By Muriel J. Smith ~
“Tell us the story about the birdhouse again, Granny,” the youngsters clamored as they took a miniature birdhouse from the ornament box for the Christmas tree.
“There isn’t much to tell,” she smiled, “it’s just a little story of love and family and friends.”
But the youngsters settled down because from the look on Granny’s face, they knew they were going to hear their favorite Christmas story once again.
“Once upon a time, there was a mama bird,” Granny started, “and she wanted the best for all her little chicks. She had Papa Bird bring the fluffiest of spider webs, the softest of dragonfly wings, the coziest of leaves to cover the twigs that made their nest the prettiest and most comfortable of all the nests in all the trees in the forest. All the little chicks loved their nest; they chirped happily when the mama bird brought them the choicest worms and spiders to eat, they laughed nervously when they took their first flights, and as they got older, they often brought other birds home to play at their nest.
“It won’t always be like this,” Mama Bird warned them, “there will come the time when you grow up, meet other birds, and have families and nests of your own.”
“Oh, that will never happen,” each of the little birds cried. “This will always be our home.”
Mama Bird just chuckled. “That’s the way we always want it,” she murmured, “but that’s not the way it turns out.”
It wasn’t very long after the birds first learned to fly that there was a terrible storm, one big enough and strong enough to blow the birds’ nest right out of the treetops. The little birds were old enough to scatter and search for nesting areas of their own. Mama and Papa Bird had to find a new tree and build their nest all over again, this time a little smaller now that all the fledglings were gone.
As the years went by, the little birds always came back to their parents’ new nest. But it was never the same. The trees were different, there wasn’t as much fluff in the nest, even the twigs weren’t put together in the same way. Still, the little birds came home.
More years went by, and the little birds grew into adult birds. They still kept going home to their parents’ nest, but it was getting more difficult. Each of the birds had to go in a different direction to build his own nest; each met other birds and wanted to set up nests and start their own families.
And it wasn’t too long before they all had their own flock of baby birds; a new generation of life began again.
Getting in all the visits was getting harder and harder. As much as everyone wanted to see each other, it just wasn’t possible. Mama and Papa Bird settled down with some of their friends in warm weather so they wouldn’t have to migrate South every year, then make the long trip back home again in the spring. Some of the more adventurous of the offspring even flew across the ocean to explore new lands; some were gone for a long time. But they never forgot the soft, warm nest of home.
Mama and Papa Bird were certainly happy in their new nest. Still, they missed their friends, their family, and all the birds that were so special to them. They missed seeing the next generation of birds learn to chirp and eat and fly and sing; they missed hearing all the little stories that wove them together as a Happy Bird Family.
So one day, Papa Bird told Mama Bird, “you know, a nest is just a nest. It blows away, it gets beaten by the weather, it gets wet in the rain and snow. I want to do something that will be more permanent and will always remind all of us that it isn’t the nest that is important, it is the love and friendship, the joys and sorrows, the tribulations, excitements, changes and yes, the fears and worries that make the nest strong and special to our family.”
Papa Bird thought and thought. Finally, he flitted in the window of his friend, the carpenter. Joseph was very skilled, not only with wood, but with talking to the birds. He never failed to put out sunflower seeds and even peanut butter on crackers for his feathered friends. His carpentry shop was the finest in the village.
Joseph smiled when he saw his favorite bird. He knew he was sad to be apart from his family. “What can I do to make you happy?” he asked. Papa said, “If only I could have a reminder, something each of the birds could have, to let them know that even though the nest is gone, the love goes on forever.”
“That will be easy,” Joseph laughed. “Come on over and sit on my workbench and I’ll tell you the story of my own Son’s Birth.”
Papa Bird listened in wonder as Joseph told about the Baby born in a stable, with only the animals and birds around to give him comfort and warmth. Because they were all so kind to Him, he explained, his Son would always do something for them.
“Don’t worry, Papa Bird,” Joseph smiled, “you come back tomorrow and I’ll have something ready for you that will let everyone know the love that you share with family and friends.”
When Papa Bird returned the next day, to his amazement, he saw Joseph had fashioned miniature birdhouses, each with brightly colored roofs, smart little perches, and colorful flowers and green leaves all over. And surrounding each door was a bright red heart.
“Give these to your family and friends,” Joseph told Papa Bird, “and every time they look at them, they will see the heart around the opening. That will always be a reminder of your great love for all of them. It will also let them know your own heart will always be an open door. And inside that little opening, inside your heart, there will always be a very special place for that family that has brought you so much joy and happiness, and those friends who have been such an important part of your life.”
“And that’s the story of the birdhouse,” Granny concluded, holding one tenderly in her hand. “Look them over carefully,” she told the children, “because no two are alike. Some hearts are bigger than others, some houses have more flowers, some are covered with leaves and twigs. But they all give the same message.
Home isn’t a building, or a nest, or a clump of leaves; but truly, It is different for everyone. Just one truth remains the same. Home is where the heart is.”