A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.
― Agatha Christie
On Mother’s Day two weekends ago we discovered that robins had built a nest containing three beautiful wee eggs on our rose trellis. This discovery on this particular date seemed so apropos. It was very exciting.
Triplets were going to hatch right there at our home, almost as if they were human and not wild. It was the miracle of life right under our collective noses.
Here they are, of course we snapped a photo that night ―
Being that it was Mother’s Day and I am a mother, I felt a rush of warmth thinking about these babies-to-be. This inevitably led me to thinking about my own babies, who are not babies at all anymore.
Was mama robin going to have boys, like me, or girls like my mom had had? Maybe she’d have both. I really didn’t know too much about robins, but delighted to know they were there.
I had just finished chatting with my own mother right before we found the nest, so I hadn’t had a chance to tell her about it yet. I planned to though, she would know right where we had uncovered them, nestled up there on the trellis that my dad had built for the climbing rose bush she’d helped me choose, then plant (and knock-on-wood, keep alive).
My m-o-m…when we were kids she’d always claim that she really didn’t know what she was doing, just learning to mother as she went along. I have to laugh at this thought, I know that I’ve had the same one on many occasions over the last two decades, and I’m guessing most mothers feel this way sometimes.
We wonder if we’re doing okay or failing miserably.
A defining moment takes a long time to get over, if you ever do.
― Mick Jones
Life is filled with defining moments. Some truly great and wonderfully powerful instances that you rarely forget, those times that when you look back over your life, they are the ones that pop out.
My mom may have worried that she didn’t know what she was doing, but I can say with certainty that she had, and still has, without a doubt, that mother’s instinct that we always hear about.
Two of my own life defining moments are the results of this fierce, instinctive mother’s love. One was just a blip, the other more of an event.
I’m not exactly certain when they each occurred. It might have been within the same year, or up to three or four apart. The blip was a nice taste of what a mother is capable of when called to action.
We were on a rare stop for lunch at McDonald’s, probably to redeem the coupons that back in the Eighties you’d tear off the bottom of each month on their children’s’ calendars. Back when Ronald McDonalds’cohorts were Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar (clearly the villain in his black & white stripes) and purple guy Grimace…what the heck was he? The sidekick, I guess.
But I digress…okay, so I’m guessing after ordering, my younger sister and I went on ahead to choose a table while my mom waited for the “fast food”. I’m also guessing that we must have picked one, but then changed our minds and moved on to a second spot nearby.
This is the part I know for certain, Mom returned with our lunch because soon after, one of us mentioned my pink Strawberry Shortcake purse, containing every cent I had in the world. I had had it when we came in, but I didn’t have it anymore.
This part is sketchy, but the irrefutable facts are: 1.) Clearly, I’d left it at the first table. 2.) The table now had young teenagers sitting at it. 3.) I was devastated.
My mother did the responsible thing and told me I had to go get it. Can I possibly stress how much that was the last thing that I wanted to do? I slunk back over and asked the older kids for my purse, the word had never sounded so lame to me…it still does now.
As I returned with it, I can only imagine their laughter trailed along behind me. Obviously much of this I’ve had to block out. Devastation: Part 2 commenced, the purse was empty of money! My eyes brimming with tears, this little girl was at a loss, literally.
But my mother would have none of it. She took my empty pink canvas purse straight back over to the table and asked the teens where the money was. When no one offered an answer other than giggling she called them out.
She went into protective mode; she was angry, no-nonsense and without directly accusing them, she said something to the effect of she couldn’t believe anyone would take a little girl’s money! Most of them buckled, one then the other told the “ringleader” to give the money back, which he, reluctantly and only slightly shamefully, did.
Smart…they got out of there alive; no harm, no foul.
On a sunny day in autumn, I was exploring the neighborhood around my father’s bicycle shop with a friend. Jennifer had come into town with me; we were suburban girls, just old enough to have some unsupervised freedom while my mom was doing errands.
We were investigating around the side streets and alleys, being silly and having fun like only kids can do. Laughing and carrying on while looking for things that might interest us.
As we were cutting through the parking lot of a local business two young boys spotted us and called us over. Once we got close we could tell they were a few years older than us.
We didn’t know them, they were town kids. Turns out the father of the darker haired boy owned the establishment, and they had a business proposition for us.
The parking lot had fallen leaves strewn about, and they said they’d pay us a few dollars to sweep them into piles and bag them up. We agreed upon a price, and set off to earn some money we could use later to go up to “Augie’s”, for some old-fashioned drinks & treats.
The light jackets came off and we figuratively rolled up our sleeves. Meanwhile the boys went up on the roof to “oversee us”. They called out instructions and redirected us if we missed any leaves. It was quite a bit of work, but we were committed!
As we were finishing up we could hear them high up above us. Now they were the ones laughing and carrying on. We called up that we were done and ready to be paid.
I’m sure you can see what was coming where we could not: they had no intentions of paying us. They pointed out the fact that there was little we could do about it from down on the ground.
We were totally deflated.
Not to mention embarrassed, we’d been swindled. We’d worked really hard for nothing. We had trusted those jerks. They were so smug, they knew they had us. Dejectedly, fighting back the tears, we made our way back to the cycle shop.
My mom had returned from her errands and was there waiting. Her cheerful greetings soon turned to concern though when she got a good look at us. Forlornly, we recounted how we’d been bamboozled.
I think I remember fire in her eyes upon hearing our woeful tale. She didn’t doubt us for one hot second. Plus we were disheveled, sweaty and kind of dirty from our endeavors. We must have been quite pathetic looking, come to think of it.
She sputtered something about knowing the owner, the boy’s dad, and also something like cheating little girls was not okay, I’m not exactly sure? But we quickly followed her out of the store and down the sidewalk. She headed right to the bagged leaves and accessed the situation.
The boys were still up on the roof so she called up to them. She asked them if they’d asked us to bag the leaves and agreed to pay us. The rest is a blur, I’ve no idea what excuse they had or possibly what lies they told, but it did nothing to appease her.
I’m certain she did tell the one kid that she knew his father and planned to have a little chat with him. I think this did scare them a bit, but before they could do anything she’d already grabbed a bag of leaves and begun dumping them back onto the leaf-free asphalt.
If you could have only seen their smug little faces fall like the leaves from the bag.
When she was done, when every bagged leaf was freed, she dusted off her hands, grabbed ours and marched us slightly triumphantly back to my dad and the bikes. I’m pretty sure she took us for cherry cokes, too.
Obviously I’ve never “gotten over” these two life defining moments that I’m still rehashing and I hope I never will. Our mother taught me and my sister to treat people how we would want to be treated, to try to always be honest and true to our word, and to stand up for ourselves, and for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. She was fiercely protective when we were threatened, and she still is today.
When I had a stroke I was roughly 1100 miles away from her. She did not get to see me for twenty days because we agreed that she would reluctantly wait until I got home from the rehabilitation center. There was little she could do for me while I was stuck there intensely working on my occupational and physical therapies, and the boys were being well looked after by our awesome friends.
I imagine how difficult it was for her not to rush right to my side. How hard it must have been to tell people what was happening, once she was even able to articulate it.
She arrived the very same day I got released, and stayed by my side for nine weeks. She took care of all of us, but especially me. Something she hadn’t really needed to do for over twenty years.
But I needed her right then and I know that she wouldn’t have been anywhere else. She drove my car for me; basically it was her first time ever driving while she was staying with us, she’d never needed to before. She didn’t blink once though (well maybe once), and we went to my myriad of appointments week after week.
As an adult, I got a chance to remember what it was like to be her kid again. I was very scared when I first came home, partly because that was where it had happened, but my mom was there to take care of me.
And her child, albeit grown up, was there to be taken care of, and that she did.
A mother’s love is instinctual, unconditional, and forever.
Three days after Mother’s Day we had a rather sudden, incredibly stormy night, with extremely heavy rains which resulted in much localized flooding. School was even delayed for two hours until buses could get to most of our counties’ country roads to pick up the students.
It suddenly entered my mind that the little robins’ eggs in their tiny open nest must have gotten absolutely pelted with water and wind…and my heart now heavy sank.
I couldn’t muster myself to go look and asked my husband to do it. He quickly returned shaking his head. No longer was there a nest nestled into the trellis, rather it was down on the ground, empty.
Was mother robin out there in the trees morning her loss? Do wild birds mourn? I felt as sad for her now as three days earlier I’d felt happy. It was so unfair. Those babies never got to know their mother or be mothered by her.
For each one of us our circumstances are what they are at any given time. I didn’t know that I was going to have a stroke. Those robins didn’t know a storm was going to wash away their nest.
After searching around, all I could find was one empty oh-so-pretty-blue egg shell, almost in its entirety. So I took it up onto our porch along with the nest. I sat with it feeling very sad for the loss.
This pic shows where the nest had been, except on the other side of the trellis ―
I wondered if this was a life defining moment for the mama robin, and if she would ever get “over it”? So I started reading up on robins. What I found quickly confirmed what I already guessed; they are all about instincts, of course.
But being different than ours, her mother’s instinct would have led her and her partner to have already abandoned this venture, and to go off to begin building a new nest somewhere else, preparing to start their next egg undertaking. Her defining moments, if she has those, more likely might be each time her babies hatch, brood and then fledge.
Our defining moments continue throughout our lives as we learn, grow and transition to transform and evolve as human beings. Seeing my mother stand up for me when I wasn’t able taught me essential character development, morally and ethically.
But it also taught me that I will always have someone in my corner ― the amazing woman who gave me life. And that was just the start of what she’s given me, obviously. 🙂
― Raina K Morton, May 20 2014
*Note* I have an amazing dad, too, but that’s for another time!
Thanks for reading!