By Greg Clark, April 5, 1924
To become aware of your first robin by hearing it sing, and to be unable to see it, is the best luck.
To see your first robin high up is the next best luck.
To see your first robin on the ground is not exactly bad luck but is certainly indifferent luck.
When I throw up the window of the small boy’s bedroom, at his bedtime, I heard a robin. The small boy was rushing about from room to room, making his last frantic selection of the things he would take to bed with him. He always takes the same things: a miniature railway engine, about two inches long, an absurd, bent little fifteen cent thing, a wooden horse with all its four legs broken off and a blue and yellow checked handkerchief. His last minute tour of selection, in which he picks up armfuls of things only to lay them down as he comes across the three old favorites, strikes me as very absurd. He keeps up a series of small shouts and exclamations to inspire patience in his parents. When he can’t find the colored handkerchief, it is sometimes in the wash, he selects the brightest of his father’s silk ties.
The robin was warbling in a casual manner, as if it had been up there on the housetops all winter. It little knew how it was halting the feet of men and flooding the hearts of perhaps fifty people with a sort of gospel.
I searched for it. It was close, but I couldn’t see it.
“Good luck,” I said.
“Goo-night,” replied the boy, entering the room with his three treasures in his clutch.
“Here, a robin!” I exclaimed, and lifted him to the window to hear it.
He listened – intently. Then he mocked it softly to show me he heard.
“A boy?” he asked.
“No, a robin,” I replied.
“‘Obin? A ‘obin boy fissing?”
“No, a robin, a bird, singing?”
He searched the trees and housetops, nor could he find it. More luck. The streets were still and the robin’s song filled the air.
“Not a bird,” said the boy, in a tone of remonstrance, “a bird says weet-weet.”
“But a robin sings.”
“It’s a boy,” he replied firmly. “A boy fissing (whistling) a wee, wee boy sitting up in a tree fissing.”
He is already in search of the marvelous. He is growing up.
“No,” said I, “It’s a robin, a bird, singing. Listen?”
So we listened at the window, arguing in hushed voices, until approaching footsteps from the inner room warned us to leave the open window.
As we performed the tucking-in ceremony, in which I play the role of curate only, the boy admitted my contention that it had been a bird singing and not a miraculous small boy up in the tree tops. He was so abstracted in thought, he failed to put the customary gusto into the proceedings and his mother thought he might be ill.
When he suddenly sat up and held out the engine, the legless horse and the handkerchief for me to take from him, we both thought he must be off color.
“Take these,” he said, indifferently.
“What! Don’t you……” I stammered.
“Take these,” he repeated. “Baba hear the ‘obin singing. Goo-night.”
And with fallen crests, we turned out his light and retreated from the room, with the faint song coming in the open window.
Editor’s Notes: This is a simple short story that Greg occasionally published in the 1920s when his children were small.
The first three lines are old superstitions on seeing the first robin of the spring. More specifically, if you see your first robin on the ground, then that is bad luck, but I guess he did not want to say that.