Our Showerbird

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An early Mother’s Day visit from a special mom

We looked in on our outdoor shower yesterday for the first time in months. We’d shut it down in early November, as we do every year, right after the first frost, with a view to cranking it up again in late May—hopefully after the last one. May is a tricky month in upstate New York, where we relocated last year when the pandemic hit. You can’t count on being out of the woods—frostwise, that is—much before Memorial Day.

What we found surprised us: A nest of newly hatched robins on the shelf where we keep the soap and shampoo. We gazed in wonder and delight at their sweet, feathereless vulnerability, took some pictures, and left quietly. When we returned an hour later for a look in the late afternoon light, mom was on the nest, keeping her babies warm and safe from snoops and predators. She looked us straight in the eye and the message was clear: Watch it—no funny business.

This would have been a lovely event at any time in the Spring. But with Mother’s Day this Sunday, it has a special if indefinable poignance. Nest-sitting can’t be anyone’s idea of a good time. It’s boring and solitary, and it has to be hard on your backside—even a bird’s. There’s no one to flap your wings at, little to see, nothing to do but just sit. And sit. Kind of like waiting for a bus that never comes, with no one to talk to and nothing to read.

But here’s the thing: Good mothers don’t think that way—and our robin is clearly a good mother. It’s been a full day since we first saw her and she hasn’t left. Not once, from what we can tell. Her sole concern is her babies—protecting, nurturing and feeding them for as long as they need her.

We don’t have a Mother’s Day gift for her. But we’ll wait till the nest is empty before turning the outdoor shower on this year. And we’ll remember her and her babies whenever we use it.