Falling From the Nest Too Soon – Reprint from Skirt! 2012

The little bird was still covered in baby-bird downy feathers last night, perched defiantly on the hose guard.  She (I think of her as a she — it’s as good a guess as any, not being familiar with bird-sexing) had fallen from the nest somewhere high in the maple tree.  I could hear the distressed chirping of the mama bird but the leaves were too thick and the branches bent from a summer storm to see where the nest was.

She patiently permitted me to get close and take her picture several times.  However, the entire set of that fuzzy little body spoke defiance and bravery.  When I got a little too close, she shook out her baby wings, those emerging glossy and beautiful from under the fuzz.  She didn’t make a sound.

Going into the house to retrieve my own baby bird so she could see, I called “come, look what’s in the garden!”  When we went back around the corner, baby bird was gone.  But no, about five feet away, she was perched confidently on a low fence.  Still allowing us to come close, she stared back with her little bird head tilted.  We looked and looked and then walked away to give her privacy to try another flight.  A short time later, she was gone and I choose to believe that she flew back up into the tree to the nest where her mama was waiting.

Particularly poignant for me, this is the summer of my baby bird’s first tentative steps from the nest.  Car keys in hand, all glossy hair and wide smile, she drives too fast, stretches curfew a little and all in all exalts in her freedom to spread her wings away from mama and the nest so carefully constructed to nurture her.

Let me be clear, she will graciously hang around when asked and she attends carefully to those things that require her attention — sports, friends, her job and the occasional boy.  The girl is everything a 16-year-old should be, and a part of that is straining at the bit . . . leaning against the fence and peering over the edge of the nest into adulthood.  As her mother, I am constantly chirping about the dangers of the fall, knowing full well that she is almost prepared and eager to fly.  That beneath the down, her wings are glossy and strong and will carry her where she needs to go.

And the mama bird, and I, will go on, knowing that our babies are flying through the beautiful sky.  There may be new nests and there may be other sheltering trees . . . but our work here, mama, is almost done.


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