Three Less Robins Category

Irene Voyles-Allen

Irene Voyles-Allen

Irene Voyles-Allen was my mother’s father’s sister. I never knew her to own a home or a car, but believe me, she got around. She was a downtown person who worked at places like the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She was a woman who knew the bus routes by heart. Seldom did she call to announce her visits, but rather surprised us, when she stepped off the bus at the corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Main Street – Tucker. She walked up Main Street and took a left onto LaVista, then made her way down Morgan Road. She took that path in hopes of passing by Aunt Sarah’s house for a quick hello wave. Irene was always a welcome sight.

Irene sometimes stayed with her daughter, Doris who lived in a log cabin house on Superior Avenue in Decatur. And then again, she may stay with Cousin Anna and Aunt Tillie in a big high ceiling house in West End. It was fun to talk to her about what goes on in Atlanta and Decatur. Irene also had a fashion model daughter who lived in the DC area with her husband, an editor for a news magazine. And her son was a career soldier who traveled the world, and married a lady from Germany. She knew all about what went on outside of Tucker, and took her time with details.

Irene never got in a hurry – she was slow yet deliberate – thorough and methodical. Whether it cool or warm, she most always wore a long sweater with over-sized pockets. If she didn’t have on her sweater, she wore dresses with big pockets. Her eyes always sharp looking for a four-leaf clover, a special acorn or an unusual rock. I loved to sit on the front porch with her, and listen to her stories about the goings on in my yard. I never saw things that way until she pointed it out, then it was clear as could be.

One spring when I was very young, I witnessed a phenomenal sight in my yard, all on my own – a mother robin building a nest. Mother Robin worked hard and long for days carrying twigs and brush to construct her new home located on my swing-set. I could hardly wait for the next visit from Aunt Irene to show off my find. I watched daily for a glimpse of her coming down Morgan Road, but Irene did not come. Mother Robin finished her nest, and one day three tiny blue green eggs appeared all nestled together. What a sight! How absolutely beautiful! And where was Irene?

As I sat on my front porch one afternoon, I saw her. There she came, strolling along, not in a hurry for anything. I squealed with delight as I ran to meet her. I grabbed her hand to hurry her along. Irene laughed at me and pulled back, “What in the Sam-Hill? Don’t you want to see what is in my pockets?” Irene mused.

“No m’am, not today. Wait ‘till you see what I have,” I answered back. I led her cheerfully around to the backyard, by-passing her front-door family greeting. She laughed with delight and picked up her pace with anticipation. We finally arrived at the swing set.

I could hardly catch my breath as I spoke, “See, see that? Three eggs – robin eggs – not two – but three! I watched the mother build the nest and everything, and now, there they are, three tiny eggs!”

As I reached for the nest, Irene grabbed my hand. Seriousness replaced her joy, “Must never touch.”

Sensing something wrong, I looked at her and said, “I waited for you. I waited a long time.”

Irene relaxed as her sweet smile returned, though she continued to hold my hand firmly inside of hers. She turned to the robin’s nest and admired my rare find, and asked, “Where’s Mother Robin?”
I shrugged my shoulders unknowingly. Then Irene slowly led me to the back-porch steps. We sat there for a few minutes while searching the sky for the mother. It began to sprinkle rain, and Irene still held my hand. We sat there in silence until finally, she spoke.

“They are robin eggs alright, Diane. What a treasure! Indeed!”
I sat there happy to share this moment with her as she talked on, “You know – you must never touch a bird’s nest…”
“What about the eggs?”
“Especially the eggs.”


Irene didn’t answer right away, but turned her face up to the cloudy sky and allowed the drizzle of rain to wet her face. “Have you ever wondered why it rains?” Irene asked.

“No, not really.”
“Everyone needs to know why the sky weeps,” she said as she held my captured hand close to her chest. She spoke in a soft whisper as she always did when she wanted me to listen. I drew closer to her to hear every word. “Well, my Dear, sometimes the sky rains because the world loses the life of precious beings, precious creatures, you know, like birds.”
“Like robins?”
“Especially robins. You see, a mother robin will build her nest in anticipation of having a family, a place to lay her little eggs. They are babies you know. But not until she sits on them for a while, a good long while. That’s her job – the job nature gave to her. Oh, she may fly away for a moment, but she’s never far away. I’ll bet you by George, she never takes her eyes off those eggs. But even if she’s not looking, she knows when a human hand has touched her nest or eggs. She knows. And when that happens she will desert her eggs, she will no longer claim them, and they will never hatch, never become little birds.”

“Because, she senses danger. She will not sit on a touched nest. She’ll fly away.” Irene pointed to the rambling rain clouds and continued, “The clouds move about over head, they spread the news through-out the sky.”
“What news?”
“That a mother has abandoned her young…”
“She’ll never come back?”

Irene continued, “And finally the winds cannot take the sadness any longer, and the sky opens up and down comes the rain.”
“That’s sad for the sky.”
“It’s sad for the mother and baby birds, but sadder for the world,” Irene tried to explain.
“Why is it sadder for the world?”

“Because the world has lost its young.”

Aunt Irene let go of my hand and put her arms around me. We sat there a long while, even though it rained a little harder. We were sad together, because we knew the world was less three robins.