Starting a family for two particular mourning doves began with the choice of real estate in a plant called a sago palm that happened to be not too far from our kitchen window. My family had front row seats to the best show in town, as the birds built their nest and soon one of them deposited two eggs to sit on. My own eggs involved much more struggle in depositing, but I was very supportive, nonetheless.
My husband and I grew very attached to this nest and the mourning doves that took their turns on it. When the two eggs hatched, we were giddy with excitement. Way beyond the excitement our two teens displayed about this new development. Although the nest was maybe twelve feet from our kitchen table, we would pick up our binoculars to get an even closer look and maybe catch sight of a tiny beak or if we were lucky, watch as one of the parents fed the babies. Mourning doves share parental responsibilities so it isn’t possible that every time one of them arrived to take a turn it was the female, but I found myself always praising “mom” for her good work.
When the babies got too big to fit under the parent bird, they sat tucked very closely next to her. (See? I can’t stop myself.) It was a cuddle fest and we just fell in love with the whole family.
Then one day the nest was empty. I gasped at the sight of their absence. It wasn’t right. There was no goodbye. How could they not be there as I worked at the kitchen table by the window? Our little precious bird family was gone.
The next day my husband came rushing into the house, so happy that he had found a parent bird with the two baby birds in the nearby brush at ground level. The babies were barely farther apart than how they had been on the nest. They seemed to be waiting to be fed, unaware of their new freedom and abilities to fend for themselves.
This went on for a few days.
We were happy to not have to say goodbye after all. We all walked gingerly (even our teenagers) in and out of the house to not disturb the growing toddlers. At times it seemed one bird would be curious about maybe pecking on something in the dirt but mostly they just sat and waited. It looked like they weren’t all that interested in leaving. The nest. They lingered in this middle state.
And then one morning after walking as carefully as I could out the front door, I searched for our little fuzzy friends, but they were gone. It had happened. They had truly left the nest.
I called my husband to come outside because I needed to hold his hand. We talked about how hard it was to watch these little birds hatch and grow up and then leave. It wasn’t right, I told him.
But it also didn’t feel entirely right to see the babies there on the ground, unable to move on. Shouldn’t they be flying around and discovering new things and learning to feed themselves?
My son is graduating high school in May and will be off to college in the fall. I am not ready for this. What parent is? But I am going to celebrate his flight as well. I will be here for him always, ready with a hot meal (not regurgitated) and hoping to not ruffle too many of his feathers, and most certainly available for a cuddle on the couch.