Year’s End Brings a Little Bird and Memories

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

Share this article:

Share article via email

yo-yoing | SMA News Today | main graphic for column titled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Helen Baldwin, depicting a blue wave offset by green nature scenes

Our baby Jeffrey snagged his wings in early November 1997, ending the brief active-duty portion of our SMA assignment. A few short months later, my husband, Randy, and I opened a bakery and sandwich shop in one of our county’s tourist hot spots.

The business bustled with out-of-towners and locals. There were definitely perks (great food, terrific new friends, independence), but it gave us a new appreciation for workers in the food industry. From grumbling folks who were impossible to please, to minimal family time, to knees and feet that still whine more than 20 years later, it was a grueling stint.

We ditched the spatulas when Randy returned to coaching, but not before Y2K. The fear of the potential ramifications of switching from 1999 to 2000 were plentiful before the stroke of midnight and beyond. Some customers wondered if we’d survive.

Fast-forward 20 years. It seems we were just wondering if we’d survive 2020.

We blinked, and here we are — getting ready for 2022.

The year’s end signals more than just the end of the year. It’s an opportunity for reflection, ready or not.

Recommended Reading

new year's

Taking a New Approach to New Year’s Resolutions


Jeffrey’s death, while not unexpected, was crushing. Thanks to others, we made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Fittingly, my camera broke on Christmas Day as soon as our older children, Matthew and Katie, began opening gifts.

In 1997’s final week, I mulled over the events of the year. “Surreal” was all I could come up with.


Growing up with a musical genius for a mother, it’s no surprise that music runs through my head almost constantly. Sometimes it’s music Mom and I played together years ago, but it can also be her improvisations or original songs, my own original tunes, well-known songs, or a mixed bag of all of the above.

My radio head has recently stuck on “Unchained Melody,” a song Mom said I loved and sang as a toddler.

“Whoa, my love
My darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
A long, lonely time …”


This past summer, an eastern kingbird couple built a nest atop a post just outside our door on the side porch. There’s a light near the door, so every time the door opened and the light came on, mama bird took notice.

Baby birds came … and died. Instead of giving up, the couple returned. They fortified the nest, and before we knew it, more baby birds poked their heads up … and died. We don’t know what happened.

That ended the nest saga until a little bird (sometimes, two!) settled into the cozy nest when the night temperatures plunged a few weeks ago. I could only see a tiny part of a head and tail, never enough to identify our nightly resident. They always left early in the morning and returned at sundown.

On Christmas Eve, our little feathered friend didn’t show up for his nightly roost. I didn’t know whether to be worried or relieved that a warmer spot had been found.


Besides “Unchained Melody,” another song moseying through my head has been Mom’s original song “Little Bird.” Inspired by my sister-in-law’s beautiful stained glass bluebird, Mom added lyrics. Years later, they were put to use by a beloved family member named Barbara, blessed with a gorgeous voice and creative interpretation.

Barbara took flight among the angels on Katie’s birthday a couple of years ago.

In trying to decide what to include in our annual Christmas/New Year’s email to family and friends, I surprisingly considered “Little Bird.” It made me teary, though, so I settled on a few silly photos instead.

end of year | SMA News Today | Three dogs look out the windows of a car, one in the passenger seat, and two in the back seat. All are wearing Santa hats to celebrate Christmas.

From left, Maple, Bodie, our granddog, and Honey, all stuffed with Christmas spirit this year! (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


One of my favorite birds is the little Carolina wren. They are so perky in their optimistic announcements to the world, it’s easy to overlook the unnerving decibels of their proclamations.

Walking outside on Christmas Day, I came across the body of a little bird — a young Carolina wren. I have no idea if that was our nightly nester or not, but suddenly and unexpectedly, the losses in the past years overwhelmed me. The memories of Jeffrey and my father, in-laws, grandparents and other family members, a good friend, and more flowed through the tears.

“Little bird, do come to me —
Show me things I need to see,
And help me know how they should be;
You’ve seen the whole wide world!

“Tell me things I need to know —
Whisper close before you go
The secrets that you cherish so,
The wondrous wisdom in the pearls!

“I’ll tell you all you need to know —
I’ve heard the secrets coming from above.
Give a smile and lend a hand
And always walk with love.

“With God’s hands you’ll feel your way,
With His smile you’ll never stray,
And with His love you cannot fall,
And with His love you’ll know it all.

“So long!
Sweet dreams!

Goodnight, and sweet dreams, little bird.

So long, 2021.

“Little Bird,” written by composer and musician JoAnn Derden, and sung by Barbara Taylor


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

The post Year’s End Brings a Little Bird and Memories appeared first on SMA News Today.