Sunday, February 24, 2013

Postcard from Paradise

Wings spread, extended outward

Live long enough and with enough time and willingness to reflect, one can gather certain threads and with a bit of pulling and sorting, make sense of the dominant threads one finds there. One of the dominant threads of my life is the presence of birds.

I recall having a canary when I was a kid. If there had ever been an ugly canary contest, Tweetie would have won it. Tweetie was in a constant state of moulting. He was featherless from the neck up except for the random feathers around his eyes. His chest was a patchwork of feathers. He was a truly ugly canary but he had the sweetest, prettiest song.

Then our green parakeet, Pretty Pete, arrived. He had the run of the house, landed on our heads, pecked at our hair and walked our fingers like stairs. He would get hold of dad's eye glasses and hang upside down. He had such great personality and gave us tickling, peckish kisses.

I remember when I was in 8th grade. We were living in northern Wisconsin. I was best friends that year with Margarite Zoncki. Margarite had a parakeet and a dachshund. We use to go to her house after school and hang out playing with the bird and her dog. We also shared the cream from the top of the newly delivered milk in glass bottles. Weekly, we would share the ritual of carefully pealing away the round cardboard seal from the top of the bottles. Hanging from beneath the seal was rich, thick, luscious whole cream. We would lick the tops clean and then, spoons poised, we would dive into the cream in the top of the bottles. You just have not tasted cream until you have tasted the deliciousness of smooth, separated, unpasteurized cream. But - back to birds.

One day we arrived at M's house after school and found the birdcage opened and empty. I remember M calling for her bird, frightened and fearful. I remember the sound of the dachshund's nails tapping on the wood floor as he ran to greet us. And I will never forget Margarite's screams when she found the remains of her bird nor the rage and fury she unleashed on her dog.

It's peculiar how something so small could be so shocking. To this day, I recall seeing the tiny featherless remains and then I forget everything after that. I recall that it must have been spring because I don't remember snow or snow boots. It must have been spring because we moved back to California about a month before school ended. I never saw Margarite again but I've never forgotten her and from time to time, like now, she returns to my thoughts.

My thread of birds might have ended there but birds were not finished with me. Flash forward to 1982. Our son, Quanah was three years old and had just started talking. To call Q quiet until his 3rd year would be an understatement. He didn't cry much or babble much either for that matter. His form of communication was with his eyes or simply to point.

When he finally did get around to talking, he babbled, baby talked, and generally stumbled his way through language learning like any toddler. He just got around to it a little later. Like most children, he came out with the funniest words that were mispronounced and mangled so badly, you had to be the parent to know what was being said. He loved poocoos (pickles) and the world was full of peeyah (pretty) things. One day these two words joined together to bring another bird into my life.

We were out walking when Quanah started crying out very excitedly, "Poocoo! Poocoo! Peeyah, peeyah, poocoo!! His hand and that pointing finger waved in the general direction of the window of the apartment we were passing by. And there, clinging to the window's outer screen, was a small green parakeet.

"Peeyah peeyah poocoo!" Pretty, pretty pickle! 3P must have been hungry and tired because he went with us easily as I plucked him from the window screen. Pickle, his short name, was with us until we moved away.
By that time Quanah was in preschool/kindergarten at San Jose Day Nursery, a magical place that, among other things, had lots of birds and outside aviaries. The cages were filled with canaries, parakeets, finches, and all manner of songbirds. Even the classrooms had smaller cages with at least two birds per cages. Since we could not take Pickle with us, it was a natural that the school would take him. The last time we saw him, he was happily chirping away with new friends in a neighboring cage.

We haven't had a bird since then and one would think that bird stories might have ended there, 22 years ago. But since then, though cats come and go and a small dog has taken up residence with us (thank you Krista) I've been continually adding to my bird memories.
  • There was the church friend and her backyard aviary fill with songbirds and finches;
  • there is the lake at my old work site filled with migrating and year round residents;
  • Of course, I mustn't forget the little hummingbird that got it's little self knocked silly in a gust of wind.
  • And last, but not least, there is Poncho, the resident parrot at a small local Mexican restaurant with whom I like to visit. 
I may not have a bird in my life at the moment but I feel like I have a world of birds just a click of my finger tip away. I would love to have a bird again, a parakeet specifically because of their funny and friendly natures.

I daydream of having an aviary. I've had this daydream for decades, no doubt dating back to Quanah's pre-school days. I'm thinking there might be some resistance to this daydream from certain quarters but a parakeet!!! Ah now, THAT is a definite possibility.


Ginny said...

So ow you must tell us why you do not get a bird!! And do you ever think of trying to find Margarite? Yes, I do imagine that would stay in a child's mind forever.

Annie said...

Dear Ginny,

I DID look up Margarite's name once and actually found a Marguerite Zoncki in Minnesota. I didn't contact her but your question motivated me to check her name again. That was enough, this time, for me to look up her address again and now I've written a letter to her. I also found a phone number but I was too chick to call her so, thus, the letter which I will mail tomorrow.

Thanks for the encouragement.

rebecca said...

lovely...memories of small bright birds peppering your days. i love especially that you have written margarite! you will be a bright unexpected bird at the window of her heart!
thanks for stirring sweet memories of pets and the love and laughter they shower us with lavishly.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful photos of beautiful gems of nature with delightful colors ~ all I can see here is Snow! ^_^

gma said...

Birds are a big part of the beauty of the earth.Love to listen to them, photograph, paint, draw and feed the birds. Have some good memories of them too.
Love you

foxysue said...

There seems to be a lot of 'bird' talk here in paradise today, spring must be round the corner!

Have a lovely week. x

see you there! said...

Sounds like you need to get a bird. My daughter has a couple of them. I like to visit hers.


Janet said...

I'm glad you're going to contact Margarite. You never know...she might have been thinking about you all these years, too.

My grandma had a parakeet. I can still remember Grandma talking to the bird while she cooked.

sandy said...

Oh I loved reading this! I love birds and could relate . I find it fascinating that you know people who have aviaries...I have always wanted one but it wouldn't work up here in the mountains.

This was fun to read - hope you get a bird some day.

judie said...

Girl, an aviary would be SO MUCH work, every day without fail. Think carefully about that. It is all I can do to take care of one large macaw and one small keet and a dog, and a house and a husband and a job, and, and, and. And going out of town for longer than one day is so very hard to do. And avian vets are super expensive. But...if that's where your heart is...I treasure your stories. Thanks for sharing. Hmmmm.....maybe you'd like to start with one mischevious macaw! LOL

Annie said...

Hi Judie, I would settle for a nice little parakeet. Vacationing would be easy. Just drop the little guy off with a bird-friendly friend.

Sue in the Wood said...

Love birds! When I was a child, Daddy went through many "get rich quick" schemes. One was raising parakeets. We had outdoor cages...several. No getting rich, however!

DHLOL said...

So you want a Little Free Library at the front of the house and an aviary.

Well...I guess we are going to have to move to property large enough for a building at the front of the property, a Victorian house in the middle and an aviary at the back. :)

Annie said...

Sounds good to me, sweetie.