There is a mother on our back porch; a common, house finch. For days, I watched her build her bowl-shaped nest on the 5″ by 5″ column ledge that supports the awning. Trip after trip of gathering sticks never seemed to wear her out. She flew her missions until that nest was as perfectly round and centered on the precipice as if it had been pre-drawn by a protractor.
The waiting began. Sometimes, I would look up, see her eyes closed and imagine she was laying her eggs. For weeks she sat, even through the deluge of tornadoes, rain and floods which shook Nashville to the core. Undeterred, she merely preened her feathers and waited. I grew tired of waiting and forgot all about her until the day I heard chirrupy peeps and looked up. Three, tiny heads, just barely above the lip of her nest were open-beaked and squawking. In she swooped with worms from the wet ground and they fought for her delicacies.
Many days have passed and those heads now tower over a space too small for their size. The nest is no longer neat or centered, but has shifted several inches to the right and looks shabby. The right side is bent down low from the weight of that mother patiently standing to nourish each open mouth. Displaced twigs and debris have fallen to the ground underneath. Feathers and dung are splashed and stuck to the sides. There is nowhere for them to go but out now.
I was 40 my first Mother’s Day & until then, my life had been all about me. So thoroughly thoughtless and self-centered was I, that years earlier I said something to my cousin which still haunts me. She had recently given birth to her first child and we were to meet for an afternoon coffee. She phoned at 2 PM to say she could not make it. “The baby was up all night with colic…has a diaper rash..exhausted …just now headed to the shower.” My reply? “It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. You’re just NOW taking a shower? What do you DO all day?”
She is an empty-nester now. Her three daughters are grown and gone into lives of their own. Mine will soon follow. And Anna Jarvis, who 100 years ago began “Mother’s Day” as a tribute to her own mother is gone, too. She was bereft at the commercialization that her special day ultimately became: “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” Had she ever had children of her own, they would have been as proud of her as I was of the grandmother who raised me. (Hudson is the author of ,”Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of 40 years with her grandmother. http://www.helen-hudson.com).