Empty Nests and Full Hearts

I jotted these thoughts a while ago while watching a mama mourning dove raising her babies. Sent them to a friend wrestling with the reality of her kids leaving the nest.

I watched a mama mourning dove raise a baby just outside my kitchen window this spring. I discovered her by accident when I went to plant flowers in a hanging basket and off she fluttered! I peeked at the eggs, smiled, and planted those flowers elsewhere. For the next several weeks I watched that peaceful little gray mama shelter those eggs, sitting still, rocking slightly in the breeze, enduring sun and rain and me looking out the window at her sometimes. We made eye contact. (Yes I know it’s a bird. But still.) I thought of her a lot. A few weeks later I saw the funniest looking little gray baby poking its beak out of that nest! The mama was extra vigilant then and I kept my cat away from the back yard. Just in case.

That baby grew fast! In just a few weeks it was too big for the mama to sit on any more. They just snuggled close together and I liked that a whole lot. It was sweet to watch. And then yesterday morning I heard cooing and fluttering, and when I looked out the window, the nest was empty. No mama. No baby. Not on the ground, not nearby, just gone.

I wonder if the mama looks back on those days in her cozy little nest wistfully. Not sure if birds have the ability to remember and reflect. For sure she did her job well, and now it’s on to the next thing. She’s not moping around the nest. I haven’t seen her. Probably she’s somewhere getting a pedicure and eating a worm souffle, I don’t know.

Even in the craziness of family life, and I’m sure you know this, there is a normalcy, a cadence, and right now, that’s missing. Nothing feels normal at the moment except this notion that more change is on the horizon. And you know what? That is okay. We can adapt to pretty much anything. Our growing/grown kids have shaped and made us, even though the void left by their absence is, initially, huge. Alone, after all those years of togetherness…is that supposed to be a goal? My daughter has suggested I foster dogs. I would be the woman walking around the neighborhood with crazy hair and fifteen dogs on leashes. Not letting any of them leave. No, I think that’s not my best bet.

So I don’t have all the answers, or even many answers…but I can tell you, you’re not alone in grappling with this transition. Don’t lose your sense of humor. And I’ve seen your family photos. You HAVE to have that. Any family as close as yours, or mine, has shared experiences that can cause laughter to erupt without warning. And now, at the moment, tears. So hang in there, my friend, and keep smiling.

I was working on a project site today and met six of the sharpest young sailors in the fleet. They were part of a working party and OH BY THE WAY if you ever need to get anything done, you call on a Navy working party, and there is nothing you can’t do with their help! Anyway I enjoyed meeting them, and talking with them, and they were delighted to just have somebody talk to them that wasn’t trying to sell them something at a mall kiosk. I thought of all the Navy sons and daughters I’ve known and loved through the years, and how reassuring it is to know that our country is in such good and capable and energetic hands. And I thought, I don’t wish them back here. They are doing what they trained to do. They’re ready. They’re strong. And it’s time.

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