Last weekend we loaded up the U-Haul and moved our daughter into her first San Francisco apartment. Ally had just started a new job—the kind with benefits, including dental. That same day, our other daughter, Emma, moved from home into an artist’s residency a thousand miles away.
Developments were also under way in another family—this one nesting under the eaves on a drainpipe above our back deck. A pair of house finches who raised a brood there last year had returned.
The first time round, I was a nervous wreck about the birds. Would the neighbor’s cat get them? Would the babies fall out of their nest? Crash while learning to fly? Every morning I peeked out the window like a new parent who ventures into the nursery dreading crib death. It was like a time-lapsed sequence of all my anxieties about raising our own children.
But everything turned out fine, as it usually does. So this time round I’ve been calmer, not only with the finches’ launch, but with our daughters’. There’s a pang still, but it’s not nearly as acute as before, when each new step Emma and Ally made away from us left me worried about their well-being and wondering who I would be in their absence. Now I have come back to myself, come back to the marriage pushed to the back burner while my husband and I grew our girls into young women. Just as our daughters are taking flight into their new lives, we are, too.
So it is with our bird family. The parent finches go from patient egg-sitting to cramming food down gaping mouths. Scruffy teens with tufts of down atop their heads soon take over the living space, crowding each other on the edge of the nest. Dislodged twigs and dried bits of guano litter the deck below. In a few days, they are gone, leaving behind their mess.
Just like Ally and Emma. I sweep the deck, then tackle the debris left behind in their rooms–stray socks, scraps of paper, dirty sheets and towels. As much as we miss our daughters, my husband and I love the return to order, love having our house (and deck) back.
Besides, we look forward to return visits, messiness and all.