For the Birds Radio Program: Mar Mar's Robins

Original Air Date: March 19, 1999

Robins give many of us lovely memories of childhood.

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Almost everyone in Minnesota has fond childhood memories of at least one bird. Something about birds–their songs, so lovely or lively or funny, their plumage–vivid or drab, beautiful or plain, dignified or comical, the simple act of flight–something about all this captures the imaginations of children and creates vivid and lasting memories to carry them through a lifetime. Birds provide a common language bridging childhood and adulthood, touching our minds and hearts, imagination and intelligence, spirit and soul, in equal measure. Small wonder Bambi’s first word was “bird!”

Everyone has one or more special birds that conjure up treasured images or memories. I think one of the reasons so many people love robins is because of memories deeply ingrained in childhood. What parent or grandparent has never pointed out to a toddler a plump, colorful robin running about on the lawn? The robin is one of the first birds children recognize, a bird they quickly learn to associate with bright colors, pretty songs, and the warmth and security of a beloved grown-up holding them in strong arms, smiling and giving them names for everything in the world.

Here in the north, where robins are so deeply associated with winter’s end and the warmth of spring, they hold even more pleasant associations. This year I saw my first robin of the year on their wintering grounds in Florida in February, and my first migrant in Chicago on St. Patrick’s Day. When I hear their rich flute-like singing, my mind conjures up words to fit the rhythm and the spirit, words like “cheerily, cheerily,” and “Spring is here!” The snow up here is melting fast, and it won’t be long before they’re back in full song, running on quick legs over our lawns, tugging at worms and our heartstrings.

One of my dearest, most treasured friends celebrates her birthday on March 21, a date that holds warm and pleasant associations for me as the first full day of spring. Mary reminds me of spring in the fresh and exciting way she approaches life in her ninth decade. When I asked listeners to call in with their favorite birds and why, Mary offered a good, solid reason why robins are so special to her:

Yes-we associate robins with happy tunes and mother-love and Christopher Robin and so many of the finest memories of childhood. Best of all, when they return in spring after a long, hard winter, they carry back to us the best of ourselves.