My Mother’s Robin

When I was a child, spring arrived when my mother cried out, “Look. The first robin!”

No matter that frost in Pennsylvania could linger into May. Mother’s thrill at sighting that small, orange-breasted bird’s return after winter was a sign—spring had officially begun.

That’s what I told my friend because she had just said that spring was her favorite time of the year. “I wonder if it will get cold again?” she’d said.

As we walked through the neighborhood, redolent with the fragrance of flowering pear and cherry trees, I didn’t say that my mother suffered from anxiety and depression her whole life. Or that her joy at seeing the first robin was probably as much about hope as spring. Maybe she expected life to feel better.

For me, spring meant longer days, time dwindling toward the end of the school year…shedding the heavy winter coat. An expectation of summer and barbecues to come of roasted chicken and corn at the old picnic table near the weeping willow. It meant Mother in pale-pink sleeveless dress pouring iced tea from a glass pitcher.

It struck me after I said this about my childhood. “I’ve been around a long time.”

My friend said she felt that way too. “On Easter, my sister and I drank shots of Bailey’s Irish cream from the same glasses our mother used to put eggs in when we were little girls.”

We kept walking, two motherless women.

“I wonder if life will ever go back to the way it was?” she mused. She said a couple people she knew doubted life would return to ‘normal’. “Whatever normal is.”  

“I don’t know,” I said. “International travel…. I can’t see myself in a place like Morocco or Nepal again.”

We walked past a flowering magnolia tree. A montage of white-pink petals spread beneath the tree like a woman’s wedding train.

A bird tweeted its song.

We stopped to listen.

“Maybe, it’s my mother’s robin,” I said.  

Published by Susan G. Weidener

Join me as I share reflections, always with an eye toward the challenges and struggles we women encounter and embrace in both creative and personal ways. My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, was selected as a 2011 editor’s pick by Story Circle Network. Its sequel Morning at Wellington Square has also achieved critical acclaim. A Portrait of Love and Honor, a novel based on a true story, is centered around a story of two people, Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli, who are destined to meet and Jay's commitment to honor following his years at West Point. My new novel And the Memory Returns continues the story of Ava Stuart who begins asking herself those questions so many women face as they age. What had it all meant? Where does she go from here? In 1991, I joined the staff of The Philadelphia Inquirer and worked as a reporter covering news and writing feature stories until 2007. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs, I attended the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010, I started the Women's Writing Circle, a critique and support group for writers in suburban Philadelphia, which meets the second Saturday of the month at the Chester Springs Library. I live in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania with my Yellow Lab, Lily.

9 thoughts on “My Mother’s Robin

      1. Yes. Opposition to change is a major flaw in the conservative philosophy (political and otherwise) because change is inevitable. They can only slow down and seek to minimize the change.


      1. Susan, if we lose hope, we lose life. There’s no reason to live if we have no hope that tomorrow is better than our past. Over the decades I have seen how people let themselves die when they’ve lost the ability to hope. Winter depression is real.


      2. Hope is so needed, Anne, as you say. Thank you for sharing your experience with hopelessness and the darkness of winter in that vein. Spring can be a lovely reminder that despite all we’ve been through in our lives, a bird or a flower offers a moment of joy. I remember that with my mother.


  1. Susan, I too always note the first robin sighting as a sign of the coming spring. This year I am also watching with avid interest as a pair of bluebirds make their home in my new nesting box.
    Birdwatching is a perfect pastime for these unusual times. Not only because can I do it from the window over my writing desk, but because the birds remind me that life goes on, no matter what trouble humans get themselves into.


    1. Marilyn. I can just see you at your writing desk taking in those bluebirds. Lovely. Life does go on, just not always how we anticipated. So we write. Thank you for sharing here ‘along the writer’s way’.


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