I’M GOING OUT to sweep leaves,” announced My Prince. “Alexa, play Bach, please.” He’s very polite to Alexa, though he insists he hates her. “It’s for the birds,” he told me, heading out the door.
We have parakeets again. What’s a jungle without them? That is what the little enclosed back porch off my office becomes each winter, when the tropical plants move from garden to shelter until the warmth returns.
Years ago, Baby bought me an antique bird cage, which clearly called for the acquisition of tenants. Did you know birds have quite definite personalities? Individual voices? This was a surprise. I thought of them as ornamental, brightly feathered objects—like the ones with little clips that we hang on the Hanukkah bush.
We bought two (parakeets, not Hanukkah bushes), since they were obviously a couple, snuggling on a perch and picking each other’s nits. There was Vinnie, who met a tragic end, which I am still too traumatized to discuss. I’ve saved a feather in a locket. Shakira, Vinnie’s mate, was so depressed we brought him a new friend, then added two more. Then, all of them went feet-up one night, we know not why.
This was too horrific for me; no more birds, I said—though this past summer we fostered a dove, Hortense, who was rehomed after several months. She now has her own room in your typical McLean, Virginia, cottage.
Our new little flock was not my idea. It was My Prince who said, It’s time.
If you ask me, this budgie-craving has to do with watching too much British TV. If we’re not watching British TV I’m reading another murder mystery set in the wilds of Yorkshire or on what they call a beach at Brighton. Being cooped up for months with this stuff, I can forget entirely where I am. Which has been a blessing.
In addition to tea, at every opportunity it seems, the Brits have budgies that little old ladies—like me but with crimped hair and floral house dresses—coo to over their tea. Is tea a drink? A snack? A light dinner? All three? Discuss. Also. Pudding. Why? That was an aside.
Anyway, I said, Fine, but these can’t be any old birds, they have to be fabulous, we must feel an instantaneous bond.
Off we went to Petco, where, instead of cages full of budgies there were just three sitting on a branch, and damned if they weren’t beauties. There were two blues, with gorgeous markings, and one white, snowy white, as white as a bird can be.
They were not just beautiful but lively and curious, staring at us through the bars like vultures. Don’t you want to take us home? they cheerfully glared. Just irresistible.
The blues were the most engaging and clearly a pair. We were here for two, not three. The white, though it shared a perch, was sleepier, less interested, less interesting, but could we leave one bird in the cage?
I asked a pleasant young saleswoman for a break if we took all three. She said no, a new shipment would arrive within a few says so the bird wouldn’t be lonely for long. But we couldn’t leave it, shun it, traumatize it in such a way. So, we looked at each other and said, Fine. We’ll take all three.
The birds were chased down in a flurry of feathers and squawks and placed in a small box and we got on the socially distanced checkout line.
Not more than a minute later, a woman appeared.
“Where are the parakeets?” she cried.
“We just sold the last ones,” said the saleswoman.
“But I called and was told you had them! I wanted one for my son,” she added sadly.
Oy! The guilt. We momentarily thought about giving her the white one, and what stopped us I don’t know. Later I mollified myself, thinking perhaps a white parakeet was not a boy thing. Then Baby, evil wench, said it was probably the kid’s birthday and . . .
Oy, just pile on the guilt, why don’t you.
It was in the car on the way home that I named the white one Anderson Cooper. The whitest bird named for the whitest man alive.
The Prince named the blue with black slashes across his wings The Boss. Because that is clearly his function. You go here, You go there, Move over. The orders are clear, and the others obey.
There’s one more name to go, perhaps Del, for delphinium. MK, mother of Baby’s Personal Prince Pete, said he’s the precise color of the flower.
So far they show no interest in the salad that surrounds them, the hibiscus, jasmine, lemon, bird of paradise and so on.
I don’t much care for salad either. Welcome home, birds.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” loves her some wildlife, maybe more rewarding than plants that won’t talk back to her.