Cutoffs to one, home to some

From outside my kitchen window, a wren trills a crescendo and flits amid the branches of the redbud tree. Suddenly, she lapses into her angry voice as she scolds one of my cats invading her territory. Somewhere in this copse, she must have a nest.

A previous year, wrens slipped between the barn siding of our house to build a nest. We realized its existence when the baby birds began to clamor for food. Listening to the parents and nestlings was entertaining, but the next year the wrens relocated.

The mosquitoes by our pond tempted the wrens to move to a site with a view of the water. My husband and sons also enjoyed the sun-warmed swimming hole. Before coming in for meals from their farm chores, they'd often dive in for a few minutes. After donning their clothes, the guys threw their swimsuits over the clothesline. They couldn't be bothered to enter the house each time they felt like swimming, so all summer long the suits dripped and flapped in the breeze.

One warm evening after a brief cold spell, my two sons dashed out to pull on their suits and swim. Suddenly I heard screaming.

"Snakes! Snakes!" Carlos shouted, dancing around beneath the clothesline without his glasses.

Most snakes in our neck of the woods are harmless, but a few Massasauga rattlers reside on our farm, so I ran out to investigate. Carlos's older brother, Matthew, was pulling twigs from the pocket of the denim shorts Carlos used as a swimsuit.

"I thought they were snakes," Carlos said, holding one of the sticks close to his face.

I was relieved that a crisis had evaporated, but who would stuff a pocket with twigs? From a nearby pine tree, the culprits revealed themselves. A pair of wrens scolded us. They had chosen Carlos's shorts for their home.

The next day, I saw the wrens zipping to the swimsuit, rebuilding their nest. This time we did not disturb them. Instead, we watched as they tucked in grasses, hair from the oxen's tails, and dry pine needles. We tiptoed through the nesting area, and Carlos swam in a different pair of shorts. The wrens settled in. A few telltale twigs and grasses poked out of the cutoffs.

Stealthily, I hung my laundry and fought the urge to peek into the pocket. In due time we heard the cries of baby birds, and the parents fluttered about our laundry as they raced in with food. The babies chattered each time a parent came with food and then receded into silence, waiting for the next morsel.

One day there was silence when I hung out my wash. The wee ones had flown. Yet whenever I hear wrens bubbling and singing outside my kitchen, I wonder: Were you born inside my house or in a pocket of denim, swinging on my clothesline?

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