Big day finally arrives

Friday, April 30, 2004

There are grand-birds at the Sullivan house.

On the house, actually.

Madame P. Finch was a proud mama more than a week ago when her four eggs hatched in the tidy nest of evergreen twigs in the front-door wreath.

We nervously waited eight more days for Miz Wren's brood to come popping out of the eggs in her nest with a roof in the backdoor wreath. Finally, the baby wrens arrived with well-developed vocal cords -- or whatever it is birds use to make sounds.

The two batches of birds are as different as kittens and kangaroos.

When I first spotted the newly hatched purple finches, I wrinkled my nose. Each baby bird looked like two licorice jelly beans covered in dandelion fluff. With beaks.

I made the mistake of telling my wife, an experienced and loving mother, that the baby finches were "ugly as sin."

When she looked at the newborn finches, my wife cooed over them and said how proud their mama must be. Then she glared at me. So did Madame Finch.

Baby wrens are born with upturned mouths making tiny squeaks every time anything nearby moves or makes a sound. They are also shaped more like -- well, more like baby birds than Easter candy.

As it turns out, it appears Madame Finch's compact nest design is a marvel of both engineering and child rearing.

The baby finches, in just one week, have grown from little gobs of fluff into small birds with feathers. There is barely enough room for the four young birds, and one of them is usually under three siblings. Meanwhile, the three on top teeter precariously, about ready to tumble into the real world.

How clever. It won't be hard for Madame Finch to encourage her flock to take flight when the time comes. A gentle nudge will do the trick.

The wrens, on the other hand, are snug and safe in their cave-like nest with room for chicks and mama and space to spare. For now.

Madame Finch is of the jittery sort and flies off into the oak tree or the spruce tree whenever anyone comes into any part of the front yard.

Miz Wren, on the other hand, dares you to make her move, reminiscent of Mama Cardinal, who raised her family in the same wreath a couple of years ago.

Because she is so reluctant to leave her nest, Miz Wren has been an all-too-frequent guest inside the house. The most recent visit came the day her eggs were hatching. She swooped into the family room carrying a bit of eggshell. In the ruckus that followed (my wife and visiting mother now have great stories to tell), the eggshell wound up on the floor near the windows that look out on the wild hedge.

Having hatching birds in wreaths on both doors to our house is God's humorous way, I've decided, of answering our prayers.

With two grown sons, you'd think we would be spoiling a grandchild or two by now.

We pray earnestly and fervently that a couple of smart, strong, fair and happy women will see fit to wander around Boston and Dublin until they run into a couple of Sullivan men -- not just any Sullivan men, mind you -- and fall deliriously in love and elope and have babies. Preferably pretty much in that order.

God answers prayers, no matter how frivolous. And he has his bit of fun.

So far we haven't dragged out the toys we've been saving down in the basement.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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