There’s a bird chirping outside my office window today, announcing the start of spring. I’ve gone to the window to see if I can spot her – and to make sure she keeps her distance. The last time I let a bird get too cozy, I got burned.
It was the spring of 1995 and I was about to graduate from college. I had a one-bedroom apartment, an old but reliable Honda Accord and a part-time job as a bank teller, which made perfect sense seeing as how I was about to graduate with an English degree. One morning as I left for class, I noticed a few stray twigs hanging off the grapevine wreath I’d hung on my apartment door. Assuming the wind had blown them there, I plucked them off and headed toward campus.
Later that day, I returned home and saw the same stray twigs plus several others sticking out of the wreath once again. Upon closer examination, I realized the twigs weren’t strays at all. They were placed there quite deliberately and had been curved into a bird’s nest. While I was away, a bird had set up home base on my home’s door. I didn’t have the heart to remove her handiwork and leave her homeless.
For the next several days when I turned the doorknob to leave the apartment, I could hear the familiar rustle of wings as the mama bird left her nest. I’d exit quietly, peering over to see how she’d feathered the door wreath into a picture-perfect nest. Then one day, the nest was home to three tiny blue eggs. I was as proud as a foster mama bird could be. We were expecting!
Just like any expectant parent, I snapped pictures of my front door nest and the eggs inside. I bragged about them to friends and neighbors. I anxiously waited for the eggs to hatch. Then, finally, it happened. As I opened the door to leave, I heard a chorus of baby squeaks and squawks. Three open beaks poked up out of the nest, their wobbly heads barely supported by their thin necks.
As I stood there cooing over my newborns, I looked up just in time to see the mama bird headed my way. She dive-bombed me, flapping her wings wildly. I quickly shut the door and sprinted away as she settled back onto the nest. I’m no expert in bird language, but I had the distinct feeling she’d just said I was not a new mother. I was only the landlord, and I was no longer welcome.
What had begun as an idyllic springtime scene had turned into something much trickier. There was only one way in or out of the apartment, and that door was being guarded by a territorial bird with a Mama Bear complex. I considered moving the nest off my door but worried it would cause the bird to abandon her babies.
So I had to knock on my own door from the inside and wait until the mama bird flew away before opening it. When it was time to come home again, I used an open umbrella as a bird shield and I’d make lots of noise on the way to my front door, hoping she’d fly off long enough for me to get inside. The neighbors thought it was nuts. They weren’t wrong.
Finally, spring turned into summer and one day I came home to an empty nest. Leaving behind only a few unsightly droppings on my door, the babies and their mama had flown away. They never call. They never write. It’s just further proof that sometimes you do the right thing, and all you get is pooped on.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.