“Gentle,” I cautioned, as Elle’s chubby fingers stretched outwards to retrieve it, attempting to swallow the voice tremor that so often surfaces when I try to keep my preschooler from damaging something.
But a 3-year-old can’t fathom the fragility of a robin’s egg, especially when she’s never held one in the palm of her hand. So the half-moon crumpled into a full moon as soon as she plucked the little blue eggshell from the ground.
“That’s okay,” I assured her, feeling a tiny rush of relief that the anticipation of breaking the thing was already over. Some things, like how to hold the shell of a just-hatched baby bird, can’t be told. They just have to be experienced.
I considered talking her into letting me carry it home, imagining us putting it into an old jewelry box where we could keep it safe and unchanged. We could open the lid and peek at the delicate azure egg that once was the haven of some unborn bird.
“This is very special,” I explained, going into the whole story about mommy birds building nests and baby birds pecking their way out of shells like these. Elle cradled it gingerly in her sweaty palm. I didn’t suggest she let me carry it home.
The thing was a pile of blue shards by the time we finally walked through the door. Expecting a 3-year-old to keep safe and unchanged a thing like a bright blue baby bird egg is as unrealistic as presuming she knows it’s not a good idea to feed jellybeans to her baby sister. She didn’t seem upset though. A robin’s eggshell is an impermanent thing; like those gray cotton tendrils strung about the willow branches in spring.
Spring always seems more fleeting than the other seasons, perhaps because of the transitory nature of its elements. Maybe it’s the season’s impermanence that gives these spring days, with their hatching birds and budding leaves and graduating seniors, a twinge of poignancy. The sweetness and purity of spring, the infancy of the four explicit divisions of the year, is short-lived. It doesn’t last long enough.
Then again, I stare in disbelief at the ten-day forecast. Are you [insert expletive] kidding me? Rain? Snow? Thunder? Wind? The charm of baby birds and pea-green buds and commencement speeches are forgotten. I succumb to whining and stomping my feet. This is too hard. I can’t wait for it to be over.
Spring will come again, after all. And with it there will be more opportunities for me to appreciate every moment of it – its torrents as well as its treasures. Next year I’ll be grateful.
The infancy of my children’s lives, however, won’t return.
One spring day, in 15 and 17 years, respectively, Elle and Emme will graduate high school. In doing so, they will take a defining step away from me, forging a path ahead, toward themselves.
Our children graduate from us in stages. First from the womb, then the breast; they crawl, then walk, then run. Suddenly they’re driving your car and then you’re sending them away to college. It isn’t cyclic, like the seasons. It’s linear. No going back. They will emerge from that haven you’ve worked to create, vulnerable and demanding, and you’ll put your head down, working to get them standing on their own two feet. Walking, then running, then, someday, flying away from the nest. Leaving behind a delicate, beautiful curve of turquoise.
Congratulations, Class of 2011. In your haste to embark upon this coming voyage, consider soaring by the old nest on occasion.