"Oh my gosh! I almost went out the side door," said one of the girls, reeling into the kitchen. She clutched her chest in relief, as one who has just narrowly avoided falling off a cliff.
"Yeah, I've become so used to the signs that I walked right by them yesterday," said another daughter.
"Was she there?"
"Yes. But she flew away the minute I turned the handle."
It had started with a filament of dry grass snared at the top of a holly tree that grows alongside our house. The tree is situated in such a way that a person using the side door, which opens to the porch, can look into the top of it.
Soon in that spot there was a light accumulation of grasses, a small tangle that seemed almost accidental. The grasses began to form a recognizable shape. And we became aware of a certain frantic fluttering whenever we used the side door.
"Silly robins," I said. "That's a terrible place for a nest."
"Oh, I don't know," said the teenage boy, with a sinister grin. "It seems convenient to me. I can reach right in. Robins' eggs are delicious."
"Oh! Don't you dare!"
He laughed. "I'm just kidding," he said. "But I bet they would be delicious."
The deliciousness of the eggs was not to be entertained, but their prettiness was a marvel to be admired.
We peeked at them only once, having first ensured the adults were safely out of the way. In turn, each member of the family tiptoed over. I don't think any of us even breathed as we looked in to the nest, so fearful were we of contaminating it and dooming the tiny lives it held.
There are certain prospects that never weary the eyes, that seem to contain in themselves all the beauty and purpose and mystery of the natural world. In this category I would put a glorious sunset, a rainbow against a gray sky, a row of ants carrying leaves like little green sails -- and the soft enclosure of a bird's nest containing four perfect Tiffany blue eggs.
"OK, that's it! We can't use this door anymore."
"Let's not even go near this side of the house."
We put up signs to remind ourselves. "Do not use this door!!!!" "Nest w/eggs!!!" and "Birdies nesting!!!"
Through the windows, we could see the nest and the beady-eyed adult occupant tasked with keeping the eggs warm. We've noticed that she arranges herself so that she's always facing the house.
"We're not going to hurt you!" the youngest child assured her through the glass, as we were packing up to go to school the other day. The robin glared back.
As we drove away, one of the girls said, "Did you see that? As soon as we got in the car, a bunch of other robins came down to join her."
"Yeah," said the boy, "Probably to commiserate with the poor mother who has to deal with all the huge monsters going in and out of the house."
His sister smiled and tipped her head to the side, a little like a robin herself. "It looked to me," she said, "like they're having a baby shower."
Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at mgurdon@ washingtonexaminer.com.
Meghan Cox Gurdon's column appears on Sunday and Thursday. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.