“Good morning Zelda. How are you feeling today?”
“Blue skies and sunshine. Today is going to be a good day Marcie.” Zelda gazed over the memory garden outside her window.
“Six American Robins are in the garden, or as I like to say, eating off the breakfast buffet. Earthworms are on the menu, as usual. Later they will be all over the berry bushes. I wish I had half their appetite.”
“If it’s worms you want, I can ask the gardener dig some up for you,” Marcie said as she adjusted the pillows propping Zelda in her day-chair. “Anything you want, name it.”
“A cup of tea is all for now,” Zelda uttered.
Marcie straightened the sheets on Zelda’s bed, cleaned the nightstand and poured fresh water in Zelda’s cup, no ice.
Marcie touched Zelda on the arm to pull her attention back to the present moment. “I’ll prepare your tea now; you sure I can’t tempt you with a biscuit or some fruit?”
Zelda moved her head from side to side. “I might try some fruit later, when the robins come back for their afternoon meal.”
Marcie set the delicate china teacup on the table next to Zelda. “I brought you a couple of crackers if your appetite returns . They’re probably not as tasty as earthworms, but I wish you would put a little something in you tummy. Why the fascination with robins?” Marcie asked scanning the room.
“I was born in 1926, the year Al Jolson recorded When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along. My momma said I acted like a baby robin from the very beginning. My head would bob up and down any time someone payed me any attention. One time momma told me she wished she had named me Robin instead of Zelda for her grandmother. Momma called me Robin until day she passed. I knew I was in trouble or something important was happening if she called me Zelda.”
Marcie sat in the visitors’ chair and placed her hands on Zelda’s face, “I like the name Zelda. It suits you. Zelda comes from the Yiddish name Selig, meaning blessed or happy. You light up the room with your smile. Anyone who visits knows how blessed you are. Look at all the family photos around the room. And so many pictures of robins. Where did they all come from?”
“I taught second grade for thirty years. My granddaughter put something on Facebook about my being in Hospice. Seems she asked anyone who passed through my classroom to send a note or something to cheer me up. My class put on a skit and sang When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along for the school talent show every year. We painted bird houses for art class and observed baby robins hatch and learn to fly. Anyway, ever since, not a day goes by without picture or something in the mail from one of my students.”
* * *
“Up for some visitors Zelda?”
Marcie ushered in a dozen second graders and a teacher from the elementary school down the street.
“Hello Mrs. Schmidt. I’m Sue Thompson, I teach second grade at Pierson Elementary. I don’t know if you remember me. You were my second grade teacher. I wanted to grow up to be just like you. I got my love of nature and birds from you. My students would like to perform their piece for the school talent show if that’s alright with you.”
Happy tears streamed down Zelda’s cheeks as the students sang When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along. Mrs. Thompson set out a tray of fruit for the kids to share with Zelda and Hospice staff.
Zelda turned her gaze to the window. She smiled, watching the robin family chowing down at the berry buffet in the garden. Zelda picked up a piece of watermelon and took a bite.
Two versions of When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along for your pleasure
For those interested in learning a little about robins, here you go…
The quintessential early bird, American Robins are common sights on lawns across North America, where you often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song, and early appearance at the end of winter. Though they’re familiar town and city birds, American Robins are at home in wilder areas, too, including mountain forests and Alaskan wilderness.
American Robins are fairly large songbirds with a large, round body, long legs, and fairly long tail. Robins are the largest North American thrushes, and their profile offers a good chance to learn the basic shape of most thrushes.
American Robins are industrious and authoritarian birds that bound across lawns or stand erect, beak tilted upward, to survey their environs. When alighting they habitually flick their tails downward several times. In fall and winter they form large flocks and gather in trees to roost or eat berries.
American Robins are common across the continent in gardens, parks, yards, golf courses, fields, pastures, tundra, as well as deciduous woodlands, pine forests, shrublands, and forests regenerating after fires or logging.
Look for American Robins running across lawns or stalking earthworms in your yard or a nearby park. Since robins sing frequently, you can find them by listening for their clear, lilting musical whistles. In winter they may disappear from your lawn but could still be around. Look for flocks of them in treetops and around fruiting trees, and listen for their low cuck notes.
An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
Although robins are considered harbingers of spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. But because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions.
Robins eat a lot of fruit in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.
Robin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a quarter-million birds during winter. In summer, females sleep at their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.