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Mama bird

Rick Ryckeley's picture

With a Mother’s Day column due Thursday morning and it being only Wednesday, I really wasn’t too concerned that no idea had yet burst forth down onto paper. Besides, in the newspaper business, 24 hours is a lifetime. In the office by 9, I promised to work all day if needed. Mother’s Day was too important not to get it right.

After staring at the computer for over an hour and the writing going nowhere, I was joined by the gray and black one. Onto the window sill she jumped and started to meow. That’s her not so subtle way of saying, “Open the window, dummy. I would do it myself, but I ain’t got no thumbs.”

As always, I complied with her demands – it’s just much simpler that way. Doing so means no one will get hurt later. And trust me; a warm wet lick in the face at 3 in the morning ain’t as sexy as it sounds.

A cool morning breeze brought with it the sound of the three baby birds nested in bushes at the top of the driveway. Still not having a clue what to write about for Mother’s Day, I watched as Mama Bird flew back and forth to the nest with food she had worked so hard to find. All the while, the hungry baby birds chirped relentlessly.

This went on for an hour before I decided to get back to work. After all, the article this week had to be special. It was for Mother’s Day.

With her human having done what he was told, the black and gray one stretched out, held down a sunbeam, and went to sleep purring.

The baby birds kept chirping as I tried once again to pound away at the keyboard. The story was started, deleted and started again almost as many times as Mama Bird made trips to feed her young.

I’m sure she too was hungry. But she never stopped – never took a moment for herself. Funny, growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, my mom was the same way with us. Guess when you decide to have children, their needs come before your own. No matter how long it takes, you take care of them.

Still with no coherent story line, lunch came and went for me, but not the baby birds. With all the chirping going on, you’d think they’d never eaten anything before.

Kinda made me sad to remember how many times us four boys and The Sister asked Mom when breakfast, lunch or dinner would be ready. We never gave a moment’s thought to how long it took to plan the meals, cook, and then clean up afterwards. Just like those baby birds, all we did was chirp for food.

Suddenly, outside, the chirping for food stopped. It was replaced by frantic cheeping – cheeping for help.

In a flash, the gray and black one rose from her slumber and started a low growling sound. Her arch-nemesis, the white cat from next door, had found the nest in the bushes and was trying for a quick meal.

Hearing their calls for help, Mama Bird came to the rescue. Without any regard for her own safety, she dive-bombed the white cat repeatedly. Fur and feathers flew. Mama Birds are relentless when it comes to protecting her young.

My mom was the same way when we were growing up. If we came home with a bloody nose or a torn shirt, she went out hunting whoever had hurt one of her little babies. Like Mama Bird, my mom was a force to be reckoned with. Even Down the Street Bully Brad took off running when he saw her storming his way.

Minus a pile of white fur, the cat sulked back across the yard to friendlier territory. Mama Bird used the fur left behind to freshen up her nest. After all, whether the babies knew it or not, having a clean nest is important.

My mom knew that also. No matter how dirty we got the house, by morning it was always magically clean. Back then, we never really gave it much thought – after all, we were kids. We had more important things to worry about. Like when breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be.

A few more hours of wandering around the office, unsuccessfully trying to piece together a story in my mind, The Wife pulled into the driveway – my cue to call it a day. As I closed the window, the black and gray one gave me a dirty look that screamed, “Another wet lick coming your way at 3 in the morning, buddy.”

I took one last look out the window and saw Mama Bird tucking her babies away for the night under feathers. She settled in to sit watch over them ‘til morning. You see, if you’re a Mama Bird, your work is never really done.

I went downstairs and gave The Wife a hug and kiss. She asked, “Well, did you finally figure out that Mother’s Day story?”

“Nope,” I replied, “Been watching birds all day. Really don’t know what I’m gonna write about.”

She smile and gave me a peck on the cheek, “That’s okay, you will. I’m sure a little bird will tell you what to write.”

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for over 26 years and a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His book is available at]

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