That Nature Show: House Wrens Are Mothers, Too

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The House Wren
The House Wren

This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

Sunday is Mother’s Day. So, nu, have you bought a gift for your mother, or at the very least called her?  I just yelled loudly, “Mooooom!” and she heard me because she lives only two miles from here, and has her ears always perked for the song of her chickadee. That’s what she calls me.

I used to call her Mama, then Mommy, then Mom, then, as an adolescent I referred to her as That Woman Who Grounded Me Because I Got A C In French, then in my 20s, in my discovery-of-my-Jewish-roots phase, Ema, Hebrew for mother, because I was engaged to a guy from Israel and was learning Hebrew in Jerusalem. Now I just call her Emily. We’ve reached this place, the mountain plateau, through lots of strenuous climbing. 

We have a house wren nesting in window box of the shed. Its eggs are going to hatch by Mother’s Day. Can a bird have better Hallmark-card timing? It’s like a metaphor for the tender care I try to provide my kids. It has feathered the nest, sat patiently on the eggs (that is, when she was not disturbed by my son, 9, leering in to her abode. She flew out and almost hit him in the eye. Who wants to be the mother whose son was blinded in a bird-related melee? Not I. No Red Ryder BB gun).

By the weekend the  wren will be feeding its demanding, ever-squawking baby wrens. Then, in a few weeks, she will teach (I use the word loosely) them to fly. What I mean is she’ll push them out of the nest. Her parenting will be over by July.  The wren is not winning any helicopter parenting motherhood awards.

I, on the other hand, have decades ahead of me of tantrums, birthday parties, play dates, piano lessons and orthodontia.  My kids are 6 and 9. My mom knows mothering doesn’t halt when the kids are 18. In fact, my sister and I are becoming needier in our 40s as we begin to feel the effects of aging and want her to tell us we’re beautiful going gray and have picked the right orthodontist and piano teacher for our kids. We are the so-called sandwich generation, squeezed by aging parents on the one side, and young kids on the other. 

She says, without regret and with immense kindness, “Chickadee, you’ll always be my baby” and I feel the urge to nestle down into the nest, and chirp contentedly, under my mother’s wing.



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