“Aidan, look out the window! Do you see the bird?” We were eating breakfast. From the window we could see a bird coming and going from the eve of the balcony.
“Yeah, Daddy! It’s a robin!” declared Aidan with excitement.
“What’s he doing?”
“Let me see!” Luc jumped out of his chair and rushed to the window, nearly bowling his brother over. Luc clambered up next to Aidan and they gazed out the window from the same seat.
“He’s building a nest!” Aidan shouted with excitement as the robin returned to its perch under the porch with hay in its beak. An assortment of dried grasses, straws, hay and twigs was being organized into a little wheel that would form the foundation of a nest on top of one of the wood braces that held the balcony up over the steps to our house.
Our oldest son shouted for Mom to come to the breakfast table to witness the house-building happening on our very doorstep. Soon our entire family was in the kitchen happily watching a robin do his work of home building. We delighted in this sure and irrefutable sign of spring. In spite of gray and cold weather this spring, this bird’s action communicated the sure belief in warmer days to come. It also communicated practical ideas to our two middle children.
That same Saturday afternoon, relishing the free time to prepare dinner for the family, I busied myself in the kitchen. Aidan and Luc were playing outside. Mayra was taking a nap. Andre was reading and Terese was out running errands. Not long into kitchen preparations, the Littles called for me to see their handiwork. I put the soup spoon down and walked to the back door. Aidan and Luc stood on the steps, grinning with pride, “Daddy, we are making a bed!” Strewn across the top step was fresh grass, straw from last winter, and old leaves. “Well. How nice, boys! You are just as good as the little robin from this morning. This is wonderful.”
“Yeah!” They said with understanding agreement, “Don’t step on our bed!” Luc jumped back into the yard and began pulling at the new grass coming in, putting a fistful in the “bed.” Aidan went to look for some leaves. I smiled and went back into the kitchen happy with their imagination and beautiful play.
Half an hour later they called me again to verify their accomplishment. Like the robin’s nest from which they were drawing their artistic inspiration, the bed of leaves had grown. It was fuller. In addition to grass, straw and dead leaves, it was now fluffed out with chives, young garlic stems, iris shoots, and new blades from other perennials around the house.
The boys looked at me and giggled, “See Dad! We have made a nice bed.” To illustrate, Luc laid down in the green soft pile and pretended to sleep. Aidan knew that this business was not entirely innocent. He ran away screaming with laughter into the yard as I came down the steps to inspect the garden. Chives: nibbled to the ground. Garlic: gone. Iris shoots: badly damaged. The patch of perennials that I know not the name: hopefully a flower or two will come in this year. And there on the steps of our house lay a bed of greens with a cute little 3-year-old feigning sleep, pretending to be a baby bird.
When I shared this story with Terese, she had a good laugh. I am thankful today for her. From her, our children have learned humor, they have learned passion and they have learned to become themselves. Through her, they are learning to care about others, to be patient and to be steadfast. With her, they find comfort in their tears, encouragement when they are discouraged and strength when they are burdened.
In the experiences of raising little ones and stumbling through the lessons of fatherhood, I also remember my mother and am thankful for her. I can’t help but think of the things I did that angered my father and caused my mother to laugh with great satisfaction.
It’s also spring and Easter has finally come. Whatever the storm clouds and chilly weather have been in our lives, Our Risen Lord brings us the assurance of very warm days to come. He inspires his once burdened and broken friends to speak his name boldly and to live in the present expectation of love and renewed life.
When Terese laughs about the story of our Littles tearing up the garden to make a bed in imitation of a robin preparing a home for its own little ones, she reminds me of the hopeful expectation at work in the minds and hearts of our children. I realize that the same has always been true of my own mother. In a manner that lies beyond words, Terese is teaching our children about Jesus. My mother did the same for me.
(Paul is married to Terese. They have four children and work hard to keep their house a place of peace, joy and all good things. Some days are better than others. Paul is a pediatrician. Terese is a family physician. They are parishioners at St. Sebastian Parish, Milwaukee.)