Yes. The answer is yes they do. My mother-in-law knew that. She knew what they sounded like when they sang love songs to each other and when the males were chasing off rivals. She didn’t just know about cardinals, she knew about all things bird. And deer, and bear, and turkey.
I met her when I was eighteen, shortly after her son and I started dating. We had a pretty whirlwind courtship so it wasn’t long before she went from being ‘his’ mom to being ‘our’ mom. Her given name was Eleanor and she was horrified when my first daughter was born and I bestowed the name on our baby as a middle name. Well, not horrified exactly. She dared me to do it, I did it, and then she bragged about it for years with horror in her tone and a smile on her face.
When I would visit her, we would sit on the porch of her log cabin and spend hours watching and listening to birds. She knew them all. Eleanor taught me all about wild birds. Every home I have made has had a wild bird feeder because of her.
I learned how to make my own humming bird nectar and added a bird bath (because now I live in the south where it’s hot and the darlings need a drink and a bath).
One night this spring a flock of starlings came by and perched in my trees and sang me a song from dusk till dark. I pulled up a chair and as I listened my memory banks flooded my brain with images of all those nights on Eleanor’s porch listening to similar concerts in her most excellent company.
Eleanor died long before my divorce. I wrote her eulogy too many years ago to count. I have a plant from her funeral which refuses to stop growing. It produces baby plants generation after generation. I guard that plant fiercely.
But the plant is not all that is left of Eleanor. There are the birds which come and go every day from my back yard. There is the woman who walks this earth with Eleanor for a middle name, and a younger sister to this woman. There are the three children of said younger sister. They all exhibit Eleanor’s love of nature and sense of mischief. Bits of her paid forward in time.
And there is a man. Her mate, who waits patiently for the day when he will join her. Because sometimes, it’s not just cardinals that mate for life.