Robins and the signs of spring

It’s a sure sign of spring when robins start building their nests. When I was a little girl, a sassy little robin built her nest on the window sill of the bedroom that I shared with my two older sisters. My sisters and I watched her build her nest, lay her eggs, hatch her chicks and feed them. Through the window, we watched her and she watched us. That robin must have found the comings and goings of three little girls equally as fascinating as we found her. Perhaps that’s why she chose that spot to build her nest.

One day when I came home from school, my mother told me that  “company” was coming to visit. That was strange. Who comes to visit in the middle of the day in the middle of the week? Especially when my dad was at work, my two older sisters were in school, and during my baby sister’s nap time? Company turned out to be a photographer from our local newspaper, The Beaver County Times.  Apparently our family of baby robins was a feel good human interest story, and an encouraging sign that spring had arrived. If you have ever experienced a Western Pennsylvania winter, you understand why this is reason to celebrate.

The photographer wanted a picture of me feeding the robins. My mother opened the bedroom window and gave me small chunks of bread to give them. I stood on the bed so I could reach out the window while the photographer positioned himself on the porch and started snapping pictures. I didn’t give a rip about having my picture taken, or the possibility that it might be in the paper. All I cared about was the opportunity to feed those little robins and get a closer look at them.

When the photographer was finished, he and my mom engaged in grown up conversation and forgot about me and the birds as they continued to talk. That’s when the real excitement began. One of the baby robins hopped out of the nest, over the window sill, and fell onto the bed. I squealed in delight, my mother screamed in horror, and another baby bird followed his brother out of the nest and onto the bed. My mother and the photographer ran around the bedroom and tried to catch the birds. I continued to squeal, my mother continued to scream, and the poor photographer ran around in circles as the entire nest of robins made their way into the bedroom. And, as birds often do, started dropping birdie bombs everywhere, if you get my drift.

My mom and the photographer kept running into each other as they tried to catch the robins. In all my born days I had never seen so much chaos. Or had so much fun. Just as soon as one of the adults came close to catching a bird, it managed to slip away and poop some more. All four of them made their way out of the bedroom and into the kitchen and dining room. I was only five, but even I saw the wisdom of closing the bedroom door to confine them to one room. I sure was glad the adults didn’t think of that. I could have told them, but where was the sport in that? Besides, who listens to a five year old? Anyway, it wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining or as much fun for me.

Eventually, all of the baby robins were caught and safely placed back in their nest. I can still see the look on my mother’s face. The photographer was sweating, his glasses were crooked, his tie was twisted, and he had stepped in bird poop. The two of them looked at each other and eventually started to laugh. He offered to stay and help my mother clean up the mess, but she pretty much had enough company for one afternoon. By the time my sisters got home from school, my younger sister woke up from her nap, and my dad came home from work, there was no sign of the fiasco that had taken place that afternoon. However, my mom and I had a fine story to tell at dinner that evening.

The picture did make the front page of the local paper. I guess The Beaver County Times felt they owed it to my mother. Soon after that, the robins were gone and all that was left was the empty nest. Eventually, the nest was gone as well. I was left with a splendid memory of a very exciting afternoon, and a story that my mother and I shared and laughed about for the next fifty years.

I learned that it’s a fine thing to celebrate spring. It’s good to have company over, even if it is in the middle of the day in the middle of the week when nobody else is home. It’s important to feed the birds. And if you ever have baby robins in your bedroom, you might want to close the door and confine them to one room. Unless, of course, you have a five year old around. Then it’s fair game. Happy springtime!

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