Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Mother’s Day the heart opens to gains, losses


From page A11 | May 11, 2014 |

I’ve been thinking about Mother’s Day.

Last night I had a new baby. This was my third child, a boy with a thin face, blond hair and blue eyes. My husband, who is Chinese-American, didn’t seem concerned about his appearance, and I was thrilled, never thinking about being in my 60s and the problems this might pose.

I took my new son sightseeing on buses in some foreign country. I forgot to feed him. I didn’t buy diapers. Somehow, he thrived. I was very happy.

In my waking life, I’ve also been thinking about mothers and babies — especially those from the avian world. Lately, whenever I turn on my computer, instead of getting down to my writing, I click over to two websites I’ve been visiting for three weeks.

The first is a heavily followed (usually about 1,000 people are watching when I am) site called “Decorah Eagles.” I learned about it from a friend in the Midwest. The site offers a live camera feed from Iowa of a bald eagle nest that looks almost the size of a twin bed. Someone has found the perfect camera angle to capture a great view of the three babies.

You can also see the land and roadway below them. This morning I saw bicyclists passing by, more than 200 feet below, while the three good-sized baby eagles flopped around in the nest, using their wings like extra sets of feet, while they waited impatiently for their next meal.

The other camera I watch, slightly less well-positioned, is the “Humboldt Bay Eagle Cam” in Northern California. The parent bald eagles frequently obscure my view of their offspring, but the two babies are small and cute, and I keep going back for more.

A primal part of myself is reawakened when I watch the eagle nests.

Here’s what grabs me: The mom of three often feeds two babies more than the third one. The mom of two occasionally feeds mostly one. The favoritism seems to come about because one baby is more demanding than the others, with an open beak and insistent wing flapping.

I want to tell the mother, “Be fair! They’re all hungry.”

I also look pretty closely at the food. Observing red in the flesh the Humboldt mother serves to her eaglets, I think they’re dining on salmon. The Iowa birds have plainer fare. They’re bigger, though, and must have been born first. After they’ve eaten a good meal, Mom tucks the young birds beneath her. This makes her chest feathers bulge out. She looks proud.

At night, the parent bird sleeps on top of the young. I used to love it when I traveled with one or the other of my young children and in some unfamiliar room we cuddled up and shared a bed.

I’m having eagle envy.


An email arrives from American Airlines because I’m a frequent flyer. It has a photograph of a bouquet of flowers and the words, “Make Mom Proud this Mother’s Day.”

The email doesn’t explain how to make her proud, but it must involve remembering the day and spending money on flowers, which also gives you points with American Airlines.

Is Mom supposed to be proud of your financial cleverness? The size of the bouquet? The fact that you remembered the day at all? Perhaps the answer is different, depending on each mom and child.

Did the people who composed this email think at all about recipients like me, whose mom is long gone? It hurts to know that I can’t ever make her proud again, or even update her on my life, where she might find things to be proud of that I wouldn’t notice.

American Airlines has made me sad.


All around me, people are losing their moms. In the age group I run with, 40s to 70s, parents are in their 80s and 90s and many are becoming infirm or dying. Last week I was discussing the FIX50 project with a stranger who opined that going through Stockton was one solution.

“I did that when I drove down there recently because my mom died,” she said.

“Oh,” I replied, “I’m sorry to hear you lost your mom.”

“She was 93,” the woman answered, as if that nullified her right to be sad.

It doesn’t, of course, but I hear that a lot.

Like all holidays, Mother’s Day can be both sad and happy. If you have your mom and you love her, it’s a happy day. If you’re someone’s mom and they love you, it’s a happy day.

If you’ve lost your mom, you may find yourself dreaming about babies or watching bald eagles on your computer screen as they mother their chicks. It’s windy up in those treetops — you can hear it on the microphone — and when the mother bird is gone the baby eagles shift around in the nest, developing strength and looking for comfort at the same time.

Don’t we all?

— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at



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