper—the kids seem to always come running.
Needless to say, Holly had grown weary of not being able to ride her bike over the past several weeks. I’m certain that she was not quite as benevolent toward the end as she had been in the beginning when the birds moved in. They had now worn out their welcome, not to mention the fact that we wondered if they were going to have a heat stroke as the triple digits of August had arrived.
A week ago today on Sunday morning before church, as we saw more and more movement in the nest, we thought sure that they would take off at any moment. Katrina, with all of her infinite motherly wisdom, said “I wonder how long the mother bird will keep feeding them. If she would stop bringing them food, they might just go looking for some themselves.”
As soon as Katrina said that I went outside to try to get one last photo of our tenants. As I looked into the nest, one of them had seen my ugly mug quite enough. It took off, zooming past my head in full flight, and landed a few feet away on the porch. I tried to move closer to him but he had had enough of me. With complete freedom in his grasp, the little fellow flew off and landed several feet away in the driveway. Momma bird immediately landed by his side, ready to provide some encouragement to him out in the great big world. It was nearing time to leave for church, so we headed back in to finish getting ready, knowing that the rest of the bird family would likely not be there when we returned.
Sure enough, as we returned from church we quickly examined the nest. Nobody home. The nest was vacant. Either papa bird had come back and nudged them out, momma bird had coaxed them out, or they had just gathered enough gumption to hop out themselves. However it happened we were happy for the bird family and the happiest one of us all was Holly. She immediately straddled her bike and took it for a spin. Somehow I don’t think Holly was having empty nest syndrome. She was on the road again!
Written by David Steen, with God Smiling, August 8, 2010.