Become a Fan
By Tova Gabrielle
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Not rated by the Author.
...communications from a deceased friend.
Baby was a tiny pigeon-toed yellow Budgeriar that my nine-year-old son, Julian, had persuaded me to buy. His beak was slightly crooked. The bird magazines had warned consumers to look to see if the bird looked healthy and to beware if it were too docile: it could be sick. But being an odd bird myself, I’d acquiesced to my son’s request, having found Baby’s vulnerabilities endearing. Julian soon fell in love.
Baby had the biggest mouth of all of our birds, which included two Cockatiels and two Conures. His squawking protests and unrealistic efforts to stand up to the larger ones when they tried to push him off a perch elicited cheers from Julian, my husband Mitch and me.
Baby would squeak even more when we rescued him, diving into our shirtsleeves and under blankets, and even sticking his silky, round, feathered head into Mitch's mouth- Mitch would kiss Baby’s head feathers and cause them to stick straight up in a Mohawk when he emerged.
I knew from the start that Baby was weird. But I did not voice my concerns that since he had probably been malnourished as a bappy, his beak might not straighten and his legs might collapse. And when Baby turned from bright yellow to dull green and then to an unnatural blue (the color of his gut), I rationalized that it was just Nature’s Mystery, even though he was not yet molting.
We thought we could love those things away, I suppose.
I bought Baby a white Budgeriar as a companion. Whitey had a crusted sear – again, I was unconsciously attracted to the weakling. The storekeeper insisted that no, the crusting was not from nasal discharge but just from “probably having been knocked around in shipping.” Whitey died before we became attached, fortunately.
Baby loved going in the shower more than any of the other parrots in the aviary. They often went into a trance when that lukewarm rain began to fall, closing their eyes and craning their heads to be tapped with spray, extending their little round nutshell tongues to drink greedily of the drops. In order to get a more direct pelting of the precious jeweled droplets, Baby would climb up on the large, flat, silver-feathered head of Simon, our otherwise unapproachable wild Senegal. Insatiable Baby refused to acknowledge her limits. I’d like to believe the vet who assured me that it was not my fault that Baby drank so much water that she drowned herself from over consumption; only a challenged bird would not get out of the ‘rain” when she had her fill.
Just before the bird died, Julian cried out a demand to make Baby’s convulsing stop, to keep shaking her upside down, trying to squeeze out more water, as the vet had prescribed on the phone minutes earlier, regarding her spasms. But while it helped, it was not enough.
Moments later, I held her somehow suddenly weightless body in my hands, and noted that for the first time I was not running from the sight of death; all that was left, I saw, was a sweet feathered ball that she had inhabited for a few months. I was surprised that death was neither ugly nor frightening, only vacant. Then I phoned Debby and Marty, my bird-loving neighbors with whom I’d shared many a “bird and breakfast” Sunday morning. They had brought their own “kids” to play with ours, and had wanted to buy Baby, remarking at her unusual feisty antics. “Julian needs some kind of burial ritual – do you know any?” They came over to my house, armed with holy water that had been charged by a high Lama, and pried open Baby’s beak to put a drop in and say a prayer of good passage. Julian took a sip, and immediately his sorrow lifted. We walked out to the garden on a balmy fall night and placed Baby into the ground. Julian and I were about to cover her soft belly; touching her lightly, Julian said, “Goodbye Baby.” We both heard a squeak and felt a vibration come from the bird’s long-stilled body. “She’s alive! Did you hear that?” we both exclaimed. Yet, upon further investigation, it was quite clear that Baby’s stiff body was indeed dead. If was as if a tiny strand of energy had somehow remained in her body and been released at that moment of saying goodbye.
“Baby loved me so much she said goodbye!” Julian jubilated as we all walked back under shivering stars. Then he remarked that it was a good thing that that high camel had given us the magic potion that had brought Baby back to life for an instant. There followed a puzzled silence. “Camel?” I asked. “Yes, that llama camel, how did it give Debby that holy water, anyway?” he puzzled.
We allayed his deep confusion, explaining that a llama was also the name of a Buddhist priest and then walked dreamily back to the house to feed the rest of the flock.
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