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Tag Archives: parakeet

Good luck.

Dear MomWhat might have temporarily removed me from parakeet-feeding duty at age 8 is anyone’s guess; perhaps I was at camp. Blueboy was my friend and companion, but, more urgently, my responsibility — another way in which I might prove or fail.

With careful loops and links, I test newly learned script, forego “Mommy” for what I intuited was the more mature and less needy “Mom” and sign my name in reverse order — Yduj — not mirror-writing, but a turnaround that offered the possibility of a secret identity. I remember, at the dinner table, my father sounding out our “other” name — Grebnielk — with a kind of gutteral messiness that made me laugh.

It’s unlikely my mother would have forgotten to feed Blueboy, but she had no affection for the bird and I wasn’t taking any chances. Already, the written word was talisman against such failure.


parakeet drawingMy parents allowed one house-pet at a time. Mostly we had dogs with food names (Taffy, Coco, Taco), and in between, an assortment of smaller creatures — a tiny turtle, a hamster, a rabbit, a bird. Never a cat. Conversations about cats went unfailingly to my mother’s story about the cat and the refrigerator and then ended abruptly.

A pale blue parakeet with dark cheek spots, Blueboy lived in a cage in my bedroom. His wings were clipped, and since they looked normal I didn’t quite understand what was involved with this, but his flights were short and low. He rode around on my shoulder or on the top of my head and made little snuffles and snicks from under the towel when I covered his cage at night.

Sitting in the cage on his perch, he ignored a tiny mirror but pecked at the white cuttlebone, which only decades later I learned was not some kind of rock, but an internal part of a cuttlefish. He ate gravel along with prodigious quantities of messy seed and I remember blowing the seed husks off the top of the little dish before I cleaned the cage and refilled the dish.

Together, over and over, we listened to a 45-rpm record called “How to Teach Your Parakeet to Talk” and I would repeat the careful syllables: “Pret-ty bird. Pret-ty bird.” He would sit on my finger and cock his head back and forth and say nothing. But eventually he learned to imitate the bluejays that populated our back yard and I learned to imitate his parakeet squawks.