It was only two years ago, this same time in spring, that a finch found a perfect nesting spot inside the wreath that hung outside our front door. Although I was mad at myself for not putting away the last of the Christmas decorations, I relished the opportunity to watch the babies develop each day while peering through the door’s glass inlays. To keep disturbances to a minimum and lower the chance for nest abandonment, I put up signs for the mailman and instructed visiting guests to use the garage door instead.
This year was made even more special, for the nest that was under construction belonged to my favorite species of bird…the dove. For the 20 years I’ve lived here in Clayton, there is nothing that brings me more peace and calm than hearing the sounds and coos of the doves that frequent our backyard. From what I’ve been told, doves mate for life. Invariably, every time I see one dove, I see another. Doves are symbols of peace, love, and loyalty; a reflection of the precepts I identify with most as it relates to my own relationships and marriage. And given my admiration and appreciation for the life of a dove, it is no wonder how upset I get each year in the days leading up to September 1st, the opening of dove-hunting season. For me, there’s nothing sadder than seeing or hearing the cry of a lonesome dove.
In the first few weeks after I discovered the nest, I avoided going out the back door to give Mama Dove her space. I found creative ways to spy on her and track progress, whether it was attaching a mirror to my selfie stick or leaning out the upstairs bedroom window to catch a sight from up above. On Good Friday she laid one egg, and then a second a day later-- a laying pattern typical for most doves. Additionally, in a dove’s brood, the first egg laid is always a male, and the second always a female. This was yet another similarity as it relates to my life: my son was born first, and my daughter was born second.
The dove built her nest atop a mesh screen that covers the fountain’s water basin. There was no overhang, no shelter, and no shade. Mama Dove was fully exposed to all the elements in a month that had its fair share of wacky weather, including an excessive amount of rain, high winds, and temperatures that got as low as 40° and as high as 93°. Unlike Mother finch, who spent a great deal of time leaving her babies unsupervised in her very-sheltered and protected nest, Mama Dove spent nearly every waking moment in her nest, even during the most adverse conditions.
As the days and weeks rolled on I became more attached to Mama, and she became more comfortable and trusting of me. Eventually I was able to open the back door without her flapping her wings or fleeing her nest. I greeted her every day, and told her what a good Mama she was to her little ones. Although I was curious to see the babies, I didn’t get too close out of respect for her and her growing brood.
After roughly three weeks in their nest, I finally got a glimpse of the two, fuzzy-headed babies while watering some plants and flowers outside. They looked so innocent and were as cute as a button, but surprisingly they were almost as big as their mother! How was it that they grew up so fast? It was just yesterday that the eggs were laid. I was proud of Mama for taking good care of her babies. She sat in that nest round the clock, through wet and dry, cold and heat. She was the epitome of strength: dependable, loving, caring, and committed.
The next morning while making coffee, I slowly opened the back door, ready to greet Mama and the babies. But as I opened the door, and looked towards the nest, my heart sank. Mama and the babies were gone! Sometime between seeing the babies for the first time and the next day, the babies had spread their wings and left the nest. I was shocked, and feeling bummed. I was experiencing “Empty Nest Syndrome,” and those babies weren’t even mine! I missed Mama the most, perhaps because I saw a little of my mother in her, and her in me. I missed the opportunity to tell her, “Job Well done.” Although I was feeling a little verklempt, I was happy she came into my life to serve as a reminder: appreciate all the precious, little things in life.
The timing of Mama coming in and out of my life, and the approach of Mother’s Day was not lost on me. It allowed me time to reflect and appreciate the sacrifices, the care, and the incredible love my mother bestowed, and continues to bestow, on me and my siblings. She set the gold standard, and hopefully by following in her footsteps my kids will one day feel the same way.
In honor of Mother’s Day I tip my hat to all the mothers in the world, animals included. Thank you for your sacrifices, and for the everlasting commitment of love and care. Thank you for weathering the challenges, while keeping your children safe and protected. Thank you for your patience, and teaching the values of trust and trustworthiness. And when the time comes, and it’s time for the chickadees to leave the nest, thank you in advance for your guidance and support!
To my beautiful Mother, the light of my life: “Thank you Mom, for a Job Well Done!”
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!