A small brown bird, with its bright red chest, perched itself on the smallest branch of the largest oak tree and would sing and chirp until the morning sun rose its sleepy head over the horizon.
The sound of the robin chirping was a very familiar sound for Alice. As a young girl, the song was her lullaby, and she could pretend it was all her own. It was something she found comforting, like an old teddy bear or blanket. It was something that made the mornings easier and more pleasant. And it was something she could count on when she came home.
Like any other bird, Alice had a need to travel. Although her adventures wouldn't always lead her south for the winter, she would find herself in a new places and surrounded by new people. She felt like she was searching, and she didn't know what it was she was searching for. But there was always the comforting notion of returning home, and hearing the robin sing once more.
When Alice returned home from her first journey, it was to return to mourn the loss of her parents, taken from her due to slippery roads and a drunk driver.
It would be some time before Alice left again. Seasons changed and Alice watched as the world shifted from green, to yellow, then to brown. She thought about the robin, and how that little bird would always return to rebuild its nest and raise its young. Even when the world turned cold and snow fell, the robin returned to that same branch in spring, and would sing.
So when Alice went on her way, onto the next journey, she always returned home in the spring. She would visit that old house that used to be hers, and she would look up at that tree and would smile when she heard the robin's song.
As she grew older, Alice would find herself travelling farther and for longer periods of time. Only at times would she think of the house that used to be home, and she would think less and less of the robin. Life had swept Alice up and away, giving her more adventures to go on, and more experiences to face.
It was only when Alice herself felt the touch of time when her journeys slowly came to an end. Her life changed and she settled herself into one place for many years. It would be some time before Alice considered making one last trip.
With children of her own, Alice thought about the home she provided for them, and in turn wondered about the home her parents had provided for her. So Alice did what she always did best- she went home.
Time had not only touched Alice, but the home as well. Even the tree was slowly wilting away, and Alice felt as though both her and that tree were both fading away as the years crept on.
Alice leaned a hand against that tree, feeling its wrinkled bark, and patted its trunk sympathetically. But the smallest sound came from the high tree branch, and as she shaded her eyes, Alice was delighted to see a familiar sight.
A robin, bright breasted and proud, sat on that same branch, singing a familiar song. The nest held three new chicks, which all chirped along.
It was only then that Alice realized something. She realized that although time can take away many things; youth, beauty, and even people, some things would always remain the same. And for her, and for this robin, this tree and that house would always be home, no matter how much time passed.
Alice realized in all of her travels, in the time she had spent away, she had been searching for something… and that something had been home. She smiled, sitting with her back against the tree.
It seemed that everything she had been searching for had always been here.
When winter came again, and the world was covered in snow and ice, the tree that had housed the robin's nest lost its leaves and color one last time.
And miles away, snowflakes drifted down from the sky, only to melt when they touched down on the ground and the slab of stone that rested there. A passerby would only be able to make out the words carved into the stone if they stood close:
Here lies Alice, home at last.