As the boys and I were driving home from their swim class today, Tony called me. “You’d better come in through the garage,” he said, “A pigeon laid an egg by the front door.”

The boys, listening over the car’s speaker phone, were rapt as the story unfolded. Tony had been heading out to the grocery store when he noticed a pigeon sitting by the door. Looking closer, he saw a second bird. And a small white egg lay between them.

He went to the store. When he came back, one pigeon was huddled behind the planter:

The second pigeon was gone, but a sad little gesture toward a nest was laid next to the egg:

By dinner time, the pigeon had moved next to — but not yet on — the egg:

The boys want to build a nest, or a bird house. They debated the best possible building materials — wood? straw? fabric? — and location — backyard? the sidewalk tree in front of the house? — even though we said we can’t move the egg or the pigeon will abandon it, and she probably wouldn’t welcome our offerings of nesting materials either. I don’t like pigeons, generally; I have called them rats with wings often enough; but this pigeon, sitting here on our front stoop guarding her mislaid egg, foolish though she may be, has inspired all our sympathies. She’s Mama Bird and we’re all kind of rooting for her and her egg.

This story doesn’t seem to be developing like one of my boys’ favorite picture books, Fly High, Fly Low, in which a pair of San Francisco pigeons nest in a hotel sign’s letter B. When the hotel is torn down, construction workers notice the birds frantically circling the B and deposit the letter, nest and all, at a bakery, where the baby pigeons safely hatch and grow up eating cake crumbs. On the contrary, it looks like we are in for a Life Lesson here. Stay tuned…

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