When we arrived at our annual retreat in NH last month, Ellis exclaimed that a mama robin was feeding her babies. Since we were unpacking, we didn’t really hear him until we saw for ourselves, right outside our window: these scrawny baby robins with their mouths open crazy wide, expectant for Mama Robin to drop juicy worms into them.
Perhaps this is a common sight in certain areas but for us living in Beep Beep Honk Honk NYC, it caught our breath. We watched in amazement. The birds’ beaks were open so comically wide it looked painful, almost 180 degrees. They never doubted that their mom would return and drop in some sustenance. They never said, “I ain’t no chump, opening my mouth like a fool. I’mma front like I ain’t hungry and when she comes, THEN I’ll open up.”
I told Kevin: I had no idea that the mom has to fly off as soon as she drops the worms into their beaks! Why does she leave so quickly like she in witness protection? Where is the dad?
“I don’t know. I don’t have a PhD in Bird. But yeah, I wonder why she has to leave so fast.”
We arrived Sunday afternoon. We watched this family several times a day. The scrawny birds grew up and their wet tufts started looking more like their red-chested Mom. I teared up when the teen robins started practicing their hops and flying skills, their growing girth now overflowing out of their starter home nest.
And on Thursday, they were gone when we came back from the lake. In the span of just four days, they had become completely independent! Their empty nest of twigs was the only remnant left from their formative days outside our window, the nest that had been overflowing with four robin siblings, weighing down the tree branch.
It was an honor to watch their lives unfold. It also made me think about praying expectantly, like those baby robins who cried out until their moms dropped worms into their beaks. I want to cry out like them with bold confidence that I will be cared for.
I want to cry out like a baby robin for big things like our friend’s baby who needs God’s healing touch. For small things, like moving with three young kids and no grandparents to ship them off to.
My Olive girl is no longer a newborn as she is more than two months old now, my baby-est robin.
I want to memorize the beaming smile that emerged at Week 8. I want to remember yesterday’s discovery that she may hate her carseat in the car, like on the way to NH, but she’s down for taking a walk in the summer evening with a breeze softly caressing her chins, the very chins we can push to lure a smile out of.
I want to remember my 6 1/2 year old son’s new jack-o-lantern smile with his first missing tooth that he was so excited about.
I don’t want to forget my nearly five year old son’s earnestness, crying when I forgot to roll down the window in time for him to yell out a final goodbye to his summer camp teachers.
And how much they love their baby sister, asking if we can show her to their classmate playing in the courtyard or to their summer camp pastor. Unpacking schoolwork that says, “I am thankful for pizza and my baby.”
Now that I’m 40, I feel life moving even faster. I see why older folks nudge us to enjoy every moment. My hair is greying even more swiftly, my teeth yellowing, my back aching, my kids talking like teenagers, and my baby outgrowing baby clothes she used to swim in.
The other day, I couldn’t drive home because another car was blocking a one-way street, trying to score a coveted parking space. It took so long that drivers behind me were honking, one guy got out and tried to walk over to see whassup, Olive was crying in her sweaty carseat, Micah was updating me on each detail of Olive’s cry, and Ellis added, “I have to poo.”
I started laughing maniacally and actually bursted with tender gratitude for the moment. This was my life, my Mama Robin life before my robins fly away.