For years, I have admired my neighbor's rotating displays on her front door and porch. In the fall, pumpkins appear. Winter may bring snowmen and frosted pinecones.
She is as timely as the changing seasons.
Last winter, I stumbled across a wreath I just had to buy: a striking collection of silver-painted berries. Christmas is not part of our religious tradition, so I called my impulse purchase our "holiday wreath" and proudly hung it next to our front door. I enjoyed driving up to it throughout December. It twinkled and glittered and welcomed me home every night.
By mid-January, I realized my neighbors had moved on. Their lights were packed away, with spring flowers in waiting.
I tried to find a wreath storage box at a nearby Target, but all the hyper-organized decorators already had cleared the shelves. Maybe it could become our "winter" wreath. February was cold and dreary enough to leave our sparkling symbol of the season alone.
In early March, however, my feelings began to change.
Instead of a friendly welcome, I felt the wreath's silvery sparkle mocking me. I started to glance away as I drove up the driveway. I was the only one on the block with a leftover winter wreath on her door. That wreath became a daily reminder of my inability to organize my life or complete a project. Every day, it reminded me of piles of clothes needing alterations, an unfinished master's thesis and all the items I would never cross off my to-do list.
The wreath was a judgment; it announced, "A failed Martha Stewart wannabe lives here."
I started to dread seeing the wreath.
Then one day, I noticed a small bunch of twigs and leaves gathering in the hollow of my holiday nemesis. A bird had started making her home there. It was clearly a sign. All of a sudden, the wreath took on a new role.
Our family checked the progress of our wildlife habitat every day. The nest grew bigger and bigger, and the bird didn't seem to mind showing off her craftsmanship.
Days later, an amazing discovery: six light blue eggs. My preschoolers were amazed. I was also awed, but those little eggs seemed so fragile. I doubted they could survive our unusually harsh winter weather.
Checking on our nest and the eggs became a daily ritual. After every car ride back from school or the grocery store, I'd lift both of my little ones high enough to peer inside the nest. Birdie always obliged us, flying off momentarily while we held our breath and peeked at her eggs.
Eventually, we stopped using the front door to avoid disturbing Birdie's nest.
Once, a dinner guest tried to look into the wreath without the proper protocol we'd established with Birdie. She blew out of the nest with incredible force and missed his head by inches.
You don't mess with mama bird.
My little ones had their own ideas about why Birdie had chosen our wreath for a home. Maybe she wanted to eat those shiny beads, my daughter suggested. Could be. One was pecked down to where the silver paint flaked off, revealing a red shell.
I've affectionately called my daughter "Bird" for years because of her delicate frame. A few years ago, she had an imaginary bird friend, Chirpy, with an extensive family and elaborate adventures. Now, we were watching a real-life Birdie guarding her future family. One afternoon, when Birdie flew away and let us take a look, we saw that the light blue eggs had been replaced with furry little balls.
"Baby birds! Baby birds!" my 3-year-old chanted. Birdie's family had been born.
We jumped up and down, and my daughter immediately started scouting for worms.
My wreath had turned from a symbol of procrastination to a symbol of renewal. Instead of rushing home frazzled and stressed, our wreath gave us a chance to slow down and watch a tiny miracle unfolding on our front porch.
I thought, "One day soon -- maybe too soon -- those little fuzzy balls will turn into birds strong enough to fly away from their mama's nest."
Instead, life, as it often does, took an unexpected turn. A big storm blew through our neighborhood, and the next morning, I noticed the wreath lying on the ground. My heart sank. I immediately called my husband to see if he had moved the wreath. He hadn't.
I feared the worst, but I was too scared to look.
A friend came by and broke the news: The babies did not survive the storm. I was beside myself. This was my fault for not moving the wreath earlier. The chirping outside felt like recriminations.
The next day, I spotted a bird, who looked an awful lot like Birdie, perched low in our front hedge. I think I saw a few extra twigs gathered near the bush.
One season was over; a new one was starting.
It was time to pack my wreath away.