“Well, that wasn’t as kid-friendly as I was hoping it would be,” I said to Bradley as he, Pierpont and I got out of the car and walked toward the house. A friend of mine had his new short film screened at a small, but growing, local arts festival. I had asked him in advance if it was appropriate for an eight-year-old. And I don’t know if he was just angling for our attendance or if he didn’t know exactly what “appropriate for an eight-year-old” meant, but it looks like I need to sit him down and provide some much-needed clarity.
“I didn’t think it was all that bad,” Bradley responded as he looked down at Pierpont. “And Pierpont doesn’t seem to be all that traumatized from the experience.”
“Dad! Daddy! Look!” Pierpont exclaimed as we approached the front door.
“Besides,” Bradley continued. “I’m more concerned about what he’s seeing and hearing at school when we’re not with him than what he’s seeing and hearing at a movie when we are.”
I rolled my eyes at Bradley. “What is it?” I asked Pierpont.
Pierpont pointed upward. “It’s a bird’s nest!”
“Where?” I asked.
“On the porch light.”
Since an ornithologist came to his school, Pierpont has expressed quite an interest in birds. Of particular interest to him are their nests – occupied or otherwise. While we wouldn’t allow him to start up a collection of them as he asked to do early on, we did buy him a rather inexpensive beginner’s camera with a zoom so that he could take pictures of them if he couldn’t climb high enough to take a close-up shot or if we deemed it too dangerous to do so.
“We’ll be sure not to turn it on at night so that it doesn’t get too hot for the bird or its eggs,” Bradley said. I couldn’t help but snicker at the private thought in my head of a free breakfast courtesy of our front porch light.
“Can you lift me up so I can see, daddy?” Pierpont asked.
“Okay,” Bradley said as he hoisted Pierpont up to eye-level of the nest. “But be sure not to touch the nest or the eggs.”
“I know, daddy. The bird man that came to our school told us about that.”
I took my phone out so I could take a picture of Pierpont looking at the nest and then took a wider shot of Bradley holding him up while he did so.
“Why don’t you take a picture of the eggs in the nest?” I asked Pierpont as I handed him my phone.
“Thanks, dad,” Pierpont said as he took my phone and snapped a couple of photos.
I looked at the pictures he took. “The eggs are blue. So this nest must belong to a robin red-breast,” I said, looking up at the nest.
“Alright, let’s go inside now,” Bradley said as he lowered Pierpont back to the ground.
“How do you know that, dad?” Pierpont asked.
“We had bird men come to my school too when I was your age,” I replied as I opened the door to let him and Bradley in.
“I don’t know if it’s me or Pierpont, but lifting him up isn’t as easy as it used to be,” Bradley said to me with a bit of a smirk as he followed Pierpont into the house.
Because of its proximity and accessibility, Pierpont became all but obsessed with watching the nest. We weren’t sure how long it had been up there, but we did some research in the nesting period and concluded that the eggs will probably hatch within the next week or so. And Pierpont was ready to stand watch.
We usually kept the front door open when we were home, so Pierpont would sit at the screen door watching the nest. But every time he approached it, the mother bird would fly away. At first, he’d open the screen door and speak up into the trees at the mother bird to tell her that he’s not trying to hurt them – as if he could reason with her. Then Pierpont tried to sneak up on the door very carefully and very slowly so as to not startle the mother bird nesting just outside it. Occasionally, he’d make it to the door without her noticing and flying away. But then he’d shuffle, move or make some kind of noise and off she went.
Eventually he stopped concerning himself with the flyaway mother bird and concentrated on the eggs in the nest. In the mornings, he’d open the door to say good morning to them. And in the evenings, he’d open the door to say good night. We then started using the side entrance so as to not further disturb nature unfolding on our front porch light.
At dinner, Pierpont would tell us how excited he was that pretty soon he’d hear the sound of baby birds chirping just below his window. Bradley and I hadn’t thought about that. Knowing how noisy that could be, we were less than excited -- but we kept those reservations to ourselves so as to not put a damper Pierpont’s excitement.
Pierpont’s excitement reached a fever pitch the following week when his curiosity got the better of him and he started opening the door more frequently to talk to the still-in-gestation baby birds.
Then one morning we heard a blood-curdling scream.
“Pierpont, what’s wrong?” I said to Pierpont as Bradley rushed downstairs and I rushed from the kitchen where I was fixing his lunch.
“I KILLED THEM!” he said, sobbing into his hands.
I looked outside through the screen door and saw that the nest had fallen and the eggs, which were in some transition into hatchlings, had broken open.
Bradley picked Pierpont up, took him over to the couch in the living room and held him while he cried. I opened the door and looked outside to see what may have happened.
“It’s okay, baby boy,” Bradley said to Pierpont as he held the back of his head and rested it on top of his shoulder. Bradley called Pierpont “baby boy” in these matters to let him know that sometimes it was okay to cry like one.
“I’m not entirely sure, but I think the vibration from opening and closing the door may have jostled the nest and caused it to fall,” I theorized.
“So it’s my fault?” Pierpont asked.
“No, honey,” I said. “You did nothing wrong. At worst you were just overly curious, but that’s not your fault. If anything, the mother bird and/or the father bird picked a bad location to build a nest and lay their eggs.”
“I’m a murderer,” Pierpont said sadly.
I sat down on the couch next to Bradley to help comfort our justifiably irrational young son. “You’re not a murderer, honey. You’re not even an accomplice.”
“But we won’t get to hear the chirping birds,” Pierpont said.
I looked sympathetically at Bradley as I rubbed Pierpont’s back. “No we won’t, honey. But there are a lot of birds around here that will be chirping instead.”
“I don’t like birds anymore,” Pierpont stated.
“Baby boy, don’t let this stop you from being interested in birds,” Bradley advised.
“But they’re dead,” Pierpont replied into Bradley’s shoulder.
“I know, but think of it this way,” I offered. “Maybe you saved them from something worse.”
Pierpont turned his head toward me. “Like what?” he asked.
“Maybe there’s a bad bird around that steals eggs and hatches them and raises them but treats them really mean,” I suggested. Bradley looked at me with a mix of confusion and amusement. All I could do was shrug.
“Which would make you a bit of a hero,” Bradley added dubiously. “You saved them from a harsh world.”
“But regardless, you can’t beat yourself up over this. You can be sad that they won’t hatch and chirp, but at least you got to see nature up close and in action,” I continued.
“Okay, your story is falling apart here,” Bradley said to me.
“I know,” I replied in defeat.
Bradley sat Pierpoint on his lap and gave him a kiss on the forehead. “Hey, champ. Let’s get you cleaned up and we’ll pick up donuts to eat on the way to school. How does that sound?”
When Bradley calls him “champ”, Pierpont knows that while he can still be sad or upset, it’s also time to press on. Pierpont slid off of Bradley’s lap and slowly made his way upstairs.
“Nice little metaphor for life there,” Bradley teased. “I can’t wait to see what yarn you’ll spin when he’s fifteen, gets dumped for the first time and we have to nurse his broken heart.”
I smiled. “Don’t worry. At that point, I’ll just introduce him to hard apple cider as a cure-all.”