bird is the word


My last name is Robins. Over time, I’ve learned to spell it like this: “R-o-b-i-n-s, like the bird,” for the double-b spelling is much more common. I have a single b, like the bird with the red breast, the one who gets up early to catch the worm.

Boys teased me in junior high, calling me both Robins, Tweet, Tweet and Suzie Homemaker. Our family gets very excited at weddings when they play the Chicken Dance.

My mom and dad work at a nature store and are experts of all things bird. My dad hosts the bird walk on Vancouver Island. He is a bird guru and steps in to calmly resolve rare bird identification disputes. Once I wrote a song about him called “How does it feel to be Neil” that included lyrics about watching owls on telephone poles.

My company is called Bird Communications. We’ve embraced all the bird lingo that goes along with that moniker, including naming our people Birds. Recently, a new addition to our group said, ‘thank you for birding me’ and so now we use bird as a verb. We flock together for projects, and then we migrate elsewhere when we are done. We donate human bird food (aka trail mix) to events. Our thank you cards have birds etched on them. One phrase we never use is ‘two birds with one stone.’ (Reference to killing birds is strictly off limits).

I’m resisting collecting items of a bird nature for fear of turning into the Bird Lady. I have limited myself to only one shirt with birds imprinted on it, but I’ve longingly admired many more dresses and sweater and tops decorated with swallows and chickadees. One day I will crack at Anthropologie, and then I will start wearing birds too.

There’s a bird feeder outside my window on the deck. I fill it with carefully sourced shelled sunflower seeds to attract the little twittering birds, and peanuts for the occasional blue jays. Our cats are restricted indoors to prevent bird massacres.

Last month, my youngest and I spent a birdy afternoon with my parents, watching the ducks and geese for a very long time paddle around Swan Lake, skimming the water for treats. We saw great blue herons diving for fish at the ocean. We witnessed a daddy osprey feeding his young high up in a nest, and a mama robin bringing sustenance to her chirping babies in their home in the eaves of a house.

I’ve built my own mama’s nest for my children, and now my nest is suddenly emptying out. I find myself gazing into the black hole of a life’s transition. Last week, my eldest son moved to LA. Next month, my daughter is moving out with her boyfriend. That leaves one chick left in my nest.

Mama birds feed their children and then teach them to fly. I’ll admit to feeling shocked that my children are actually flying away. I’ve flown headfirst into a glass window and am currently lying stunned on the ground below.  This emptying nest offers up a strange combination of emotions. My heart is bursting with pride at the same time it is breaking in two. I will miss them very so much, but I’ve finished the job that I was supposed to do.

My overwhelming hope is that my eldest children are flying away both knowing that they are deeply loved. For with that feeling under their wings, I know that they can conquer anything. Safe flights, my loves, wherever you may land.

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