What This Empty Nester Learned from a Family of Birds

She was having a hard time letting go of her kids, until this cardinal couple showed her the way

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- Posted on Feb 26, 2019

The Pimento eggs in a nest.

My husband and I were new empty nesters. Our twins, Annie and Tyler, were leaving home after graduating from college. I was excited for them—and worried. Would they be okay on their own? Had we prepared them for the challenges out there in the world? 

I was thinking about Annie and Tyler one day while pruning a huge nandina by our back door, when I discovered a nest with one little egg. How sad it didn’t hatch, I thought. The nest was tattered—and abandoned, I assumed—so I moved it to a table. An hour later I noticed a beautiful male cardinal flying back and forth to the bush, chirping, and realized he was looking for his nest. I returned it to the bush and put it between some strong branches. 

The next day I discovered that the nest had tipped over. There were two eggs on the ground. I put them back and carefully tried to wedge the nest between the branches. On the third morning, I found that the nest had tipped again. It was so thin at this point. What if the eggs fell through the bottom? 

I rummaged around our kitchen for some sort of holder and decided on a pimento cheese spread container. It was the perfect size and sturdy enough to support the nest. I poked about 50 holes in the container for ventilation and to keep it from filling with rainwater.

Making my way back to the bush, I found the nest completely tipped over once again. This time there were three eggs on the ground. I lined the container with some dry leaves and set the nest on top before gently arranging all the eggs inside. Then I put the new container-nest between the branches and wired it in place. I also added some wire fencing around the bush to keep our coonhound away.

Over the following weeks, I checked on the Pimento family every day. Mrs. Pimento was a wonderful mother, keeping her eggs warm and allowing me to keep an eye on her. She even let me take pictures. Mr. Pimento was a dutiful father, flying back and forth to feed his mate. Watching this cardinal couple prepare for parenthood reminded me of carrying the twins 23 years ago. I’d been put on bed rest for three months, and my husband had taken such good care of me, like Mr. Pimento. And when only two of the three eggs hatched, that made me draw an even greater parallel between the Pimento and Daniell families. I had started out pregnant with triplets, but God in his wisdom knew that only two would be able to survive and flourish, just like these two chicks. I named them Cheddar and Mayo—the ingredients in pimento cheese.

I kept looking in on the Pimentos and taking photos as the chicks grew. One morning, I pulled back the branches, and Cheddar leapt out of the nest and fluttered over to our wheelbarrow. I watched Mr. and Mrs. Pimento coaxing their sweet babies along and teaching them to fly. It was a long process, but as parents, there comes a time when you have to trust that you’ve done your best and your chicks will be okay out of the nest. What a joy it is to watch them fly!

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