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Mourning Dove Motherhood…Two Sticks and a Stone

by | May 5, 2014


It was Mother’s Day morning. As special pancakes puffed in the oven, I slipped up to the guest room to open the blinds to the gorgeous May sunshine. I don’t remember which little boys had slept in the tousled bed, but I will never forget the dove. She sat a few inches from my hand, pressed against the window glass, surrounded by heart-shaped ivy leaves.

My own heart, already tender with motherhood, leaped at the sight of the beautiful bird sitting quietly on her nest, which up to that moment had been hidden from the eyes of all the world.

I closed the blinds again, gently.


But I couldn’t stop peeking! As the week wore on, it was obvious the dove had been nesting for quite some time. There were two good-sized babies nestled in with her, camouflaged by old brown ivy leaves and the shadows playing off of sun-dappled green.

The ivy was awesome. Let me explain that this bird nested at a time when both adults in the household were busy working maybe sixty hours a week, and ivy-trimming was low on the Saturday chore list.

The ivy topiary on our home had come to this:


Swaddled in ivy, the second floor window to the right was the perfecting nesting place. The beautiful dove sat peacefully with her babies or flew off to bring them food. The young birds grew. I kept peeking. She was a wise and wonderful mother.

This in itself was amazing because we had experienced some pretty flaky dove mothers over the years. There was the nest near the driveway one year that was literally composed of two sticks and a stone. I don’t remember any birds surviving that location.

The year before, we noticed a dove busy with some dried wire grass. She spent a day or two zooming up to a rather bare pine branch above the driveway with what she considered adequate building supplies. She could be plainly seen perched there for a short time, but either she never laid eggs or they ended up in a snake’s belly, because nothing ever came of that, either.

But this dove was the very soul of motherhood. I was so happy watching the sweet family.


And then disaster struck. One day the mother was missing. I watched in anguish—and the babies watched in vain—for her to come back.


The day passed. Not a sign of mother dove. I should have known—another terrible dove mother. Only this was worse—these rosy-gray children I had watched grow were being abandoned, and there was nothing I could do about it.


Towards evening the babies began to get restless and shift around in the nest. Now and then they peeked over the ivy to the sunny lawn two stories below, as if checking out how far it was. Night came. The young doves huddled there alone on the window ledge.

When I looked at the window in the morning, they were gone. Just gone.

And that’s when it hit me–oh, yeah. That’s what parents do. A good mother nurtures and cares, then steps back. The young ones will try their wings. Off they go, and the cycle of life unrolls like a beautiful ribbon. Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Susan Yoder Ackerman is a writer and gardener in Newport News, Virginia. Both her writing and her gardening are enhanced by tending a century-old family farmhouse and eight grandchildren that come and go. You can email Susan at [email protected].